We hope that the the saga over the Limitless Decatur billboards last week won't overshadow the positive message being told about our community.
The billboards were part of the organization's new "Know It " campaign, which seeks to frame Decatur’s advantages in hourly wages, educational opportunities, housing market, diversity and public safety.
This is a familiar theme for this group, established in 2015 with funding through the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to market the community. Various advertising campaigns have focused on the tremendous assets we are lucky to have, from Millikin University to the numerous employment opportunities here.
The new billboards took a markedly different approach, and read “Decatur is safer than Springfield” and “Decatur is safer than Champaign” with the words “Know It.”
Both were technically accurate, but the tone sparked a frenzy on social media. Posts on the Limitless page criticized the ads for being tacky and defensive. It seemed like a potshot, and posts snowballed into a wave of righteous anger.
By Monday afternoon, it was correctly decided to remove the billboards, but not before TV stations reported on the frenzy and comments built up. We understand why people were upset. The story played into the cliche that Central Illinois communities like Decatur, Springfield, Bloomington, Peoria and especially Champaign have a parochial dislike for one another and that some residents here look down on residents there, or vice versa. That you just probably agreed with such a statement on some level suggests there is truth.
Yet that's the wrong way to think about our region. Rather, Decatur should be proud of what we are and what we have. We want visitors to come to Celebration, Scovill Zoo and Children's Museum of Illinois. We want visitors to see our downtown, beautiful parks and gorgeous lakefront. Those assets stand on their own.
Most importantly, we want leaders from those places to work with us, not against us. The challenges facing all communities are too big to go it alone. We can learn from another.
Limitless Decatur has made valuable contributions to our community over the past four years, and we hope this misstep won’t distract from the good work they continue to do.
We’re proud of what we have.
We think that’s a message worth sharing.