Natasha Leggero is not the problem. I am.

I read the article regarding Natasha Leggero and her comments about Rockford.  I disagree with her assessment of our city and our people.  For a comedian going for a cheap laugh, she wasn’t very funny.  But that is not the point.

The problem is NOT what a B-level comedian says about Rockford.  The problem is NOT the Rockford paper’s running of a non-news story that gives a voice to a person few in our community know or care about.  The problem IS what we are saying about ourselves right now, right here in Rockford.  The problem IS that many people will disagree with this type of nonsense but few will counter it.  At the end of day, I am the problem.  For far too long I have sat back and been part of the silent majority of people who are proud of our community but don’t respond to this type of rant.  That is, until now.

I have noticed a trend when it comes to people who take cheap shots at our city and our people.

The problem is we all hear them but rarely see them.

  • I don’t see these people working to improve and grow our community – But I hear them mock it.


  • I don’t see these people championing the 99% of the people in this community who are good, hard-working people –  But I hear them using the 1% to define all of us.



  • I don’t see these people getting involved in improving education in our community.  They are no where to be found at PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences,  or getting involved with difference-making groups like Alignment Rockford  – But I hear them say teachers don’t care and kids can’t learn.  I hear them say this community is not 100% committed to offering great private, public, and charter school options to ensure we build a world class work force.



  • I don’t see these people stepping-up and running for office or supporting a candidate that they believe will bring about positive change in our community – But I hear them blame politicians for not fixing all of their problems.

Right now there IS positive momentum in our community as well as a number of challenges.  If you have an idea that will move us forward, then share it.  However, don’t complain unless you have a solution.  And don’t speak-up unless you plan on rolling-up your sleeves and working alongside the good people of this community who are trying to make things better.

The question is not does Rockford have room for improvement.  The question is what are you going to do about it?

And when a Rockford kid makes it big in the future – remember that you have a choice:

  • The Rick Nielsen way:  be proud of where you came from and help-out when and where you can.  We love his music and his love of Rockford.
  • The Natasha Leggero way:  best categorized as the opposite of the Rick Nielsen way.  It doesn’t mean we won’t root for her continued success.  It just means she made a choice to tear-down vs. build-up the community she came from.

I am proud of to live, work, and raise my family in the Rockford area.  There are a lot of people like me who feel the same way.  You may not hear from us as often as you should; however, we are here and in large numbers.

If you want to help continue the forward movement in Rockford and are a Gen X or Y’er, then check-out our Next Rockford November Meeting on Thursday the 11th at 7:30 am at the YWCA (across from Rockford College).  Natasha, you are most welcome to attend.  We would love to see you there.  Our door is always open.

Frank Haney
Next Rockford Facilitator



  1. whatever

    I think that she is right because there is too much reliance on government to get Rockford out from under its problems when government IS the problem. Government includes planning, it includes the power of taxation, it includes the regulatory environment, it includes efforts to curb “sprawl”, it includes accommodating the greater Chicago welfare state, and it includes alternative-to-jail programs. The problem, which is a very fundamental one, is that the region will ALWAYS be overshadowed by the very bad ideas and regulatory & tax schemes that Springfield (Chicago) comes up with. Adding another layer of government at the local level will do no good and prove to be burdensome.

  2. Frank Haney

    @ Whatever – I don’t believe Ms. Leggero was referring to government planning, regulation, or taxation. I think she was merely taking a cheap shot at her hometown. Nothing more, nothing less. At first, I was put-off by this. Then, I realized that her comment is not the problem. My continued silence in responding to such things was the problem.

  3. Frank, you did an awesome job representing how I feel about Rockford and the optimism and action needed to keep up the improvement efforts that EVERY town needs! I also agree that those of us who love it need to speak up! So here goes, “I love Rockford, Illinois!”. For those who don’t, please help be part of the solution. Another great thing about our country is that we are free to relocate as well! Thanks again Frank. We all need to speak up!

  4. Rockford sliding

    She couldn’t have picked an easier target.
    14,000 people, including myself, commute to Chicago every day. There are plans for 1 Amtrak train each day that runs at times convenient for day-tripping shoppers, encouraging money to leave the county and local area, but nothing for people who make the daily trip to work? This is progress? Widening the tollway so you can drive faster and get there more quickly, but get nabbed by the state for speeding because, again, no Metra to ride which runs at 79mph. Gotta pay tolls and gas and upkeep, more than a Metra ticket, and polluting the environment for our children, and this is progress? Pace VanPools run outside of your working hours, you find someone to ride with, and pray for the housing market to recover so you can sell that foolish purchase of a house in Rockford, praying for a day you can move to Chicago where there’s Public Transit and culture for raising children. Where crime is lower than Rockford compared by population.
    If you like and are so proud of RICK NIELSEN’s approach and civic pride, you could AT LEAST SPELL HIS NAME CORRECTLY. Name-dropping fails when it’s misspelled.
    I like Rick just fine. He’s been friendly and approachable when I’ve met him. I just don’t appreciate Rockford as he might, or as you state, he does. It is, and has been for decades, in decline. It could be accurately stated to be in the dumper at this point. Manufacturing is gone, jobs are nil, good-paying jobs are in Chicago, and we’re focusing on turning a former manufacturing facility into an indoor sports center? How many of those do we really need? Lots of good paying jobs there.
    How about an infrastructure that’ll bring jobs to Rockford? The Metra has been promised or alleged for so many years, it’s an obvious ploy to try to keep people here.
    Rockford used to be the 2nd largest city in Illinois. It appears that every city that has shoved us sullenly out of the top rankings HAS both public transport of value and worth, and Metra. Figure it out? We’ll continue losing position and residents, jobs and culture, until we get on-board, literally.
    It’s said the mark of a city’s health is the number of payday-loan, title-loan and other desperation-focused predatory lenders. Look around Rockford and see how you think it’s going.
    I’m active, I vote, I’m a public servant, I help the unfortunate in my employment. I do what I can to clean up the mess. At some point we need to stop making it, or do something that’ll turn it around.

  5. Not as blind as you

    Well, i have been in Rockford for 33 years. I have seen it deterioate to the state that is in now. This town has never been managed correctly or smartly. You all can live in the fantasy Rockford you believe in. Get out and look around, the entire town not just your neighborhood. Go walk around down town or the other side of the river after dark. tell us what a wonderful town it is. Rockford has been evaluated and graded by many outsiders, they are not all wrong. Its obvouis you need to get out of town and travel to MOST all other areas of the country, then come back and say what you think. This town has been dying since I have been here, their is no fixing it at this point. Their are to many people here that dont have a freakin clue. Just except it for the cesspool that it is, get out of your denial!!!

  6. Lonnie Harris

    @whatever – Somalia called, they want you to come home.

  7. One thing this has taught me is that whatever is suffering from some form of dillusion. The unfunny comedien’s comments didn’t mention taxes at all.

    Panera Bread and drinking…………that was all.

    You should get some help.

  8. whatever- you’re giving Leggero waaay too much credit…she was a “comedian” (I use that term lightly) trying to make a joke…she failed…I have a sense of humor and there are lots of ways she could have made fun of Rockford but the way she did it was just stupid and really unfunny.

    Frank I can’t add much to your awesome post…I am a 50 something who is involved with our church and community and am at times both amazed and dismayed at the number of volunteers for certain events and causes. It just seems like there could be so many more people doing so much more..sadly we are a pretty narcissistic, what’s in it for me society.

    There are many things that are overrated but hope is not one of them..there’s always hope!

    Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.

  9. John Groh

    Frank – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Rockford isn’t perfect, like cities across America it has challenges and opportunities. I’ve always appreciated that if you care to be involved, to make a difference, to be part of improving your corner of the community or the whole community there is a place for you in Rockford. And, to your point – we need to celebrate those who are already making a difference and encourage those who have gripes to get off the sidelines and be constructive and active agents of change.

  10. Great stuff Frank. Awesome how a few have come out to comment to validate your point (The problem IS what we are saying about ourselves right now, right here in Rockford).

    I have lived all over the North American continent and have found that each place has it’s pros and cons. My experience has been to focus and accentuate the positive to overcome the negative. I have found that to be true of Rockford as well; not perfect but a lot of great stuff. And even more exciting, a lot more great stuff happening to move this community in the right direction. Crime is reducing, downtown is developing, transit is planned and executing, education is recovering, business is growing. It’s not wake up and smell the coffee Rockford, it’s wake up and smell the champagne!

  11. Joel Zirkle

    Frank, really appreciate your words. I, like Scott Anderson, have lived elsewhere and find that while the Rockford region is not perfect there are so many positive things happening that are the envy of other parts of the midwest. I came to the area because of need for work, so I just do not buy the no jobs comments I hear. Ten years ago I was a staff level employee, now I am one of the owners. We had 45 employees then, now we have nearly 100. I rarely comment on articles and post, but I am so sick of the negative comment dominantly the comments on articles that are trying to communicate a positive forward thinking view. Those that want positive change and a to have a voice get involved, others just complain from the sidelines.

  12. We corrected the spelling of Rick Nielsen’s name. Thank you for pointing out the error.

    Anna Derocher, managing editor, rrstar.com

  13. Holly Biddle

    Frank, For years I have been impressed by your unending desire to improve the Rockford community. I moved away years simply due to the weather! In living many places in the US you learn to have an appreciation for what the positives in a community bring and what the negatives teach you. In my experience in running several large fundraiser a in my current city is that there are always those who complain but will rarely attend when volunteers are needed. For years I ran a large junior program in which I set policies that the members were required to perform 15 hrs of volunteer work a year. In one hand it was convoluted to have this forced, but several things unfolded over a couple years. The parents that complained had a realization of what their children learned in responsibility and moral value and as their children became young adults they were suddenly volunteering on their own. How can we expect things to change for the future of our community if we don’t show our children who are the future? Education occurs every minute whether its in the classroom or at home. Take a stand and fight for a community that I return to every year. You will be surprised how many people out there already are…

  14. I was born and raised in Rockford, Over the years, I made several attempts to contribute to the social side of Rockford with Places like The Top of the Rock, Off Broadway, The Wine & Cheese Emporium. The Wine Cellar and Good Time Charlies. Not to mention Five and Drive Auto Sales, Alpine Motors and Auto Appraisal Service. I also stood by and watched as National Lock, Amerock, Rockford Bolt and Steel, Essex Wire, Atwood and Barber Coleman Folded their Tents. I moved to Florida in 1999. My only regret is that I didn’t move sooner. All Natasha said was I come from a Crappy Town, She does, and it’s all My Fault…. John Leggero….Natasha’s Dad

  15. James Patterson

    Nice article Frank. You are 100% correct. Those who complain need to lend a hand and they’re see some of the great people and things that are going on in Rockford. No one’s saying there aren’t problems but there are real improvements occurring all the time and the momentum is shifting in the right direction.

  16. Something I have learned through life is that negativity will get you nowhere fast. Wonderful article Frank. Can’t and Won’t are not words in the vocabulary of people that want and can help in our community. It takes a can do attitude to make a change, no matter the size of the task. Sometimes things get blurred and it takes someone with vision to correct that, thank goodness for people like Frank that have good vision.

  17. whatever

    @Lonnie Harris – Being part of a blue state has done Rockford and Flint well. Flint has its share of people who wear big smiley faces, too. Guess what: it makes no difference.

    @Todd A – Are you one of the elected people in the area? It sure sounds like it.

  18. I’m a Rockford native. I and many Rockfordians, some that were business owners were patrons of the places JLeggs mentioned in his comment. Top of the Rock & Off Broadway, two of my favorites, were nice social establishments free of the foolishness this city has transitioned to over the years. The city’s big name manufacturers like National Lock, Mattison Machine Works and many others left the area creating a decline in the city’s infrastructure and employment channels. Now, Rockford is full of self-absorbed people that are intentionally oblivious to anything outside of their cerebral outdated views, hiding behind blogs of petty gibberish trying to decorate the truth. You must be guilty, can’t handle the truth, or both to take offense to the spoken reality of a comedy routine.

  19. Tricia Diduch

    Frank, excellent post. It’s not about viewing Rockford with rose-colored glasses; like you said, it’s actually SEEING the problems and stepping up to the plate.