Monday, July 29, 2013

Dinner On the Dock In The Land of the Dead

In George Romero's fourth installment of his zombie series that began with the classic Night of the Living Dead, what’s left of mankind is cordoned off behind the walls of a fortified city while the walking dead roam the vast wasteland beyond. The few wealthy and powerful try to maintain an illusion of life as it was, dwelling high above the city in the exclusive towers of Fiddler’s Green, the last bastion of the ruling class. On the streets below, however, the remaining, less fortunate of the city’s inhabitants eke out a hard-scrabble life, seeking what little solace they can in the vices available -- gambling, flesh trade, drugs -- anything that offers even a fleeting respite from the hell their lives have become.Both the lofty heights of Fiddler’s Green and the demoralizing lows of the city below are lorded over by a handful of ruthless opportunists, who send out gangs of mercenaries to scavenge what commodities remain outside the gates of their fortressed city.

The plot of the movie reminds me a great deal of Rockford, and one event in particular, Dinner On the Dock. The petit bourgeois love it. They love to sit there with others like them and sip on an amateur beer and listen to music and generally be carefree. But, here's the thing: within blocks of where these people are sitting are food pantries, homeless shelters, a public outreach for the mentally ill, a shelter for battered women, a federal prison... the list goes on. Aside from the prisoners, most of those who depend upon those shelters and services wander right outside very near where this picture was taken. These people might even be able to see them as they enjoy their carefree summer night.  They're not going to invite them in, mind you. Hell, they're not even in there raising money to help those people. They're in there ignoring the problem. These are the type of people who don't bother to drive into this part of the city very often, and when they do they want to be assured they won't ever come face to face with the poor, the mentally ill, or the utterly forsaken. 

And the worst part is they want you to pay for it. No, that's not even the worst part. What's worse is if you ask any of these people they'll be happy to tell you the place is being paid for without public funds. But that's not true. In fact, it's a symptom of a much greater hypocrisy certain people are trying to foist off on the public. Here are some facts about who's paying so these examplars of sophistication and class can sit there and fiddle while the city burns.

-The city is agreeing to let the Brewhouse team keep 100 percent of the property tax increment generated from the building at 200 Prairie St. for the next 19 years. It amounts to an estimated $1.8 million to $2.5 million. The building is in the East River tax increment financing district that expires in 2032.

-The developers were able to secure about $2 million in federal historic tax credits three years ago. The five-member development team has pledged more than $1 million in equity. They’ve obtained energy tax credits as well, and plan to use those for a geothermal system. The team also hopes to obtain $2.2 million in state historic tax credits.

But none of that seems to bother one local politician, who said "The TIF is going to be paid on the back end. I have no fear that we’re going to hand over $800,000 and never see it again."

In Land of the Dead the zombies start to get smarter, they start to band together, and eventually they start to ignore the "fireworks" that are used to distract them and turn their attention towards Fiddler's Green. The homeless, mentally ill, and marginalized who are discharged from shelters daily and wander the streets until nightfall when they are allowed to go back inside probably aren't even aware of this event. Really, it shouldn't be incumbent upon them to shoulder these battles. They already have all the struggle they can handle in life. So, who is going to be their voice? Who is going to call out the hypocrisy and state the obvious that it looks like the worst form of bad taste to sit in the middle of a mess you helped create and aren't lifting a finger to solve trying to pretend you're sophisticated and urbane when what you really look like to someone with true civility and decency is far uglier than you'd like to believe.

And you want me to chip in for this on a local, state, and federal level, then watch you host events and build condos no one around here can afford to live in? I'm deeply offended that I'm being compelled to fund something I find repugnant. That's some nerve.

That's some Rockford. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

You Only Brought a Taser, an Ax Handle, and Brass Knuckles To a Fist Fight?

When 14 Hell's Angels were recently arrested for a rather vicious 14 on 1 beating and robbery, committed in the presence of an 11 year old girl who was being forcible restrained, the public didn't seem very outraged at all. In fact, they didn't see why members of a benevolent club were being harassed this way. Here's an account of that crime from The Rockford Register Star.

ROCKFORD — All 14 suspected Hells Angels sought by authorities in connection with a June 27 beating and armed robbery of a Rockford area man are in police custody.

Chicago Police Department officers arrested a 13th man, Jose Vielma of Countryside, on Friday night. The last of those sought, Christopher L. Lawson, 39, who was previously listed as at-large, turned himself in to Rockford authorities Sunday.

Lt. Marc Welsh said police began to investigate the case after a man was treated at an area hospital for injuries consistent with a severe beating. Seventeenth Circuit Court Judge Ronald White authorized the arrests after being consulted late Thursday night.

Court documents say the victim, whose most recent entry in online records lists a Machesney Park address, was attacked by the 14 men who allegedly conspired together to beat and rob him.

One man hit him with an ax handle, another struck him with brass knuckles and two men started a fire in an attempt to burn evidence of the beating, court documents say. He was punched by three men, tasered, struck with a hammer and stabbed with a knife.

They stole his wallet, keys and white GMC 

An 11-year-old girl, whose relationship to the victim was not been specified by authorities, was held against her will while the victim was attacked, court documents say.

Seems like most of the people of Rockford don't have a problem with that. But this afternoon when an almost identical crime came across the Scanner...

14 suspects beating up 1 female victim near the 10th ave park

The comments were of quite a different color...

Which left me scratching my head, wondering , which is it? Is this type of violence alright, or not. Or is it only alright when certain people do it? Now you don't have to peel back the poopblossom very far to detect the virulent racism that permeates the soul of this city like a malignant tumor. While the rest of the world tries to move on into this new millenium, Rockford stays behind, and festers.