and stoicism exists. In fact, one of HughrnWalpole’s most popular fictions beginsrnwith a caning. It is called Fortitude.rnGeoffrey Wagner’s most recent book is arntranslation of Gerard de Nerval’s Aureliarn(Exact Change Press, Boston).rnLetter FromrnRockfordrnby Frank SchierrnHow the Little Guys WonrnEditors’ note: Our hometown of Rockford,rnIllinois, is celebrated by pollsters as one ofrnthe most demographically average cities inrnthe United States. Not surprisingly, then,rnour political, economic, and cultural trialsrnreflect those of the country at large. Inrn”Letter From Rockford,” a recurringrncolumn, Rockford writers will examine localrnissues that have national significance.rnRockford has a rich industrial heritagernof furniture makers, tool and die manufacturers,rndefense contractors, and metalfastenerrnproducers. Along with thisrnheritage comes the gift that keeps onrngiving—pollution. After making theirrnrounds at local factories, waste haulersrnused to dump a variety of solvents, oils,rnand paint wastes on the sandy soil of formerrnfarms (where they had a clear pathrndown to the city’s aquifers), or bury barrelsrnof waste in city dumps or on theirrnown properties. The old petroleum andrnchemical holding tanks of these industriesrnstill exist, of course, as do the undergroundrntanks of former gas stations. Atrnthe time (the 1940’s, 50’s, and early 60’s),rnthe dumping of industrial wastes and thernburying of barrels were legal.rnMany of the polluting industries werernlocated in southeast Rockford. In thern1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, the rates of cancerrnand other illnesses began to rise in southeastrnRockford, where homes were notrnconnected to city water but relied onrnwells. This rise prompted a seven-year,rn$9.2 million study by the EnvironmentalrnProtection Agency, which also connectedrnmany southeast-side homes to cityrnwater. Now they want their (our?) moneyrnback. In addition, the EPA estimatesrnthat it will cost another $5.5 million tornclean up Ekberg Park, a former farm—rnnow owned by the Rockford Park Districtrn—which was the site of much of therndumping. The total; about $15 million.rnWhoshouldpay the $15 million? Forrnthat matter, who should pay the billrnfor any area designated a Superfundrncleanup site by the EPA? Historically,rnthe polluters have paid. But since dumpingrnwas legal prior to 1964, and the communit)’rnbenefits from jobs generated byrnpolluting companies, some have arguedrnthat local taxpayers should pay.rnThat was the conclusion of the RockfordrnChamber of Commerce and RockfordrnMayor Charles Box. Taking advantagernof a little-known Illinois statute thatrnallows the creation of special taxing districtsrnfor things like mosquito abatement,rnthey proposed a special property tax districtrnin southeast Rockford. Industrialrnpropert)’ owners in the district would payrnan additional $1.18 in taxes per $100 ofrnassessed value for the next 20 years, tornfund $6 million in bonds. Another $3.5rnmillion in water bonds would be issued,rnand paid for by a city-wide surcharge onrnindustrial/commercial water usage. Ofrnthe $15 million, only $5.5 million wouldrnbe paid by the businesses that the EPArnhad designated as “Potentially ResponsiblernParties” (PRPs) —in other words, thernbusinesses that had actually polluted.rnAnd that $5.5 million would come fromrnvoluntary contributions. Meanwhile, therntotal bill to the taxpayers of Rockford,rnover the 20-year life of the bonds, wouldrnbe in the range of $20 million.rnTo an outsider, this plan must soundrncrazy. Why would the city of Rockfordrntake this liability upon itself, or rather,rnupon its taxpayers? Why not make thernPRPs shoulder the entire bill? The officialrnanswer was presented by Ryan Pettyrnand Joe Reagan of the Rockford Chamberrnof Commerce. Spouting fire andrnbrimstone, they painted a picture of endlessrnlitigation which would destroy Rockford’srneconomy, as the PRPs attemptedrnto reduce their liability by forcing otherrncompanies—companies which the EPArnhad not targeted —to pay some of therncosts. From their pulpit. Petty and Reaganrnthundered that paying the tax wouldrnbe cheaper than paying legal fees. Theyrncited chapter and verse from other Superfundrnsites, where litigation had beenrnintense.rnThe threat of litigation was a powerfulrnincentive, and the almost religious fer’orrnof Petty and Reagan was so convincingrnthat most of the opinion leaders in Rockfordrn—including those who normally opposernthe Box machine—were initially inrnfavor of the proposed solution. Rockfordiansrnhave had their fill of litigation, andrnthey have seen its destructive effects.rnOur school district is under federal courtrncontrol, the result of a desegregation lawsuitrnwhich has cost Rockford taxpayersrn$150 million over the past few years.rnCompared to that, the proposed Superfundrnsolution looked like pocket change.rnThe battle to defeat the Superfund settlementrnhad several “defining moments,”rnbut the first came when LutherrnLandon, a local environmental consultant,rnorganized a conference, open to allrnconcerned, to examine the plan. Landon,rnwho had formerly worked for thernIllinois EPA, presented the facts —asrnfar as they are known —regarding thernsources and implications of Rockford’srngroundwater contamination. Environmentalrnattorneys Michael Maher andrnElizabeth Harvey discussed the associatedrnliability issues, and James Hess, an attorneyrnwho specializes in municipal law,rndescribed the legal problems of the proposedrntax district. Presented for the firstrntime with a credible discussion of the issue,rnmany of the business owners inrnsoutheast Rockford began to view thern”solution” as an attempt by Rockford’srnpower structure to protect its own interests.rnAs in many industrial towns, thosernwho head up the largest industries alsornexert great control over Rockford’s politics.rnTo cite just one example: RayrnWood, the president of Rockford Productsrn(one of the PRPs), was the financernchairman for the reelection committeesrnof both Democratic Mayor Charles Boxrnand Republican State Senator DavernSyverson. Civen the dynamics of Rockfordrnpolitics, the Superfund “solution”rnproposed by the Mayor and the Chamberrnof Commerce looked more like arnwelfare program for politically influentialrnbusinesses.rnAfter Landon’s conference, the grassrootsrnstruggle began in earnest. Thosernopposed to the Superfimd taxing districtrnwere helped by the arrogance of thosernwho supported it. At a city council hearing,rnRay Wood, presumably trying tornstifle the burgeoning opposition in itsrncradle, thundered, “I guarantee you, unequivocally,rnwe will sue. No matter whornyou are or where you are.” Meanwhile,rnbehind the scenes, some of the PRPsrnJANUARY 1998/33rnrnrn