Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney has been in office for five months, and gave his first State of the County address Thursday.
One thing he made clear … he’s not going to be defeated by low expectations, as the Chairman laid out a big agenda for himself and the county.
He’s one of four newly elected leaders, which also includes new Mayors in Rockford and Loves Park, and a new Village President in Machesney Park. Haney sees that as an opportunity to end a history filled with infighting. “We don’t have money to fight about. We’ve got tough challenges, and we have to work through them together,” he says.
Winnebago County and Rockford especially facing major budget deficits. Haney says the way the County budgeted in the past no longer works. “The first short term thing we need to deal with is a sustainable budgeting process and plan going forward. We cannot continue down the road we’re going.”
The Chairman is also pushing the idea of government consolidation, noting that Winnebago County alone has 89 units of government. “I do not know what the magic number is,” he says, “but it is probably not 89.”
The event is put on by the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, which says their number one issue is the community’s number one issue as well. “For us, crime is a concern. And it’s a concern for the community as well. We want to see that get addressed,” says Chamber President Einar Forsman.
Haney wanting to follow Rockford’s lead in adding more crime fighting technology as one piece of a larger plan. “I think there is a lot of opportunity on the technology side. The idea of Shotspotter,” he says, referring to a new technology that listens for gunshots in the city. “They said when they put Shotspotter in a certain community, they realized there was about four or five times shots being fired, so just knowing the information helps us be better at fighting crime.”
Haney also promised better collaboration with other government entities, and a goal of being the most transparent county anywhere.