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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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After hearing Jody Weis and the mayor denounce and attempt to explain the swell of violence in Chicago since January, I now believe that Steven Colbert has some serious competition for the title of top political satirist in America. The mayor rambles something about wanting to make Chicago the city of children and Jody Weiss reminds us that it's warm out, so you know, people'll be shooting each other. And then he scolds parents for not knowing where their children are and what they are doing at all times. Our illustrious press corps lets the mayor off without asking about whose children Chicago will be a city for and how he can wag his portly finger at parents. Will Chicago be the city of children for those who parent(s) aren't home all the time because they have to ride two unreliable CTA buses to work because Mayor Daley can't take time from his Olympic dreams to make a world class city have at least a reliable transportation system? The 2000 census found that workers from Englewood and Woodlawn, for example, had average travel times of 45 and 42 minutes respectively. Those are acceptable travel times if you live in Naperville or Lombard, not if you live 10 miles from the Loop. Where are the innovative solutions from the mayor that would help support working families who don't own cars? Oh, right, let's make the curfew earlier so that kids can be locked in their homes staring at the walls or can have more positive interactions with the friendly tactical teams of the CPD. Good call.

Will Chicago be a city of children for those kids who have to ride the aforementioned fantastic CTA to go to a school outside of their neighborhood because their local school has been closed by Mayor Daley's CPS? Youth workers and gang crime experts for years decried the possibility of increased violence as students are shipped across turf lines to schools already on edge. It is the worst of ironies that Hyde Park Academy, close by the home of the decent yet perhaps overmatched Arne Duncan's family, has seen soaring violence rates since students from closed schools further south and west have been forced to enroll.

Will Chicago be a city of children for those kids who have to move out of their neighborhoods because of gentrification to new neighborhoods bereft of the institutions and spaces they remember and hold fast to? Will Chicago be a city of children despite the fact that job training, workforce development, and the attraction of decent wage jobs to this city has not been a priority for city hall since the days of Harold Washington? I guess all those South and West Side kids Mayor Daley so wants to shell out absurd amounts of money for tickets to go to the new Children's Museum can all work at the new Wal-Marts or Targets he'll bring to the city.

Oh, and for what it's worth, thank goodness Jody Weiss got big coin to head the CPD. Certainly, the past weekend's violence has complex causes, but according to our crack new FBI trained police wiz, it's all about the sunshine. Which begs the question, can't the man get an Accu-Weather widget on his desktop?

Preventing youth violence requires a full effort by both the police and non-profit social service sector, as in the Ten Point Coalition in Boston. It may even require the mayor to shake free some of his Olympic kitty from his TIF slush fund. If we really want to Chicago to be a city of children or at least a place where kids don't get shot at school, it'll take more than surface gestures like planting trees or tougher curfews.

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Anthony / April 24, 2008 11:35 PM

To use a stat from the year 2000 is ridiculous and unfair. I travel via public transportation from an area less than one mile south of Englewood and average about 25-30 minutes start to finish. Occasionally I do encounter a delay but this is not the norm.

The number of murders on the south and west sides of Chicago have been consistenly high years before there was ever any talk of bringing the Olympics to Chicago. I do agree that there are better ways to attack the problems that plague these communities...but I sense that this effort has to begin in the households of these killers with parents taking greater responsibilty for themselves, their children and their duty to society at large. Just step into a courtroom when one of these murderous thugs gets caught and tried and you'll find no sympathy for the victims, only a general sense of hostility toward society if you find anyone there at all.

The Olympics may never come to Chicago but murder in this big city will always exist. So lets keep this tendentious Olympic hogwash to a minimum and work on more pragmatic ways to improve the lives of all the people in this city.

peta / April 25, 2008 3:59 PM

It's Jody Weis (one "s'). With the mayor, it's two "s"s.

Kenzo / April 25, 2008 6:08 PM


I completely agree that the violence begins in the household. When you talk about parents taking greater responsibility, I could also not agree with you more.

You mention that the murder rate has been high for years on the south and west sides. This is also true.

However, if it were as simple as parents in these communities pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, why hasn't this been the case thus far? Many members of these communities don't have the boots to pull up from in the first place.

The mayor, as the chief administrator of the city is responsible for both helping set the agenda for the city council and to execute the policies they pass. These policies are to provide for the health,safety, and welfare of the residents of Chicago.

A decrease in the likelihood one will be shot on his way to school therefore trumps hosting a sporting event that has passed its time*.

To go back to your blame-the-parents argument, you are correct, but it's not enough to say who is to blame. When a general area is plagued with youth violence on a grand scale, lack of parental skills needs to be addressed as a public health concern and not a hot button "keep your government away from my family" issue. Non-profits have realized this for years, however without the power (and money) to do something about it, they are in a bind.

The parental problem is merely a symptom of a greater problem, which is poverty. This is an issue that is actually addressed much less often than it seems. The media may address poverty rates ad nauseum, but policies are seldom passed that increase the exit routes out of poverty. For every miracle Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship recipient, there are scores of children too scared to go to school, or are too ashamed to show up to class in stained, torn, second-hand clothing.

I guess these kids will just be lucky if their homes aren't torn down for a discus field.

*between satellite TV and the drafting of foreign players, do we really need these games? In most countries the World Cup games consistently draw higher ratings than the Olympics. At one time, you wouldn't see "Fukudome" on the back of a Cubby-blue jersey, but it's 2008, people.

Anthony / April 25, 2008 9:16 PM

I agree completely with you on the poverty angle, on the necessity of mayoral involvement in helping to foster solutions to the problems that plague these underdeveloped communities and also on the need for parents to rededicate themselves to their children and solciety at large.

What I don't understand is why everyone insists on rolling the Olympics into this discussion. There was no talk of the Olympics in 2000 when there were 628 murders in Chicago with a majority coming on the south and west side or from 1996-1997 when 789 and 759 were murdered during a period of economic growth that lifted the standard of living across the board in this country and city.

The Olympics in Chicago are a stretch. What would not be a stretch would be a prediction that the murder rate on the south and west side of Chicago will jump this year. But sitting around complaining about one because we as a society are too lazy, or too disintrested or just to selfish to engage in a serious attempt to correct the other is what aggravates me.

To think that the people in one of the biggest, most prosperous cities in this great country cannot contemplate a situation where we can work agressively and successfully toward improving the lives and safety of those on the bottom end of the economic scale while also working to host an international event that showcases the best of humanity is deflating to me and I'm certain would be dissapointing to those great citizens of Chicago who came before us.

*tell the guys who play for the U.S. basketball team how little the Olympics matter. They are working their asses of to put together a real team after being embarrassed the last few times out. Or go ask M.J. and Magic for thier gold medals...I bet they give you their rings first!

*I appreciate the opportunity to talk with all you guys! This site is fabulous.

Kevin / April 30, 2008 1:23 PM

I guess what is really deflating to me is that "one of the biggest and most prosperous cities in the world "has the transportation infrastructure of a third world city(direct quote from one of our Aldermen)". Whats also deflating to me is the rape of the property tax collections that are funneled into the TIF "slush funds" that Daley uses to reward faithful Aldermen. No one knows exactly how much gets funneled into these funds or how they are spent since they don't have to report this information, but its been reported that it's in the 10s' of millions of dollars if not the 100's.

It would be nice if we could afford both the Olympics and taking care of the aging infrastructure of our city. Instead we continue to limp along with an outdated, underfunded transportation system that in its present state does not support the people of the city, let alone the Olympic Bid.

Instead we argue about destroying the openness of Grant Park to support a private childrens museum, we have schools that suffer from chronic underfunding, poor management and a leader who supports school placement based on political necessity rather than what is really best for the children (look toward the relocation of Edison Gifted School if you need any example).

I volunteered for the AIBA Boxing Olympic Qualifying event and I was blown away by the sheer numbers in the police presence. My first reaction was good lord, who's out on the street protecting us? According to the second city cop blog, several units were taken completely out of service including the fugitive retrieval squad , white collar crimes and a couple other we know where the emphasis is, the Olympics at all costs. If I was in charge and one of those fugitives committed a murder because the people that were supposed to be looking for them were busy with a "sporting event", I'd have trouble sleeping at night, but I guess the Mayor doesn't have that problem...

I'm all for trying to host the Olympics, but please Mr Mayor, could we get our city fixed first? Then we can start working on the icing, once the cake is baked...and the cake right now is lumpy and starting to spoil....


About the Author(s)

Jacob Lesniewski is a transplanted New Yorker and a graduate student at the University of Chicago. While he loves Chicago, his biggest fear is that his daughters will become Bulls fans.

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