Alderman looks to change perceptions of Rock Island

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois-- Alderman Dylan Parker said he's tired of the negative stereotypes and perceptions of Rock Island.

"I work really hard to grow businesses here and start businesses here," the alderman for the fifth ward said. "When I hear that potential businesses may not be interested in coming here because of things that they hear, that's a problem in my opinion."

That's why he decided to sponsor the event "Betrayed? Rock Island, Equitable Development & the Quad Cities." It's being put on by ProPublica Illinois, Free Speech Theater and the Illinois Humanities as part of an initiative taking place across the state of Illinois.

"I thought it would be a really interesting idea to invite ProPublica, Free Speech Theater and the Illinois Humanities Council to come and have a conversation about something that several of my constituents have brought to my attention, about concerns about bias or just different understandings of what Rock Island is and what it's like to live here by communities outside of Rock Island," Parker said.

The event is happening on Wed., June 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hauberg Civic Center. Residents can talk about what life in Rock Island is like while people from the other Quad Cities can share their perceptions of Rock Island.

"The event is not an ambush," Parker said. "We're not looking to attack anybody. It's just a  frank and honest conversation about ... how do we work together to make sure that each Quad City succeeds and works together?"

The event will also highlight media portrayals of the city. Parker said Rock Island seems to get more attention for problems or issues, rather than progress.

"Instead of praising the benefits of Iowa and disparaging the negatives of Illinois, how much news minutes and hours are spent looking into the benefits of living in Rock Island?" he said. "We have elected officials working very hard to try and resolve (problems). But we compound it by only talking about the negatives. And I'm suggesting we try to focus on the positives of all the communities."

Parker said when people only focus on the negative, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"The perception is that things are bad, so then people don't move in," he said. "People don't buy houses. People don't start businesses. Businesses that are here lose their customer base... It just fulfills its negative prophecy. So I'm trying to interrupt these stereotypes or these stories that have been told for many, many decades."

Parker said he hopes the event can bring attention to this issue as well as start breaking down some of the stereotypes about Rock Island.

The event on Wednesday is free and open to the public. More details can be found on Facebook.