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Be the Change! Why wouldn’t people choose Rockford as a place to live?

I moved to Rockford in July 2011 and it wasn’t long until I noticed the continued comment, “Why would anyone move to Rockford?”.  I quickly replied, “Why wouldn’t I?”. So I start my first blog tonight to ask the question – Why wouldn’t people want to live in the great City of Rockford?  How is it that so many people are down on our City?  Could it be the continued negative reports of crime, education, weather, housing, diversity issues, or the economy. I am interested to know why its so easy for a population of over 300,000 people in this county to overwhelmingly talk so negatively about the place they live.  My hope in our blog time together is that we get the chance to discuss issues in our community, our city and our county.  Before I begin a series of discussion on why I chose Rockford I would like to hear your thoughts.

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21 Comments

  1. April Willoughby

    Taxes really really high taxes now that my kids are out of school it is time to move out of this city

  2. jeanelle

    Seriously do you need to ask?
    Crime–see “rockford scanner” for details.
    Corruption–see “crime” for details
    Taxes, see lack of police protection and school system failure for details.
    Lack of support for change—see voting citizens for details.
    Ghetto environment and work ethics–see any local business for details

  3. Steve Seberg

    The property taxes are completly out of control !!!

  4. David Frederick

    Lack of an “artistic” type movie theater. With the closing of Colonial Village, there has been a serious lack of a venue willing to consistently bring in art type movies. Consider Madison,a city about the same size, with Sundance theater. Granted they still bring in mainstream movies but more of the theaters will bring in smaller types(artistic, documentary, and foreign) and some are screening room runs, meaning a one week run and no service fees on any shows. With plenty of empty buildings and enough of a following I’m sure you could find enough interest in opening this type of theater. Sundance is also in the middle of several restaurants and serve sandwiches and pizza themselves providing more than basic theater food. I’m sure you could find restaurants around here willing to set up a booth to serve food to moviegoers, imagine a pizza, tacos or a sandwich as you sit back and enjoy a movie. Also a smaller type venue would provide easier parking instaed od parking in the distance like either Showplace on a busy day.

  5. David Frederick

    Lack of an “artistic” type movie theater. With the closing of Colonial Village, there has been a serious lack of a venue willing to consistently bring in art type movies. Consider Madison,a city about the same size, with Sundance theater. Granted they still bring in mainstream movies but more of the theaters will bring in smaller types(artistic, documentary, and foreign) and some are screening room runs, meaning a one week run and no service fees on any shows. With plenty of empty buildings and enough of a following I’m sure you could find enough interest in opening this type of theater. Sundance is also in the middle of several restaurants and serve sandwiches and pizza themselves providing more than basic theater food. I’m sure you could find restaurants around here willing to set up a booth to serve food to moviegoers, imagine a pizza, tacos or a sandwich as you sit back and enjoy a movie. Also a smaller type venue would provide easier parking instead of parking in the distance like either Showplace on a busy day.

  6. Robert Swanson Sr.

    Mike, let’s hit the “selling points”, shall we?

    FACT
    1) Good schools? NOPE!
    Some of the worst in the state. Graduation rates from our high schools are more suitable as a punchline than a statistic. We’re ranked 740 out of 777 districts in Illinois. (http://www.schooldigger.com/go/IL/districtrank.aspx)
    2) Reasonable Property Tax rates? NOPE!
    Our property taxes were just ranked 25th highest IN THE NATION (out of 2922 rated). Boy, don’t you think we get our money’s worth? (http://taxfoundation.org/research/show/27276.html)
    3) Low crime? NOPE!
    Some of the worst in the State! (http://recordspedia.com/Illinois/Rockford/Crime-Statistics)
    4) Low sales tax? NOPE!
    We add 2% over the state rate of 6.25% city-wide (1% “For the roads”, 1% “For the schools”), and an additional 1% in the “Metro Zone”. A total downtown of 9.25%! 8.25% Everywhere else.
    5) Average or lower than state average unemployment levels? NOPE!
    12.2% in 12/2011. Ranked 4th HIGHEST in the state! (http://www.ides.illinois.gov/page.aspx?item=2515)
    6) A prosperous employment / manufacturing base? NOPE!
    Just look around. Our manufacturing industry is crumbling, and is a constant item of reporting in the RRS. Based on our higher than average unemployment rate, it is reasonable to conclude that there are insufficient employment opportunities to replace the lost jobs.
    7) A City than plans for the future/extreme events? NOPE!
    Two separate “Storm of the century!” events, high (seasonal) winds, rain caused flooding events, etc. They all seem to take Rockford’s political leadership by surprise and catch them unawares. Lack of basic thought (like cleaning out critical run-off locations like Keith Creek) have made this lack of preparation downright dangerous.

    OPINION
    1) Decent political leadership (Mayors Morrissey, Scott, or Box)? NOPE!
    To think I actually voted for Mayor “MoreForMe” the first time. Oh, the shame! He seems totally preoccupied with walkways, foot paths, bike paths, etc, that always seem to increase property values of friends, family, and supporters, or so is the appearance. If it’s not foot paths, it’s roundabouts or Big Barn upgrades that the public doesn’t want.
    2) Effective Police leadership (Chief Epperson)? NOPE!
    Massive vote of “No confidence” by his own police force (276-6). If you can’t even get 50% of your police force to support you, you must really stink. Let alone almost 98%. (http://www.rrstar.com/news/x1941732668)
    3) Effective (or even intelligent) City Council? NOPE!
    Roundabouts, constant requests/referendums for tax increases, lack of fiscal responsibility, lack of job growth/creation ability, vision, or hope, etc, etc. See most of above.
    4) Effective snow removal? NOPE!
    I moved into my home 8 years ago (this summer). It was a new construction at the time. To date, the city STILL does not come out to plow unless we call them and remind them that we exist. It is such a pain, that a few people that live in the neighborhood have just taken to doing it themselves (plows on the front of their trucks) for the benefit of the community. We sure get the benefit of our tax dollars here!

  7. Admittedly, I live in Roscoe, not Rockford. But for anything other than schools, I go to Rockford. I love our mall, the Y, the Coronado, Starlight, the bars, and restaurants; to mention Camp Winnebago, a place I’ve been involved with for 5 years now.

    Yes, it’s true that Rockford has many, many problems, but I choose to stay in this area because of the difference to be made and the positives we already have.

  8. Michelle

    I moved to Rockford from a major city and I feel that Rockford is an ideal place for me and my husband. There are a multitude of free parks and activities for children. There are cultural centers to visit and a nice quite, albeit small, Lakefront to enjoy. There are a variety of restaurants in which to partake. Sometimes its just nice to be able to feel comfortable walking around in the neighborhood and talking with neighbors. Something I was never comfortable doing in the big city. While the property taxes here are fairly high, the amount of real estate you can purchase for your money is unparalleled to the big city. Why Rockford? Why not Rockford?

  9. AmazingScott

    You’re joking, right? Schools that are terrible, with students that can’t read, write or spell that graduate right on time. Taxes that are sky high and services that are spotty at best. A police force that solves only 20% of the serious crimes reported. Elected leaders that have been paid off and stay paid off, and a third-rate media that doesn’t even think to challenge what they say. Crumbling infrastructure and only 6 buildings built with private funds in downtown since 1960, yet fools want to preserve the expensive crumbling old wrecks that no one wants. Roundabouts shoved down our throats when the vast majority of residents say they think it’s a bad idea, all because some ‘significant person’ paid off the politicians so that a bunch of nearly worthless properties could be sold to the city for grossly inflated amounts. And racism, lots and lots of racism. The rental property that I paid 75k for in 1995 is now worth 62k and dropping.

    Why on earth would anyone move to Rockford if they didn’t have to? Get out while you can! I used to think like you do- it has so much going on with music and arts that it must be worth salvaging, but I learned over more than a decade that it’s all about the money; nothing happens in this town without someone, many people, getting paid. It’s a sucker trap- if we just try harder we can DO IT… except you can’t, not when the elected leaders and their owners have the deck stacked against you.

    At this point the only people left in Rockford are the ones who can’t afford to leave, the ones who were sent here as a punishment and a handful of idealistic folks who desperately cling to the notion that it can somehow be fixed. Get out while you still can!

  10. 1sweetswede

    Rockford is lacking in respect, ethics, and opportunity.
    Respect? I have never been treated so disrespectfully and rudely until I moved to Rockford. I moved here from the Chicago area in 1990. I had previously worked in customer service in restaurants and bars as well as retail in a variety of suburbs from the North side to the South side, to downtown Chicago and the western suburbs. (For a while I worked for a company which had stores throughout the Chicago area and they would send me wherever I was needed). These areas had a variety of social economic classes, races, religous tendencies etc. I had to move to Rockford to be treated contemptuously and discriminatorily.
    Discrimination is a form of disrepect. If someone conjures a negative hatefull emotion or is denied opportunity based soley on their race, sex, appearance, religous beliefs etc, that in itself is a lack of respect for someone’s heritage. Rockford is rampant with discrimintation.

    Rockford has no respect for it’s daughters. I happen to think that a city which promotes itself as family oriented should be appalled by the fact that there is a strip club across the street from Chuckee Cheese! There are strip clubs on the main thoroughfares and in family neighborhoods. These along with the variety of lingerie shops and masage parlors are an accepted part of the culture. I never once even had a co worker, friend, male or female bring up the topic of strip clubs prior to moving here. My male friends never suggested frequenting them as a source of entertainment and they were not a source of contention in anyone’s relationship. The same men in the clubs stuffing money in someone’s daughter’s underwear is very likely not putting any money in their own daughters’ college fund. Rockford has one of the highest rates of unpaid child support in the nation, yet there are enough men willing to spend money in all of these strip clubs, masage parlors and lingerie shops to keep them in business? (Talk to any stripper and they will tell you most of the men that go in there and spend money have a family waiting for them at home, or children growing up without them). Many of the girls are underage, some even imported as sex slaves. In fact the younger they are the more in demand. Rockford tops the nation for sex crimes, correlates with the lack of respect for our daughters. Rockford is abundant with pedophiles, they are living here comfortabley as our neighbors, why?

    Rockford also has a bad attitude problem. People just go through their day looking for how everyone else is lacking, wrong, less than etc. Drama driven, then they teach it to their children. The children’s lack of respect (which they learned from Mom and Dad) go to school with them, makes the school’s job more difficult, and the educational process is affected. Parents are quick to blame the schools and the staff and not quick to hold their children accountable for thier behavior. If the schools have to spend an abundant amount of thier time, energy and resources attending to behavior issues which never improve because the parents do not hold their children accountable, it is less time, energy and resources available for the educational process which the children are there for.

    Rockford is not abundant with ethical behavior. I never knew what the term “hook up” meant until I moved here. Never even heard of it as meaning someone should steal from their place of employment so that someone can get something for free or at a reduced rate. The first time someone asked me “if I come to where you work will you hook me up”? I replied “Sure, I will make sure you get above the top service”. Well, that was not what was implied I found out. “So you want me to steal from the people who believed in me and gave me a job so you can get something free that would only cost you a few dollars?! You think I should risk my job and defacate on my employer to save you $5….um let me think about that…NO! I have also witnessed a common occurance in Rockford whereby people get promoted who are not deserving of the promotion and then steal from their employer. The person who speaks up and lets what’s going on be known, gets let out and the undeserving theif remains. I wonder why Rockford companies are so fragile.

    Rockford companies tend to hire according to who you know, not by qualifications. A very few families control 30% of the wealth here, and therfore job opportunites. 1% of the population last I checked, white males who tend to hire other white males (who then steal from them). Throughout history whenever there is a small percentage of people who control a large percentage of the resources an unstable economy is created. As the discrepency of salry increases from the top earners and everyone else, the economy becomes less stable. Unfortunatley the selfish fools who are living comfortabley do not care about the rest of us or their future generations. Organizations tend to manage through threats and intimidation which most of the rest of the world already knows is not the most effective managment style. Jobs are scarce here so those in the positions of power are quick to let you know that if you don’t like it, someone else will need a job and put up with verbal and mental abuse. Now there is a tactic which instills loyalty and productivity which leads to a succesful company which competes on a global level, NOT. Companies should require an obedient staff, and strive towards a loyal staff. There is a difference. Lack of opportunity and unpaid child support also leads to the vibrant sex trade here in Rockford.

    Rockford needs to stop playing the blame game. Look within and hold yourself accountable. Hold your children accountable. Live ethically and respectfully. Hold your representatives accountable, be aware how they vote, and then you vote. Speak out, be unnaccepting of what is so obviously not tolerable. I happen to also be fortunate to know many great people lliving here in Rockford trying to live right everyday. People who do not fit any of what I have just written. I have great neighbors who are very eclectic and respectful of each other. So, the undercurrent is here, let it rise to the top, be a part of positive change and no longer accept the staus quo.

  11. Yes – July 2012 is certainly not here yet. Sorry for the error! I am encouraged that many are commenting with their thoughts. I look forward to continuing discussions and getting deeper into the issues. Let’s all remember one thing: Do we continue to put our City down or do we work to build it up? Do we work toward change by bringing a community together or sit back and wait for someone else to do it? Does anything in this world change without the hard work and dedication of people? I have lived in California, Houston, Georgia and Rhode Island. Let me be the first to say there is no City that is perfect – but we as a people can create change, but how? When? I for sure want to look back on my life and know that it had a greater purpose. The change starts with us. History shows that when people (We the People) work together that change for the good can and will happen. Won’t our attitudes and our willingness to teach our children, our neighbors and our community that we can make change by taking action rather than waiting for someone else move us in a positive direction. Crime doesn’t stop just because we say it has too. Education does not improve just because we want it too. Service does not change just because we expect it too. Why would business or any industry be in Rockford if the very people that live here want out? Why would our children grow up to serve rather than complain if we as a people don’t set the example. Change takes work, it takes commitment and it takes a new found enthusiasm or attitude in a culture that appears depressed or hateful. It certainly isn’t easy for anyone but I ask again…when do we take responsibility, take action and support our community by participating in the change we wish to see. Our world is not getting better by sitting. It takes action from people and if Rockford Citizens want a better community then we need to start with ourselves…don’t we?

  12. AmazingScott

    “But we as a people can create change, but how? When?” By leaving. As soon as possible. You’re taking our interest in your post as a sign that we want to work to fix the problems, and that’s a mistake. We’ve already been there, done that, and had disillusionment handed to us in return. We’re just amused to see some poor idealistic soul who’s about to get creamed the same way we did…

    Remember- the reward for doing a good job in Rockford is a better job somewhere else.

  13. Though many – maybe even most – people in the area aren’t interested in changing, making a difference, seeking a positive mentality, there are people still hoping and working toward something brighter than right now. It is really easy to point fingers, but if we used that time to invest in this area and working for something better, I honestly believe we can make it happen.

    If you don’t live to do something extraordinary, what are you living for? Sure, maybe it all sounds corny, but what is the harm in always trying to be and do better?

  14. Teresa

    I believe Rockford has potential. BUT… Taxes, Gas Prices, lack of a choice for grocery. What are the real choices for groceries WEST of the river. The solution seems to be put little quick marts on every corner to charge 3 X regular price – but hey – we accept LINK. How about this – You are ripping us all off – stealing from all of us charging such prices to people who cannot afford a car to drive to a real store – or have 3 hours to take the bus. It is shameful. Rent prices are way too high considering the average income. People are working just to pay rent. I have only lived in Rockford for 1 year, I lived in a smaller town south of here for the past 10 years. I like the urban environment BUT I cannot afford to do anything because my pay goes to rent and utilities. I still have to drive about 30 minutes just to get to a decent grocery store – Schnucks is NOT decent. I shop in Oregon as much as possible. Besides high rent – the 2 landlords I have had have been HORRIBLE. And as I am discovering, I have no rights – I have spent days trying to find help and the only answer is to get a lawyer – if I had thousands to throw away, I would just move.

    The architecture is outstanding, although such a shame that so much of it is falling apart. The parks are wonderful. Churches are great. City Market – OUTSTANDING. If only I didn’t sit at home hoping I had enough money for gas and rent. I have a decent job but I am currently paying more for rent than I ever have in my life.

    My two cents.

  15. Frank Haney

    Mike,

    Thanks for posting this article and thanks for the good work you are doing at the YMCA!

    Just as there are some challenges, there are some really positive things going on our community right now.

  16. Frank Haney

    Mike,

    Thanks for posting this article and thanks for the good work you are doing at the YMCA!

    Just as there are some challenges, there are some really positive things going on in our community right now.

  17. Dawn Reints

    I have company coming in from out of town. Going to co-co keys, the discovery center and tinkers cottage while they are here. I think sometimes we just don’t look at all the great things Rockford has to offer.

  18. Tyler Edwards

    Decades of neglect of the city’s historical properties, poor roads, poor employment, a high crime rate, ridiculously high property taxes, and a spectacularly bad attitude on the part of its citizens are all reasons someone would want to leave Rockford. There is another attempt to gain public awareness about the state of the Midway Theater and hopefully save the structure, but the media at large isn’t paying attention. We are too quick to demolish things around here. The roads are neglected by the city’s sole contractor, which hasn’t done its job properly ever. The few places that are hiring in Rockford aren’t local, so they don’t put money back in to the community, and they aren’t places people take pride in working at. The police are slow to respond. Property taxes shouldn’t exist in the first place, because they are punishment for owning a home. All this adds up to a bad attitude on the part of the average Forest City resident.

  19. Sure Mike- toss us a nice slow pitch.

    If you want a good laugh, check out the entries for Rockford IL at urbandictionary.com

    Rockford has some nice hard-working people, decent parks and way-above average golf courses. But that’s where the positives end. In no particular order-

    - Absurdly high property taxes
    - Terrible schools
    - One of the highest violent crime rates in the country
    - Ugly, neglected downtown area
    - Corrupt leaders
    - Overwhelmed and trigger happy-police force
    - Limited culture and diversity
    - Ignorant and ghetto mentality of it’s residents

    Take all the problems of small town then take away it’s positives- (safety, community)

    Take all the problems of a large city then take away it’s positives- (opportunity, culture)

    What you have left is some sort of foul joke called Rockford IL. Stupid, dangerous and unloved. And it still manages to be boring and bland. Good job, stink town.

  20. Andrew

    I grew up near Chicago and moved to Belvidere in 6th grade, so I’ve lived near Rockford most of my life. This city is a total pit. The typical person in Rockford is very rude and unpleasant. Go to the twin cities and compare the people you meet with people from Rockford, you will see the difference. Did I mention most people here are uneducated idiots?

    Property taxes are murder, and if you have kids the schools are worse than the taxes you pay for them. You WILL have your car broken into. Your car’s suspension will be wrecked by the horrible Rockford roads. Yes, there are pot holes EVERYWHERE! You WILL be robbed if you end up in the wrong area after dark, or if you are in the pizza delivery business.

    There is no easy way to get to the west side other than taking 20 south around town. There needs to be a north bypass. The stoplights here are awful to drive through.

    The unemployment rate is astronomical. This place used to be a manufacturing town, but those jobs do not exist anymore and Rockford isn’t adaptable enough to create data centers and get into the IT scene. There simply are not enough educated people in Rockford to support data centers anyway. I wonder why no one has an education in Rockford? Oh, wait see my second paragraph…the schools SUCK!

    Thankfully I got out, and live in the country side of Winnebago now. The schools are much better, taxes are much lower, and knock on wood, no one has syphoned my gas since I’ve moved. I was even able to get rid of my locking gas cap! Now I only have to come to Rockford to work in one of the few places there are still decent jobs…healthcare.

  21. IrishMick

    I lived in Rockford from 1982 to 1984, and then breifly in 1986. I haven’t been back there even for a visit since 1992. I liked the N.A.T, the Metro, the Libraries and the River. Honestly, I thought the city was the worst place I have lived in my 59 years…by far. I thought the people were extremely narrow-minded, bigotted and racist. I am a Catholic only by baptism and I met with intense religious intolerance on more than a fewoccasion. Rockford makes the rural south seem like the homeland of the Enlightenment. I never been to city with so many gay bars, strip joints and churches. The people there were comfortable intheir hypocrisy. The Tough Man Competition, Monster Trucks, professional wrestling, cross burnings and wet T shirt nights were the only entertainment that city had to offer.