“Census data: Rockford may lose spot as Illinois’ 3rd biggest city” warned the headline in the online edition of the February 16 issue of the Rockford Register Star, announcing the initial release of data from the 2010 Census.
Ten years ago, when the data from the last census was released, Rockford, with a population of 150,115, was still Illinois’s second-largest city. A few years later, Aurora, once a significant city in its own right but now little more than an extension of Chicago, paid for a special census to rip the title away from Rockford.
At the time, some criticized Rockford’s city council for not paying for such a survey here, to keep Aurora down in third place. We now know it would have been a monumental waste of money: Aurora today stands at a population of 197,899, compared with Rockford’s 152,871, a mere 1.84 percent increase since 2000.
Does it really matter whether Rockford is number three in the state? Being number two never seemed to help the city, at least in terms of political pull in Springfield or even public recognition. Rockford lies 70 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, straight up Interstate 90, yet even those Chicagoans who pass by it on the way to summer weekends in Wisconsin are likely to ask, “Where is Rockford?” when you tell them where you live.
So I couldn’t care less whether Rockford stays in third place...