The man spearheading it, Woodward CEO Tom Gendron, told a packed Coronado theater that, "... the idea is we want to facilitate a community dialogue transformation process. What we're gonna try to do is what many businesses do. We're gonna try to take it and holistically look at the community." In fact, he told the crowd he took the idea straight from the Woodward playbook.
Gendron says with wide community engagement and a shared vision, real, dramatic change can happen to Rockford as well. "One of the things I'd like everyone to think about is why don't we be a top 25 community in the country by 2025," he told the audience, which reacted with applause.
So how did the people in the audience react? Can this approach work?
Brent Johnson with Ringland Johnson Construction wondered how prepared the community is to attack its many 'brutal facts.' "In order to change, we have to know what we're gonna change, and that includes admitting what's wrong with us first." It's something many acknowledge Rockford hasn't done well in the past.
State Representative John Cabello (R-IL 68) spoke of the says the effort's success will depend upon community resolve. "We realize that we're not going to take the crime rate anymore. We realize that we're not gonna take the unemployment rates anymore. We realize that we've got to do a much better job of educating our kids, and they're addressing everything in there."
'Eyewitness News' also reached out to viewers on Facebook, and one theme was especially prevalent. It was that nothing changes if Rockford doesn't do more to fight crime. Kathy Ocker wrote, "We need to get rid of the criminal activity in our communities. We need people to take pride in their communities and homes!"
Michele Beilke agreed. "The crime rate has gotta go down. How do we do that? That's what's scaring people outta town. I have friends who asked if I was crazy going downtown to City Market?!"
Others blamed an entrenched political class they believe has created more problems and resisted change. Michael Mcclinton wrote, "We need to get rid of the good olé boy network." Niki Nimocks-Snider agrees, referencing a recent controversy which will leave Rockford taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in misused federal stimulus funds. "A good start," she writes, "would be holding criminals accountable. That includes our elected officials! They can "misplace" a quarter of a million dollars of our money, and get away with it."
Finally, the need for more youth involvement was included in many posts, like this one from Juanita Hernandez Garcia. "One concern from a community citizen that was at the meeting, was that were not enough "younger" community citizens in attendance at tonights meeting. I agree that citizens of all ages in the Rockford region need to be involved to make this transformation happen."
Thank you to those who commented on our facebook page, Facebook.com/MyEyewitnessNews.