Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mall removal contract payback for Rick's Place?

Tonight, Stenstrom was picked by the city council for a $1.9 million project to finally get rid of the crumbling pedestrian mall downtown.

There's been a lot of speculation about the fact that Ringland-Johnson bid $17,000 lower than Stenstrom, and there could be something to it. There have been hints R-J could pursue legal action as a result of being passed over, but there's a reason Larry, a lawyer by trade, keeps such a well-staffed legal department.

Someone on RRStar.com keeps commenting that Stenstrom gave $2,500 to the Morrissey campaign. While that's a relatively modest donation by Rockford mayoral standards, it's not nothing.

Although Ringland-(Brent)Johnson supported Mayor Scott, not Morrissey, I don't think this has much to do with political contributions.
If there is a conspiracy here, my guess is that it has more to do with Brent Johnson's decision to build the Rick Nielsen-Mecca at Riverside and I-90, instead of downtown. After making the rounds collecting tax breaks for the venture, ground has yet to be broken 20 months later as the economy has gone flacid.

Nielsen and Johnson's choice of locale hardly demonstrates a commitment to downtown, much to Larry's chagrin, and it wouldn't surprise me if the project is being strongarmed to shoot for downtown instead, after letting them sweat it out a bit of course.

It's possible that, until Rick and Brent learn to play nice with Larry, he may keep all the toys to himself.

When the proposed expanded gaming package inevitably dies in Springfield, Johnson and Nielsen may scuttle back to the table to see what additional incentives might be offered downtown to make the project happen.

My gut tells me we haven't heard the last of this.

Fresh start means a new Elyea?

Since this blog started in the frigid cabin fever months, my frequency of posts has declined as the mercury has climbed, but that's to be expected. Here at the compound, we've been spending as much time outside as possible. Between the job, family, generally enjoying the outdoors and tending to my garden, I'm just too pooped to find someone to pick on everyday here.

But it's been awhile, and I'll give it a shot. Blame it on the rain.

For someone who had no balls as a county board member, Karen Elyea has sure been trying to swing a pair around in city hall.

Having been little more than a warm body in her board seat, she seems to be trying to redefine herself as someone who actually understands what's happening around her, even if she's still not a part of it.

A week ago, appearing to have grown weary of listening to the rest of the council participate in meaningful discussion about arts funding, Elyea raised her hand to be recognized, admittedly with the intention of calling the question to end the debate.

Shit like that may fly in the county board room, Sweetie, but the council doesn't play that way. You can't strut into city hall like a big shot with the reputation (or lack of one) you've earned on the board.

Sorry if you're already bored with the new gig, but please don't try to stand in the way of healthy discourse just because there's somewhere you'd rather be. Remember, you're free to leave at any time, and there are no hall monitors to issue detention slips as you make your escape.

I can imagine her now, looking at her watch and daydreaming about cupcakes through every meeting she's signed up for during her new term of office. The poor thing is bound to completely crack under the duress of boredom.

Also a week ago, when the council voted on the advisory resolution supporting a casino license, Elyea decided to pull an amendment out of her hippie bag to indicate that the city specifically supports a casino downtown, rather than the more likely I-90 region.

While I agree we need to draw people back into the heart of the city instead of away from it, this was just a futile motion that failed as miserably as it deserved.

Although Mayor Morrissey is all about downtown, you didn't score any points with him, because he doesn't want it. And if it means jobs and dollars, aldermen tend not to be picky about where the gambling den goes.

It certainly would have shown some nobility on behalf of your constituents if you'd suggested the casino be sited in your ward, but it made little sense to demand it be built downtown, whose aldermen weren't even supportive of your amendment. Ouch.

I truly hope Elyea is trying to do things right with a clean slate in her new job as alderman, but she needs to concentrate more on building relationships with the rest of the council before they'll take her seriously.

You're in Larry Land now, Ald. Elyea, and that's a long way from Christiansen County, Hughes or no Hughes. There's a whole new set of rules you need to learn and play by if you want to be effective. The Irishman will fill ya' in on a need-to-know basis, but I'd suggest making some other friends, too.

Your relationship with Jimbo can only get you so far, but remember he holds the kill switch, so you don't wanna turn your back on him.

To her credit, Karen has already spoken more in her few weeks on the council than in her years on the board. One of these days, she might even offer something meaningful if she applies herself.