Guest Column: The ‘elephant’ that won’t go away

By Norman Bleed

No one, I’m sure, disagrees more often or more completely with Register Star Executive Editor Linda Grist Cunningham than I do.

Therefore, I flatter myself that she meant to include me among those two dozen “Rockford-haters” who “control the agenda” around here while “drowning out” everyone else.

Of course, she couldn’t be more wrong, in every respect, but she really hit the nail on the tip when she referenced the communities surrounding us as trying desperately to ignore the elephant in the middle of the room—“a hopeless endeavor.”

On the contrary, it is all those fast-growing suburbs that are the elephant, which Rockford has been ignoring for almost 30 years, ever since we wisely threw out Home Rule, but our city fathers then began finding endless ways of literally making us pay for our having done so.

As ever more fees and rates and levies and taxes have sprung up, and up—the better to free up needed slush funds for hockey teams and river walks, etc.—many former residents have moved out.

Those who remain have seen the instituting of class warfare: While many, if not most, of us are drawn only closer to the wolf at the door with each new, always absolutely necessary revenue scheme and stream, our highly-paid, well-heeled neighbors—like the Register Star Editorial Board—also never fail to have some dismissive quip—“whatever it takes,” or, “an extra penny won’t kill you”—to justify it.

One such bottomless pit is our public schools, but they, likewise, are not an elephant that’s being ignored. Rather, that elephant would be all the private and alternative schools that have sprung up.

There’s been a mass exodus to these places, where students are expected and even required to—of all things!—look and act and work like real, serious students. Or else! And they do.

The reason is simple. Rockford Public Schools don‘t really want to run a high-caliber education operation. They’d rather obsess about race, and run scared over a lawsuit that was ancient history 10 years ago.

And simply by observing the way many of their students dress for school these days, anyone can easily conclude that the kids share in the administration’s same low expectations.

Nor does Cunningham really want “good Rockfordians” to “give voice to what they believe and think.” In fact, my very doing so here, not there (I tried), has again “proved” that all I have to offer is unworthy “negativism,” even though she insists she neither expects nor wants mere boosterism.

As for alternative local commentary on race-related issues, that’s never even been a consideration at the Register Star. “Good” Ed Wells and “good” Kris Kieper are, and have, the last word.

A thoroughly despicable object lesson of both Cunningham’s expressed desire for more speaking out by the citizenry, and our so-called right to do it locally, is the one-year banning, last summer, of Jim Buckingham from City Hall for correctly saying the mayor is a “domestic enemy.”

Cunningham and the Register Star were, at best, mute about this most telling incident of brave honesty garnering cowardly persecution. Telling, and tolling.

Norman Bleed is a resident of Rockford.

From the April 13-19, 2011 issue

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