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. 


  1. Rockford isn't that bad these days. Seems like there are more job opportunities in Rockford, IL now than there were before as well.

  2. One more thing that went downhill is the On The Waterfront event in Rockford, IL. I remember traveling around Rockford, IL this month thinking to myself, "What happened to OTW?"

    Well, I think it's nice that it went down in some regards. Now there isn't the whole lure of skipping class or studies in order to go to the OTW event. However, because the Rockford, IL economy kept slipping more and more, it's understandable that it cannot be afforded as an event.

    I'd like to see some etiological discussion as to why the OTW event went away. However, it's fair enough to say that Rockford, IL sucks and the economy went downhill, thus no one really has money to spend on a luxury, such as OTW.