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Panorama Park

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Few people understand that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance better than the 110 citizens of Panorama Park, Iowa. They are entirely surrounded by the enemy: Bettendorf.

There would be no Panorama Park today if Bettendorf had not gotten greedy back in 1946 when Alcoa Aluminum build a huge plant in an unincorporated area along the Mississippi River a few miles east of the city. Bettendorf is a smart little town. She could see the tax possibilities. And since Alcoa wasn't about to move to Bettendorf, Bettendorf decided to move to Alcoa.

Parcel by annexed parcel, soybean field by corn field, homestead by homestead, Bettendorf began creeping eastward toward that tax base.

Alcoa responded by creating the village of Riverdale to save itself from Bettendorf. There went the taxes. By now, however, Bettendorf had gotten into the habit of expanding, and couldn't stop. By 1953, the city had reached the edge of a two-block area with fifty-seven homes, who had no intention of becoming Bettendorfian. Neighbors gathered enough signatures to petition the State of Iowa to become a chartered city. Their petition reached the capitol just before Bettendorf's petition to annex the land, or there would be no Panorama Park, as the two streets are now called. Bettendorf had no choice but to go around Panorama Park in its expansion.

Panorama Park has no downtown, no stores or businesses, no post office or fire department. It has no police department; crime is virtually non-existent; I suspect because almost no one around Rock Island even knows where it’s at.

The only thing required by the State of Iowa for a city to maintain its existence, as it turns out, is a city council, and that Panorama Park has, complete with a mayor. Since 1953, nearly all of the 110 residents have taken turns serving as council members. One item on the agenda is always the same: what does Bettendorf have up her sleeve.

Across the street, Bettendorf can do nothing but wait—wait for the year when the citizens of Panorama Park grow too busy with their own affairs to serve on the city council, so that the annexation can go through.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.