Write the vision on the wall, and make it plain, that the people will read it and run. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; for it will surely come, it will not tarry.
The key word in this timeless biblical passage of Scripture spoken by the prophet Habakkuk is the word vision, which is defined as the act or power of seeing; the ability to perceive, discern and anticipate; foresight; imagination.
Once again, we have a mayoral race upon us, and it will probably be the most important race in 30 years. The outcome will determine if Rockford continues in the same stagnant position or shift to a more aggressive direction. Our past mayors have, for arguments sake, had some sort of vision. One major problem these leaders have had, however, is the inability to articulate this vision. Since relocating to Rockford in 1988, I have seen people run in many different directions. Most have run right out of Rockford. This is a direct result of past and current leadership operating out of fear and not embracing new ideas or the fresh, young voices that some of these ideas have come from. Fear causes people to run amok and lose out on many opportunities. Fear is an atmosphere that breeds uneasiness when change is presented. Fear has a controlling vise-like grip, an emotion that is excited by what is perceived as danger, evil or pain. It also causes many decisions to be made in back rooms without any dialogue or public input. If our leadership hides and leads under the cloak of fear, where does that leave the followers?
I believe a Larry Morrissey administration will put an end to 30 years of the same formula and direction. I met Larry for the first time after the last mayoral election at the River Districts annual dinner. During our conversation, he made me feel as though I was a part of something great. I felt a sense of inclusion. I did not feel as though he was intimidated by me as a young leader in the African-American community. Larry has a great gift to speak with vision. While he spoke about things like improving our citys infrastructure, having a viable plan for minority business owners, and an investment of their ideas, I began to envision a city embracing trendy minority-owned shops, restaurants and cafés. I saw the possibilities of a diverse group of individuals owning loft apartments and condos. I felt vibrancy for life in our central city that has long been forgotten.
I was captivated in this aura of a revolutionized Rockford. Then reality settled in, for I had just voted for Doug Scott. I even remembered voting for Charles Box three consecutive times. I did not vote on the issues. I, along with many of my fellow African-American friends and associates, voted on party lines.
I explained to Larry that many African Americans wanted to vote for him. He said, May I ask why they didnt? I responded we were afraid…you represented the unknown. Larry proceeded by saying he had won the election. I said, Excuse me? He then responded, I caused you all to think. I then knew I had made a terrible mistake in the choice of my vote. There is yet an element of change lingering in the atmosphere. An astounding 62 percent of the voters in the 2001 election did not vote for Doug Scott. Four years later, the Mayor continues to be dogged by the inertia of the past 30 years.
Scott has continuously tried to convince us, especially African Americans, that he has done more in the last four years than his predecessor (who was black). There has been more promised to the west and southwest sides in 30 years than actually delivered. When I came to Rockford, Perryville did not exist north of East State Street. Today, North Perryville Road is a winding thoroughfare of trendy shops, retail extravaganzas and restaurants. It is a financial mecca, home to more than 10 banks and credit unions. In stark contrast, West State Street is the historic gateway to abandoned homes, litter-lined streets, broken glass and shattered dreams. It remains an avenue of unfulfilled promises and obvious neglect. In fact, it is home to only one bank. Sure, the west side has seen new homes go up along with a new Wal-Mart; however, that does not make up for 30 years of neglect. These welcomed additions to the west side are indeed needed, but, in a greater incursion if this area is to be on an even playing field with the rest of the city, thus, making these often-neglected residents feel a part of an emerging city made whole.
The African-American population in Rockford is edging 30,000 residents. When you add the growing Hispanic population of about 20,000, we represent one-third of the citys total population. We have the untapped ability with a more aggressive and defined leadership to finally be looked upon as a viable part of the solution rather than a burden to be ignored. In October 2004, I had the pleasure of escorting Larry to a west-side church, when suddenly a co-pastor friend of mine gave Larry a word that said he would do great things in this city. My friend did not know who Larry was. Later, at the end of the service, I told her that the man she gave a word to was Larry Morrissey, and he was running for mayor of the City of Rockford. She was overwhelmed and amazed by the power of the words she had spoken.
In 2001, when I met Larry, his vision was indeed for an appointed time. I believe the time is now for it to speak and not lie. Lord knows, we have waited, but He promised it would come. The atmosphere of change is not coming…it is already here. Join me in voting for vision, leadership, and results. Join me in the polls on April 5 and vote for my friend, Larry Morrissey.
Robert King is chairman of the Minority Business Council.
From the March 30-April 5, 2005 issue