7th Ward News Articles
When someone loses their life to senseless violence in their communities, Rock Island 1st Ward Ald. Terry Brooks and East Moline 7th Ward Ald. Gary Westbrook take it personally.
Both were re-elected April 7, and have vowed to spend their next city council terms working harder to stamp out violence in the areas they grew up in and now serve.
"A lot of these young people who have been killed, we know their families,' Ald. Brooks said. "I've coached some of these kids. It hits you at home.'
"We don't have all the answers. But we're willing to get to work. You can't turn and be numb to it, because these are young lives."
After tragic events last summer, including a double-murder in Rock Island and confrontation in East Moline that left one man dead and a police officer injured, the aldermen teamed up and began spreading their message: "Respect is Knowing Violence Is Not the Answer."
"When those two young men got shot sitting in their car in Rock Island, it really bothered me to the point I couldn't sleep," Ald. Brooks said. "Then other kids I've known who have died came up in my mind.
"If we don't deal with what's happening, it's just going to continue to grow. If we keep looking the other way, it's going to get bigger. We have to get over being ashamed of what's happening and really deal with this problem with action."
The cause is urgent, the men agreed.
"If there's not somebody getting killed, there's somebody getting shot. If there's not somebody getting shot, there's gunfire," Ald. Brooks said. "To solve that, elected officials like ourselves have to come up with ways to prevent this crime. It's not an impossible task."
They have brought other elected officials, residents and groups on board -- such as state Senator Mike Jacobs, The United Way, and East Moline Mayor John Thodos -- and are using billboards, radio ads, T-shirts, caps and grassroots word-of-mouth to proclaim their anti-violence message throughout the Quad-Cities.
They've been working since then to get their entire communities involved in stamping out violence, "from the bottom up."
"It's a community-wide effort," Ald. Westbrook said. "If we can get the people who witness the violence, or know these kids, and perpetrators together in sharing information, talking about it and forming groups to reach out to help, that'll be the key to our success."
Alds. Westbrook and Brooks have sought grant funding, attended seminars and visited other cities throughout the country, noting how others work to combat violence. And they've distributed more than 1,000 T-shirts and caps bearing their message.
"If we keep putting it in their face, sooner or later, people will start listening," Ald. Brooks said. "I'd like to see every kid in the Quad-Cities have one of these shirts or caps and talking about respect and ways of not hurting someone."
They've got the mayors from East Moline, Moline and Rock Island together to hash out proactive solutions, and hope to bring Iowa officials on board. Ald. Brooks has even written President Barack Obama about the issue.
"It's not about hats, T-shirts and slogans,' Ald. Westbrook said. "We need people to get active with what we're trying to do."
Reaching out to young people has been the foundation of their efforts.
"When we were growing up, we could find work in the summer if we wanted a job," Ald. Brooks said. "Those things aren't readily available anymore, so now kids are just spending their time hanging out.
"If we could get kids involved and even give them ways to make honest money, maybe we wouldn't have so many of them on the corners trying to hustle or defend their turf. Something is wrong with society when a kid thinks he can have a better future standing on the corner selling dope."
For More Information, to donate or to find out how to support the "Respect is Knowing, Violence Is Not The Answer" campaign, e-mail Ald. Terry Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ald. Gary Westbrook at email@example.com.