Doing it wrong on guns, Chicago-style | Bleader

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Doing it wrong on guns, Chicago-style

Posted By on 05.16.13 at 04:59 PM

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I was up late the other night, reading "Addicted to Guns", my man Mick Dumke's latest feature on crime and violence in Chicago.

It should be mandatory reading for everyone. Teach it in the schools. Hell, we should make Mayor Rahm read it in the long-shot hope that he might change his ways.

The gist of the story is that gun violence is an addiction—not unlike drugs, alcohol or gambling—in which people feel compelled to deal with the madness of life and their own powerlessness by grabbing a gun and shooting someone.

So much of the problem is beyond our control. But what really bothers me is that we're not doing the things we should be doing. Or worse, we're going in the wrong direction.

Let me just zero in on three quotes from Mick's story . . .

The first is a paraphrase of what two front-line interveners from CeaseFire told him: "[They] describe how stress, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and personal disputes grow quickly into fights in neighborhoods like West Humboldt. And the fights become bloody after brothers, fathers, cousins, and friends are called in to settle them."

In other words, there's a lot of dysfunction that ought to be treated before it erupts. In short, we need more clinics and health centers. But instead, Mayor Emanuel closed half of the city's 12 mental health clinics in order to save—if they save anything at all—a paltry $1.7 million in a $6 billion budget.

For this reason alone, Mayor Emanuel does not deserve your vote.

Then there's this quote from police superintendent Garry McCarthy, related to the department's policy of dealing with attrition by increasing overtime as opposed to hiring more cops.

"Critics, including leaders of the police union, say the effort is unsustainable—that officers will burn out by constantly working extra shifts. McCarthy says he's not worried. 'I was an overtime guy. I did a ton of overtime, and I'm still doing it.'"

Yes, but Superintendent McCarthy—you're not doing your overtime on the streets of Chicago where guys are walking around shooting everybody.

Look, I understand McCarthy's a loyal foot soldier who can't afford to publicly disagree with the boss. But I think recent history on everything from the Olympics to the parking meter sale has showed us that the city would be better served by officials who dare to at least politely challenge the absurdly dumb ideas their all-powerful mayoral bosses come up with. As opposed to just going along.

And, yes, I know there are undoubtedly countless cops who appreciate the extra money that overtime brings.

But folks, I think we all agree that working 50, 60, 70 hours a weeks is not exactly a healthy way of living for cops. Or their spouses. Or their kids. Or the people they meet up with on the streets when everyone's on edge.

It's as though we as a city are determined to fight insanity with more insanity and then pretend that it makes sense.

Finally, there's this quote from 24th Ward alderman Michael Chandler about the lack of jobs and economic development in the poorest west and south side communities, like his own.

"A lot of it is that you have these communities that are very poor, times are hard, and people get desperate. The stakeholders need to bring some economic justice to our communities. Even back when Martin Luther King was staying on the west side, he was saying it would take $2 billion to turn around. He couldn't do it, and he was a much better man than I am."

I'm so old that I remember when Dr. King came to the west side. That was in 1966. Eventually, Dr. King and Mayor Daley had a summit meeting, which was mainly intended to find some face-saving way to get the civil rights leader out of town. At one point during the negotiations, Alderman Tom Keane, the mayor's floor leader, "leaned over and stage whispered to Daley, 'Fuck 'em, Dick. We don't have to stay here and listen to this,'" according to Boss, by Mike Royko.

In the end, Daley and King signed a summit agreement that, as Royko wrote, "wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. . . . Daley hadn't rejected Keane's suggestion to 'Fuck 'em.' He just did it slowly."

Well, I hate to say it, but when it comes to issues of "economic justice," we're pretty much continuing the "fuck 'em" approach.

Instead of using our resources to generate more jobs in poor communities, we're pulling out by closing schools and firing city workers.

Our main economic development program for low-income communities—yes, talking about the TIFs—is largely used to build stuff in neighborhoods that are relatively well off.

Like the near south side, where Mayor Emanuel wants to spend about $55 million in TIF money to help DePaul University build a basketball arena.

Don't even get me started.

I know, I know—a lot of the things Mick writes about are beyond the control even of an all-powerful mayor.

But it's as though the mayor and his aldermen—and you, the voters, who elected them—are determined to take a bad situation and make it worse.

We can all do better.

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