Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rockford passes new legislation to combat already-illegal activity

Reckless driving, disobeying traffic laws, property damage, drinking and driving, drugs, nuisance noise, uninsured and unlicensed drivers. Yep, there were already laws against these, but in a highly-publicized dog-and-pony show/witch hunt orchestrated by out-of-touch aldermen, the Rockford City Council added one more law to the books in short order Monday.
When hundreds of these spiffed-up cars gather late at night for mobile soirees, police could break up the party for any number of reasons. Apparently, only seizure of participants' vehicles is enough of an incentive for officers to uphold the law, however.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not "impound," but SEIZE. So far, local media haven't made this distinction, and it's an important one that gives police just a little more power to ruin your day. If you don't think it could possibly apply to you, you're a fool and a dullard.

When I visited the special hearing on the subject at City Hall last week, Ald. Wasco wondered whether the proposed ordinance, which deals specifically with fines and impounding, could allow police to seize these ne'er-do-wells' rides as well. The short answer is, the new law doesn't provide for this, but there's more to the story.

Because the "hood ryders" naturally speed off in every direction when cops arrive, the state's attorney can authorize seizure of the vehicles under an aggravated fleeing statute, assuming that cops manage to accurately scribble down their tag numbers.

Lesson learned by hood ryders: Remove or obscure your license plates while breaking the law.

Why the need for the impound ordinance? Mini-chief Michael Booker said that once a vehicle is impounded for involvement in hood ryder activity, the registered owner (not necessarily the driver) would be made to sign a form acknowledging the car has been used for illegal activity, agreeing that any subsequent violation of a similar nature would result in full seizure. If the owner doesn't agree, the police will not relinquish the car from impound. Raises some interesting constitutional questions, doesn't it?

How this affects you: If you have kids who drive your vehicles, you're at risk of having your wheels permanently commandeered by the RPD should your offspring get caught up in this. And let's face it - if you happen to be a minority, it's just one more way the cops are gonna fuck with you.

So, because police, for whatever reason, have not nipped this shit in the bud before now, the city has basically legislated a new form of racism. Instead, how 'bout we cut money from the PD's budget for every time they failed to enforce existing laws? And just to keep them honest, any proceeds derived from the hood ryder vehicle seizures, fines and impound fees should amount to that much less money the city has to give to the department's budget.

Law enforcement is supposed to be about serving and protecting, but cops have decided it makes more sense to turn a profit, and that ought to piss off every taxpayer. Demand that these gumshoes do the jobs they're paid very well to perform, and without the need for new laws.

On a completely unrelated note, Ald. Mark was not at the council meeting Monday night. That makes me wonder if he wasn't taking Harris Bank executives out to titty bars instead.

The recent failure of Amcore Bank, which has since been bought by Harris, is undoubtedly viewed as a huge opportunity for Mark and his Metrocentre keepers.

As you'll recall, Mark was given a cushy, sweetheart job selling corporate suites for the big, orange problem child as a way to convince him not to run against Larry Morrissey in the last mayoral election. Meanwhile, however, he hasn't been delivering sales particularly well.

Harris, owned by hockey-loving Canucks, is a major sponsor of the Chicago Blackhawks, whose farm team is none other than the Rockford Icehogs. See where this is headed?

If Mark can't sell "Harris Center" naming rights to take some of the weight of the Icehogs pork off the taxpayers' backs, he needs to be fired. Doug, in this case, we actually wish ye well.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Slumlord: Scratch my back, I'll scratch yours

LandWhite Developers, a New York firm specializing in "low-income housing" and opportunism, wants to help Rockford. No, really. Rockford attorney Ian Linnabary said so. It must be true.

LandWhite is dead-set on rejuvenating the city by welcoming 158 poor individuals and families to the Village at Southgate, which would be sited at 11th Street and Sandy Hollow. Unfortunately for the developers, neither city staff nor the ZBA think it's a good idea, and it's in direct conflict with Rockford's long-range plan. The city feels the area is better suited for commercial and industrial tenants, but the plot thickens as a pair of aldermen who've comfortably been in office too long are holding the wooden spoon and tending the spice rack.

After a poor diagnosis for the project was corroborated by city staff and the ZBA, the request made its way to a city council committee, but no vote was taken because Ann Thompson-Kelly and Lenny Jacobson were curiously absent from City Hall Monday night.

The apartment complex, destined to become a rapidly-depreciating slum, happens to be in Lenny Jacobson's ward. Regardless of what his constituents, who'd be neighbors of the complex, have to say about it, Lenny always puts unions first. I mean, how else do you think the guy remains in office? If that's not enough incentive for Lenny to back the plan, maybe LeonardWhite could propose putting a bar in the complex to seal the deal. Time to retire from politics, Lenny. I'm getting a hard-on for your bullshit. This is your opportunity to bow out gracefully before I release the Rottweilers with orders to go for the balls.

Ann Thompson-Kelly seems to have an interest as well. LandWhite has been chomping at the bit for months to "redevelop" the former Church School in her ward. They want to turn it into a 44-unit home for old folks. I wonder if Thompson still dips her toes in the concrete business, as was the case with her company being awarded a sweetheart sub-contract for the new justice center (courtesy of Sjostrom & Sons).

The other option for Church School is demolition of a building that holds many fond memories for lifelong residents in the area, despite falling into disrepair. Last year, the city wrestled away the dilapidated building from a minority group that dreamed of turning the building into a community center. Annie turned on them and backed the foreclosure when LandWHITE offered an alternative which would allow the company to acquire the property for next to nothing. Black voters in the 7th Ward should remember this when she's running for re-election. Despite all her lip service to remain in the good graces of the African-American community, let's just call her Aunt Thom-pson.

The 7th Ward needs the kind of representation the 5th Ward is getting from the likes of council freshman Venita Hervey, who truly has her finger on the pulse of the best interest of the black community in Rockford. Hervey impresses me, and local government needs more folks like her, even if she is a lawyer.
Back to the Village at Southgate. LandWhite is only offering $800,000 of its own money, while trying to cash in on $16,800,000 of taxpayer risk. Take a look at those two figures again to make sure you read them correctly.

The Register Star reported:

"The city should deviate from its land-use plan for a number of reasons, Linnabary said, including the project’s merit and the developer’s potential involvement in another project of great importance to the city.

“This developer is willing to work with the city on the redevelopment of Church School," Linnabary said. 'The developer will be making no money on it, but they can make a profit in the residential project. They’re willing to do Church School if they can get Southgate.”

Hmmm. So, LandWhite is only willing to be a do-gooder if the city breaks the rules for them to build an apartment complex that nobody wants or needs? Meanwhile, they say they won't turn a profit on the Church School project, which they say they'll only redevelop if Southgate is approved. In other words, they're gonna make such a huge profit on Southgate that they'll buy votes in other wards in order to get the 10 votes they need for approval.

Fuck these out-of-towners in both ears and any other readily-apparent orifices. They only want to collect state-guaranteed rent on projects that would shrivel their dick like a stack of dimes without taxpayer subsidization.

Lenny must go. Annie must go. And LandWhite, most assuredly, needs to take a hike. If a better offer doesn't come along, demolition would still be an improvement.

Watch closely May 10. Prepare your scorecards. I suspect the vote will be very much along party lines. That's why Democrats held it out May 3 in absence of Lenny and Annie. It needs their votes to have a chance at passing. The question is, which Republicans can be bought behind the scenes before then?