Guest Column: Mid-Town request raises concerns

Why, after years of steady improvement to Seventh Street, has the Mid-Town Association elected to solicit funds from its membership for surveillance cameras?

This is hardly in line with the tack that the executive director of the Mid-Town Association has taken with the Rockford Register Star in asking the paper not to mention the location of prostitution sweeps because it would not help the image of the Mid-Town District as an improving business district of the City of Rockford. Mr. Mohr explained to me in some detail that by not mentioning the problems of the District by the paper, this would help encourage growth in the District.

Why the sudden turnabout? The installation of surveillance cameras over public areas of Seventh Street with remote access in real time by wireless technology smacks of gross over-reach by the Mid-Town Association. Are we to understand that somehow the Mid-Town Association is now a quasi-public entity similar in policing powers like the City of Rockford?

Doesn’t it strike anyone that it is strange that only the Mid-Town Association and the Police Department will have access to the cameras? Since when does a non-governmental agency that is partially funded by City tax dollars rate such high power over citizens that it in general doesn’t represent? How is this possible? Did our Constitution get rewritten in the last few years?

Who is the Mid-Town Association accountable to? Is it accountable to the citizens of Rockford or its membership? I can guarantee that it is not accountable directly to the citizens of Rockford. It applies for funding that is granted to it by the City of Rockford.

The real question the citizens of Rockford should be asking is: Is this what we give money away to organizations to do? That is, to be extraordinary police? What next should we pay for local community groups to do?

Citizens of Rockford, you should be very scared. What is next on the horizon? What new technologies will be foisted on us by self-interested individuals without due process or redress to our elected governments?

We printed a political button earlier this year. It says this: “Welcome to our police state. Enjoy your stay. Watch what you say.”

Except that this button was directed at government in general. The Mid-Town District is not government. It has only the power that is given to it by its membership. Now, it has police power over all of us.

In the immortal words of the Church Lady, “Isn’t that special?”

Jim Phelps is the owner of Phoenix Traders at 215 Seventh St.

From the Dec. 13-19, 2006, issue

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