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Jesse Jackson: Turn crisis into opportunity
Posted By Brandon Reid On September 9, 2009 @ 10:36 am In Happening Now | No Comments
• News and notes from the Sept. 8 Rockford City Council meeting
By Stuart R. Wahlin
With a packed gallery awaiting the start of the Sept. 8 Rockford City Council meeting, city officials, elected leaders, members of the press and the public clamored for handshakes, pictures and autographs from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Jackson, who twice ran for president, was drawn to Rockford after the Aug. 24 fatal shooting of 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore, an African-American, by two white police officers.
The case has since been handed over to the Illinois State Police for outside investigation.
“We want to turn this crisis into an opportunity to grapple with the deep-seated issues—what I call moving from racial battleground to economic common ground to moral higher ground,” Jackson told council members. “The issue of Mark Anthony Barmore is being handled appropriately through the investigative process. Your commitment to an open, fair, independent process is a welcome one. I think it helps to defuse some of the crisis and restore some measure of trust. We anxiously await the result of that investigation.”
But Jackson’s comments weren’t limited to the escalated racial tension resulting from the Barmore shooting. He asserted Rockford could be the starting point for the nation’s reindustrialization.
“Rockford should be, in the nation’s crisis, a model city of economic growth,” he said. “We need a manufacturing stimulus for America, to put America back to work.
“We’ve bailed out the leaves; we’ve not bailed out the roots,” Jackson continued. “Some banks are getting money they didn’t even ask for, while plants are closing and jobs are leaving. We’ve been promised a reconstruction, a reindustrialization. Why not start in Rockford?”
In particular, Jackson said he was pained by the closures of so many plants in the automotive industry.
“I’m concerned when we last year bought 750,000 cars from South Korea, and they bought 5,000 from us,” he indicated. “We offer them bridges. They offer us walls and tariffs. It calls out for a reindustrialization policy. Why not Illinois? Why not Rockford?”
Jackson has also visited two Rockford high schools in recent weeks, pushing his seven-point plan, which particularly encourages more parental involvement in education.
“But those parents need jobs,” Jackson noted. “Those kids who have free lunches need free breakfast and free dinner. Many of them need reading glasses and hearing assistance. So, we must close ranks across party lines, and other lines, to address the issue of growing poverty. When these plants close and these jobs leave, the tax base sinks and desperation sets in, drugs and guns come. There’s no Republican answer to that. There’s no Democratic answer to that. This is our crisis, our state, our nation.”
Jackson will lead a peaceful demonstration and march Sept. 12 at 1 p.m., from West State Street and Central Avenue to the Winnebago County Justice Center.
“It’s our way of saying: ‘Let’s come together. Let’s march for hope, for healing, for justice, and turn our crisis into an opportunity,’” Jackson explained.
The council approved zoning map and text amendments to open the door for an Arts and Cultural Overlay District in the downtown area. The overlay district is intended to lure artists from a litany of disciplines by encouraging live-work space downtown. In turn, it is hoped the concentration of creative minds downtown will result in further investment.
Aldermen also approved a variation to decrease the minimum lot width from 70 to 68 feet in a residential district at 2906 Reid Farm Road. Ald. Doug Mark (R-3) voted “no.”
Aldermen passed committee reports recommending:
• The awards for miscellaneous waterworks supplies and materials to J&R Supply for $40,380, H.D. Waterworks for $121,002, Resource Utility Supply for $15,729.35, Columbia Pipe Supply for $22,130.76, Northern Waterworks Supply for $74,901.82 and Joe D. Foreman for $3,184.
• B&J Excavating be awarded its $35,800 bid for demolitions of five residential properties. Northern Illinois Service Co. was awarded $12,100 for demolition of one property.
• Three properties at 3100 Elm St. be sold to the sole bidder, Jerusalem M.B. Church, for $2,601.
After having been ill for several weeks with a viral infection, retired police officer and former Winnebago County Board member Bruce Roberts urged the city to adopt a contingency plan for the possibility of widespread illness, such as the H1N1 virus, among the city’s workforce.
“Cold weather will not stop bad folks in the community that commit crimes,” Roberts said. He added that if policemen or firemen take ill in large numbers, “You’ve gotta have somebody to handle things.”
Winnebago County Board member George Anne Duckett (D-12) urged the mayor and aldermen to work with other local governments, with specific regard to mounting racial tension.
“I think the problem I have today is that I just want you all to join all governmental bodies in solving the problem we have in this community right now,” she said. “People don’t trust government. I’m an elected official. They don’t trust me. Take my word, they don’t trust you. We’ve got to do something better here, and one of the things is to teach by example. We’ve got to work together.
“We take our personal feelings and we put them before serving the people,” Duckett added. “We’re not queens and kings. We are public servants.
“I’m trying to see the big picture, and there’s so much positive that can come from what’s happened these past few weeks,” she added. “And I ask you all—especially you Christians—to look at it in a different manner.”
Dan McCarty, a frequent pro-life demonstrator at the Northern Illinois Women’s Center, 1400 Broadway, said the Lord instructed him to tell the council to start praying for the city.
“The abortion clinic that we have in the city continues to be a shoddy operation,” McCarty alleged. “You got people going in the back door, you got people being attacked, you got microphones and listening devices around the building, you have broken windows at times, the property isn’t kept up very well; there’s just too many things going on down there.”
Because of altercations that arise when anti-abortion demonstrators try to change the minds of patients visiting the center—including the use of large signs displaying photos of dismembered fetuses—police presence has become a necessity at the center on days during which abortions are performed.
Several years ago, building owner Wayne Webster interrupted an assailant who’d broken into the building after hours and had begun smashing equipment.
Webster now monitors the perimeter through a series of video cameras, and is known to argumentatively address anti-abortion demonstrators through a loudspeaker system.
McCarty suggested closing the women’s center as a means to reduce city spending.
“There’s been cities in this country that have closed these abortion clinics down in their city, and they’re saving themselves a lot of money,” he argued. “You could talk to [City Legal Director] Patrick Hayes, you can talk to the police chief [Chet Epperson], you could talk to different people—even the mayor—he knows what kind of problems we have down there. You can save a lot of money, because you got a lot of police hours down there. There’s officers sittin’ down there two days a week when they’re open.”
McCarty noted he’d recently met a young man who’d wanted to save his child, whose mother chose an abortion.
“But he couldn’t save his child,” McCarty said. “The woman has the right to say what happens to that child. He wanted to keep that child, and train it up and take care of it, but he couldn’t do it, because he’s a man. But if that baby was born, guess who’s responsible for it.”
Emily Klonicki, a program coordinator for the Rockford Public Library, pleaded with the council to give more consideration to whether cutting library pension subsidies is in the city’s best interest.
“The public library, as an institution, is a cornerstone of society,” Klonicki said. “It plays a key role in the life of its community. For some, it is a place of exploration and discovery. For others, a place to access and utilize practical tools and gain new skills. For all, it is a place to better oneself.
“A threat to these services would mean a threat to our community’s future,” she added. “Your recent decision to cut the special fund subsidy that the city has provided on behalf of the library for over 30 years should be reconsidered and brought back to the negotiating table. Making a clean cut of roughly $850,000 from the library’s expected revenue next year could effectively cripple the service that the library is able to provide. The Library Board of Directors has already made a proposal to drastically cut services, hours and staff to deal with the financial blow that the library has been dealt.
“It’s not that I don’t understand why the city is making drastic cuts across the board,” Klonicki explained. “Like all institutions that are based on tax revenue, the city is coming up short, just like the library. With revenue down and costs up, everyone is working to stay afloat. But by relieving your ship of the special funds budget, and loading the entire budget burden on the library, you are sinking the library’s ship.”
Instead, Klonicki urged the mayor and aldermen to come to a “moderate solution.”
Aldermen went into closed session to discuss collective bargaining negotiations.
Aldermen John Beck (R-12), Linda McNeely (D-13) and Bill Robertson (I-14) were absent.
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