Guest Column: Home rule opponents—CAVE people or critical thinkers?

“Unique” is certainly over-worked. But it describes perfectly the coalition of liberals and conservatives, young and old, haves and wannabes, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, as well as every racial and religious group in the city who helped elect Larry Morrissey this past April. For those suspicious of others with different backgrounds and views, fears dissolved in the course of working together for a common goal.

As field coordinator for the campaign, I was fortunate to have a ringside seat from which to observe all the volunteers, donors and campaign leaders. I saw a great deal of Pete Provenzano as he chaired meetings and served as my direct supervisor. After four months of grueling campaign ups and downs, I developed the utmost respect for his vision, generosity, character, leadership skills and devotion to the community.

I never saw Jim Keeling at the headquarters or at a Morrissey campaign function. But I know him by reputation as an outstanding community leader and donor, responsible for one of our recreational paths and the Peace Plaza—as well as pivotal leadership on various not-for-profit campaigns. I first met him when I worked alongside his wife, Pam, another selfless and generous Rockford volunteer.

One of the reasons for change in leadership is the need to stifle the voices of self-important critics, aptly described elsewhere as CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything). After a campaign season of impassioned Times appeals to risk a different path, I was greatly disturbed to read the last two issues. A knee-jerk, negative response and divisive attitudes were evident throughout home rule articles in both issues, with monsters and evil cabals lurking around every corner. Worse, you gave voice to the lowest of impulses: the urge to decimate even the most selfless community servant-leaders.

Six months after the election, you also appear to be sloughing off your candidate of choice. Probably everyone who worked or voted for Larry would agree he has not fulfilled all of his campaign promises. However, with hard work evident on truancy, downtown projects, state funding, neighborhood policing and crime control, he is making a dent. Now he has announced his support for a campaign to put teeth into his quality of life and economic development plans by restoring home rule.

You may have been surprised by this initiative—most of us working the campaign are not. Conversations on the topic were short among volunteers, because there was consensus among us. We understood that the campaign was only the first step in building a better Rockford.

For those undecided about the need for home rule, consider the ham-strung leadership and lackluster performance on every front over the past 22 years. Is Rockford a better place today than when we voters—in a fit of pique—blunted the ability of elected officials to govern?

Leadership is not measured in decibels but by accomplishments. Primal screams, echoing among CAVEs throughout the city, is not enlightening—just white noise. My husband, Kyle, and I look forward to the chance to visit with neighbors, circulate petitions and donate to a cause we believe is crucial to the continued growth of our chosen home of 30 years. Here’s to the sunlight of a new day!

Marge Bevers is a Rockford resident who served as Mayor Larry Morrissey’s field coordinator in the April 2005 election campaign.

Editor’s note: During an Oct. 24 interview, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey commented about the controversial home rule debate by saying:

“I have no resentment or ill will to anybody that’s anti-home rule. I don’t know how other people are, but I personally don’t because I understand that there’s been this mentality or feeling of ‘us versus them.’

“You’ll never hear me use the term ‘CAVE dweller’ like some other people do—Citizens Against Virtually Everything—because I have to turn around and say: ‘Hey, if someone’s in a cave, who threw them there?’

“It’s the absence of good communication and good leadership that puts people in the cave, and puts people in the position where they feel like they have to kick, scratch and fight just to get their voice heard in a democracy.

“To me, that’s not the way you should do business,” Morrissey said.

From the Nov. 9-15, 2005, issue

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