Ace Winslow: My city is dangerously dysfunctional


ROCKFORD–I recently disabled one of my social media accounts because I can no longer handle the hot air that seems to pontificate from the misinformed Rockford masses and some of the buffoons elected to represent them. It’s sad, really. We have an electorate who has no idea that our city’s problems aren’t going to be solved as the result of downtown booze fests for the wine-and-cheese elite.

Hotels, upscale boutiques and rooftop bars will solve nothing. Why do we keep giving these projects press and lip service?

And we should all get the absolute willies–the nails against the chalkboard kind–when our public officials act as though Rockford doesn’t belong atop of bad lists. The pundits who compile such lists are wrong, they say.

It wasn’t long ago, about a year, that Ald. Tim Durkee chided Forbes, discrediting the magazine’s legitimacy as a news source after it included Rockford on a list of undesirable places. I admire Durkee’s allegiance to his city. But, come on.

It doesn’t matter if these lists are in Forbes, MSNBC, Huffington Post or MAD, the stats are the stats. And almost every one of these lists are compiled using FBI crime data. The FBI is generally pretty accurate.

So, what does that mean, you ask? Well, it means there’s a party going on Rockford, but not everybody’s invited. It means that our city is like many others with high crime, poor graduation rates, high unemployment and distrust of leadership. Rockford, Illinois, is a dysfunctional city.

What makes Rockford dysfunctional? Here’s a few signs.

Crisis- Oh, Rockford is never without a crisis of some kind. Several years ago, the school system was in shambles. That resulted in a desegregation lawsuit from which the city still hasn’t recovered. Our police chief, mayor and other elected officials have battled with unions over and over again. County officials have been fingered in spending scandals. Rockford, Illinois, is the land of damage control. Meanwhile, people are shooting at each other the streets; only a little more than half of our high school freshmen actually graduate. Only a small percentage of those who do go on to post-high school education or training.

Things Never Change- How do you change things that have “always been that way?” In Rockford, you don’t. The same oligarchical power structures are permitted to run fix after fix. Meanwhile, our children can’t read; many are left to rot in the gutter just because their parents may have slipped up. But, that’s, OK Rockford, we are building a cool, trendy downtown! (You might get mugged or hit by a stray bullet while you’re down there, but that’s not important right now.)

Ignorance of the Masses- People who live in dysfunctional communities are notoriously known for being kept in the dark. Few understand that while they’ve been invited to a party, it’s not the party. Not even close. We see this a lot in Rockford. We see it when monster truck or pro wresting events are never on the same night when the elite is picnicking under the stars. Food pantries are also never open during such galas. And to make it all appear acceptable, we’ve got Transform Rockford, a little organization that claims it will turn the city around. It is going to bring us back to prominence. But there’s a problem. What the plebeians are not told is that the “movement” is nothing more than a way for the banker/industrialist complex to act as good corporate citizens. It doesn’t really have to and likely will never transform anything, other than the size of its charitable trust and the footprint of Woodward Governor and Alpine Bank. The only way true transformation occurs is to transform people. Because Rockford, real Rockford, is its people. It’s not the lipstick these bankers, industrialists and developers are trying to put on a pig.

No Accountability – The best way for the power structure to keep an electorate in the dark is to compromise those charged with keeping the people informed. In dysfunctional communities, the Fourth Estate is often reduced to a giant information-washing machine, propaganda houses aimed at everything but the public’s right to know. Co-opting the press is simple; it’s the same mushroom style of management a tyrannical boss uses to ride roughshod over his employees.

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