Friday, April 08, 2005

Election Day

Tuesday was election day, but I haven't had time to comment on it, so here it goes. Up for election was the mayor, aldermen, school board seats, and various other seats that no one really cares about. Our mayor lost. Its the first time since the mid-70's that a mayor has lost a re-election bid. It's also the first time that a first term mayor lost since 1957.

It wasn't a close election. Larry Morrissey, who was also making his second run for office, won the election handily. He pulled in 55% of the vote. Not bad for an independent! Four years ago he came in third with 25% of the vote. I felt, at that time, that he would have gotten more votes if people didn't vote "practically." By that I mean that there are a number of people who think they are wasting their vote if they vote for someone who "doesn't have a chance." Two family members voted that way four years ago, that's why they had voted for our outgoing mayor, Doug Scott. I figured that Morrissey would have a great shot the next time around because he pulled in far more votes than people expected, so people were more likely to take him seriously this time. Sure enough, he worked hard and had a solid majority even though it was a three-way race.

Doug Scott, the outgoing Democratic mayor, made a great legislator. He didn't make a great mayor. He seemed to be continuing in legislator mode rather than shifting his mind-set to that of the executive branch of government. His administration also seemed to assume that they'd have as much time as they wanted, so they never moved very quickly on anything. The City now owns a lot of big properties near downtown, but they've owned them for a couple years, spent tons of money "studying" them, but there is nothing in the pipeline. Morrissey has promised to dump the casino idea, dump the convention center idea (like Rockford has much to offer conventioneers anyway), and focus on education and basic rebuilding of downtown.

The Republican candidate, Gloria Cardenas Cudia, was there so the Republicans could say that someone ran. There really isn't much else to say about that part of the race. Her 4% tally showed that.

So, what do I expect? Morrissey seems to dislike having "poor" folks around. He was a primary leader in the opposition to a large redevelopment in downtown, even though he says that's the part of town he loves. Why did he oppose the redevelopment of one of the largest and most prominent buildings along the river? Because there would have been income restrictions on many of the apartments. Those restrictions would have meant that a family of four could not make more than $46,000 per year in order to live there. That's right. The tax credits would have allowed someone earning 80% of the area median income to live there, and that means $46,000/year for a family of four. Morrissey doesn't want people like me living in his neighborhood. We're a family of four. We make less than $46,000/year. We have three college degrees and have partial work on a Master's Degree, but we're not good enough to live near the incoming mayor.

That's pretty cynical, but I still voted for him. I don't have very high expectations for how he'll treat people who don't bring in the bucks, but he'll at least try to bring jobs to the area. Mayor Scott didn't even seem to do that. The night I decided to vote for Morrissey was when they announced that a UPS Hub expansion would go to the hub in Louisville. It didn't bother me that Rockford didn't get it nearly as much as City Hall saying that they were still working on a package to present to UPS. If the people at City Hall who are supposed to be doing economic development don't know when their applications are due, then they are incompetent. If they didn't care then they are worthless in their jobs. If they had a good reason to not try then they should have said that, but they didn't. They left us with the assumption that they are either incompetent or they just don't care. Neither of those impressions gets a mayor re-elected. There are quite a few folks who are sharpening up their resum├Ęs these days, and justifiably so. City Hall needs some cleaning out, and Morrissey was elected to do that. We'll see what has happened when four years are up.