Candidates Views – Contested Primary Elections February 23 – Rockford 5th Ward

Groovy Ballot Box

On January 9, 2021 The League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford sent a questionnaire to reachable candidates in the Municipal Primary Elections being held February 23, 2021. Early voting started January 14, and mail-in ballots available when a request is sent to: Rockford Board of Elections at and Boone County Clerk’s office. There are no Winnebago County only candidates.

The results below are for the contested primary races only. All candidates for office will be included after results of the primaries are announced. Candidates not submitting platform information will have their names present, all candidates are in ballot order.

Belvidere 2nd Ward, City Clerk, and Belvidere Township Trustee candidates did not submit responses.

Rockford 5th Ward Primary Election - 2021

NameEldridge "Skip" Gilbert, Jr.Gabrielle "Gabbi" TorinaJoseph Pearson
EHE Skip GilbertGabrielle TorinaJoseph Pearson
Street Address1114 Island Ave.2104 Lucille Street2312 South Central Ave
Preferred public campaign contact methodwebsite:; facebook: Gilbert for 5th Ward,, Facebook "elect Gabrielle Torina"
Highest Education AchievedMasters DegreeMasters DegreeHigh School Diploma or GED
Field of Experience, either paid or volunteerInternational Development, Business, Education, AthleticsCommunication and Government RelationsConsultant helping businesses in SW Rockford. I connect 5th Ward constituents with city, state, and federal resources. Also vast amount of community service in the social services industry. Co-Founder of Rockford International Festival.
Candidate PartyDemocraticDemocraticDemocratic
Elective OfficeAlderpersonAlderpersonAlderperson
Constituent Area5th Ward5th Ward5th Ward
Candidate StatusChallengerChallengerChallenger
Why do you want to be on the City Council? What prompted you to run for office?I realize the scope of City Council's power and see ways it can be used to improve the everyday lives of residents and their futures. I will use my unique skill set to represent the best interests of my constituents and those of the city.I want to serve on City Council to represent the diversity of the 5th Ward and advocate for my neighbors. I am running to show young people that we can and should take a leadership role in our community.The right leader in the city council can make a significant positive impact for constituents. I worked with council members and city staff to help the businesses & residents in SW Rkfd for years. I can do more. The incumbent is not running.
How much time, in hours, do you think you will have to spend each week in committee meetings?1554
How much time, in hours, will you have available each week to address constituents concerns, discuss issues, and personally meet with some constituents?101016
Do you have any plans, or ambition, to seek other elected positions in government after serving on the City Council?No, This office is my only goal.Maybe. Let's see how this goes.Maybe. Let's see how this goes.
Do you plan to hold regular public constituent meetings?Yes, monthlyYes, monthlyYes, Quarterly
What are the special challenges of your constituent area and how do you plan to address those needs?Challenges: attracting large & small businesses, maintaining safe infrastructures, addressing housing issues, and expanding economic inclusion. Plans: examine budget policies, build relationships, and promote the ward\'s resources.Problems: communication, economic development, youth programs, more sidewalks, blight, safety, cultural attractions, recreation, greenspace, etc

Fixes: communication strategy, work with labor and developers, capital improvement, organize
The area has a high level of poverty. Jobs and economic growth will raise many out of the lower socio-economic condition. Lack of leadership lost opportunities to bring development and livable wage jobs to the area. I am the right leader.
What specific talents from your previous experiences make you a good candidate for your office?Critical-thinking, problem-solving; coalition and consensus-building, cross-cultural and inter-generational communication; sales/marketing skills, diversity training; integrity, authenticity, determination, and passion for improving livesI am the only candidate in this race with government experience, and specifically, constituent services experience. I have made a career working with my neighbors to achieve success and I will continue to do that on Rockford City Council.Born and raised in the 5th Ward along with my professional experiences helping the community have given me unique insight on constituents’ needs. I am a Navy veteran, lifelong member of the NAACP and businessman with vast community service.
For Rockford aldermanic candidates: On which committees do you wish to be a member? Rock River Development Partnership
Housing Ad Hoc
Planning & Development
Rockford Area Economic Development Council
Community Action Agency
Rock River Development Partnership
Finance & Personnel
Community Action Agency
Planning & Development
Liquor Commission
Code & Regulation
Planning & Development
Rockford Area Economic Development Council
Labor Negotiations
What specific skills do you bring to the committees?Conflict resolution, diversity/equity/inclusion training, effective advocacy, project management, experience with government and non-government agencies, successful support of small businesses, extensive knowledge of the community.I have worked in non-profit, Fortune 500, & public and private sector. Having worked in all of these environments has provided me with extensive experience in how to communicate, effectively collaborate, and find synergy amid diversity.Finance, organizational, and negotiation skills are some of my main proficiencies that I will bring to the committees. In addition, my main attribute is my proven ability to connect people with city services and the appropriate staff.
What is your experience in group negotiations for stated goals? (In partisan situations certain guidelines may need consensus.)Proven success in group retail sales/marketing and development work with donor organizations and governments to implement business and refugee relief projects; extensive experience as coach and educator negotiating team and class goals.On nonprofit boards I have advocated for how money should be allocated for programs, salaries, etc. & provided ideas for revenue generation. While other board members advocate for things they are passionate about which aren't the same.I have vast negotiation experience as a businessman. I have negotiated multi-million dollar contracts & also negotiated positive resolutions to non-financial issues. Winning means coming up with a mutually advantageous agreement if possible
If you feel strongly about a particular issue and your constituents feel the opposite, how would you vote when the issues comes up on the Council?Vote with my knowledge and experience. That's why I was chosen to represent.Vote as the majority of my constituents want. I represent them.Vote as the majority of my constituents want. I represent them.
In decisions where your constituent area will gain at the expense of the community as a whole, where does your allegiance to your constituent area end and your concern about community-wide issues begin?We are interdependent: what\'s good for one constituency should also be good for others. However, I will always try to avoid causing serious, unjustifiable harm to other citizens. I will reconsider my position and seek another solution.I will represent the will of my community. My job will be to represent the interests of the 5th Ward and I will do that even if it is a city wide issue.My allegiance is to my constituents. However, if a community-wide issue benefits all of the community and not hurt the ward, then I would probably support it. I would communicate to my constituents how all would benefit instead of just us.
What is the core reason(s) for crime in your constituent area and the community as a whole.Crime thrives when individuals feel hopeless and powerless to improve the quality of their lives. Crime arises where inequities create poverty resulting from being marginalized, under-educated, under/unemployed with few or no opportunitiesThe core reason is a lack of investment in people.People are trying to survive and some go down a path that they prefer not to go. Lack of jobs with a livable wage is not a good reason for crime, but that’s one reason it occurs. Others are mental illness and narcotic abuse. Focus needed.
What ideas do you have to reduce crime in your constituent area and the community as a whole? Please include funding ideas.Ideas include enhanced student support services; expanded rehabilitation/re-entry, and training/apprenticeship programs. Possible funding sources include cannabis tax, state grants, bail bond fees, and redistribution of police budget $$.We need to invest in our public schools and local economy in order to give our kids and residents the greatest chance at opportunity.There are grants and initiatives that could help the community with development and jobs. Sadly, the ward is used to get state & federal funding, then the funding is shifted to other areas and the SW region is left with nothing once again.
Do you support retraining police to reduce confrontational police tactics?Yes, police retraining is needed and additional social resources are needed to augment the ability to keep the peace.Yes, police retraining is needed and additional social resources are needed to augment the ability to keep the peace.Yes, police retraining is needed and additional social resources are needed to augment the ability to keep the peace.
What method would you support to pay for additional social resources to keep the peace?Re-allocate current police funding to pay for additional social resources. No higher taxes.Re-allocate current police funding to pay for additional social resources. No higher taxes.Re-allocate current police funding to pay for additional social resources. No higher taxes.
What do you think the community can do about the increase in gun violence that has not already been done?Build stronger neighborhood relationships that support non-violence; increase funds to duplicate effective programs, create employment opportunities that provide a livable income, provide responsible training. Maybe done, but how well?Violence intervention groups. Increase resident participation in activities that promote public safety. Provide mentorship, soft skills, and job-readiness training. Increase employment while decreasing recidivism.The community leadership can establish a culture of gun safety. Reduce firearm access to youth and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others. Engage gun dealers & owners in solutions. Ensure oversight over gun & ammo sales
What ideas do you have for more commerce that brings jobs to the community for middle-class wages and benefits?Engage RAEDC, other economic entities, like Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of No.IL. and SWIFTT, to vet ideas around common interests; support local/minority contractors; promote resources and infrastructure projects, utilize advisory council.We need to work with private sector partners on investment projects like Barber Colman. We need to build wealth in our community with small and minority-owned businesses.Incentivize developers to focus on the South Main street corridor. There are many abandoned property that line the new gateway to downtown Rockford. There is much untapped potential that could benefit the 5th ward and the city as a whole.
What do you think needs done to address the issues of social-economic and race inequity this community?Engage residents in the anti-racism process, continue to listen to all; promote equity in employment and housing; encourage commitment by entities and agencies to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion within their spheres of influence.We need to invest in our people, schools, and businesses.Communication is very important, but it gets undermined by not having subsequent action. We need to break the tendency to select older white men to be on the important/influential boards & commissions. We need diversification and inclusion.
For Rockford Candidates Only: Do you support the continuation of the 1% sales tax for road infrastructure?YesYesYes
Concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, what mitigation-level rules you support?Mandatory CDC-recommended masks and 6-foot social distancing.Recommended CDC-recommended masks and 6-foot social distancing.Recommended CDC-recommended masks and 6-foot social distancing.
Please state any other areas, important to you, that you want the public to know.I want to encourage greater civic engagement and participation in voting and other decision-making processes. I want our citizens to realize that all issues are interrelated, all solutions are mutually connected.I am a 3rd generation Southside resident and a product of Rockford Public Schools. I am well educated and I give back to my community. I do not wish to depart from the city that made me, instead to remain planted and contribute to growth for all. A vote for me, is a vote for us.My background includes Community Outreach for Lutheran Social Services. Worked with probation officers connecting felons to jobs and resources. Helped many businesses & individuals get help during pandemic as part of SWIFTT, a biz district.