Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Disaster Long in the Making ... Lessons from Chicago's Politics, Race Relations, Schools and Policing ... Insanity, Wishing and Doing

When I was young growing up in a small town in central Illinois, Chicago was a mess (other than the Bulls, Cubs and Bears, of course -- sorry about that, White Sox and former Chicago Cardinals football fans, but it's true). The 1968 Democratic convention was an especially memorable event.

It was a huuuuuuge city on a lake and dominated by the local Democrat Party's 'machine' led by Mayor Richard Daley. Later his son Richie became the mayor, and now it's President Obama's friend and staunch supporter and political ally Rahm Emanuel. Politically and educationally, not much has changed in all those years, at least not much for the better.

The Obamas came of age in Chicago, as did Chicago native Hillary Clinton. Thus, it would appear that the political class is well grounded in Chicago's history, including its educational system, policing and local brand of politics. In short, the "I didn't know how bad things were and are" excuse is a non-starter for the Obamas, Clintons, Emanuels and other local and national political 'leaders.'

So how are things working out in Chicago these days, you ask.

For a detailed answer, please read In Deeply Divided Chicago, Most Agree: City Is Off Course. Here's a 'taste' of the article's and referenced survey's findings:

"The people of Chicago are deeply riven by race, class and neighborhood, distrustful of the police, fearful of the growing rate of violent crime and united chiefly in their disapproval of the mayor’s performance and their conviction that the city is headed down the wrong track.

These are among findings of a new survey by The New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, which polled residents of a city that has been upended in recent months by revelations of questionable actions by the police, threats of a teachers’ strike, a school funding crisis and an uptick in violence.

The poll finds broad discontent with the police and those charged with overseeing them, particularly among African-Americans. . . .

Residents of Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, appear to have lost faith in many of its essential institutions, including the police, courts and the public schools. . . .

These problems and divides are not unique to Chicago. Cleveland, Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., have all been convulsed after black people died in encounters with police officers, and neighborhood segregation and budget and school problems are common in the nation’s major cities. Here, though, the challenges reached a fever pitch all at once. And the survey shows how difficult it will be to win the trust of a divided city as it confronts some of the most fraught issues facing urban America today....

In the survey, 62 percent of residents said they disapproved of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s job performance, and only a quarter approved. Among blacks, his disapproval rating is 70 percent.

Most Chicagoans say they doubt that the mayor cares much about the needs of people like themselves. Among black residents, the feelings are stronger: Only 8 percent believe that Mr. Emanuel cares a lot about people like them, and nearly two-thirds think he cares not much or not at all.

Responding to the survey’s findings, a spokesman for the mayor spoke of work already underway.
“The mayor’s focus is on building on the progress we have made with generations-old issues in Chicago, from jobs to education to public safety,” Adam Collins, the spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “We are striving to grow our already record high school graduation rate, to build out our first-in-the-nation free community college program . . . as we work to reduce crime and build trust in the Police Department.”. . .

Nearly equal numbers of blacks, whites and Hispanics live in Chicago, a city of about 2.7 million, but they often live on separate sides of town, and, the survey shows, find themselves leading vastly different lives.

By consistent double-digit margins, African Americans and Latinos on the South and West Sides are more likely than North Side whites to be dissatisfied with aspects of their neighborhoods, like the condition of public recreation facilities, services like trash removal, and the availability of public transportation. . . .

The split between neighborhoods can feel like a gulf. Only on the North Side do a majority of residents say it is very likely for a typical young person to graduate from high school. On the West Side, just three in 10 think so. . . .

Few issues define Chicago’s divide more than schools. Most Chicagoans say their neighborhood lacks quality public schools, but the misery is lopsided: On the South Side, 71 percent of African-Americans say so. In 2013, Mr. Emanuel’s administration oversaw the closing of nearly 50 schools, many in black and Latino communities, a move that contributed to a tense re-election fight for the mayor last year.

The blowback has invigorated public support for the Chicago Teachers Union, which says it may strike if a contract deal cannot be reached. Fifty-nine percent of residents citywide support the decision to strike, and that soars to almost three-quarters among African-American parents living with children. . . .

Nearly half of all parents living with children said they would like to leave Chicago.

Chicagoans are more united in viewing crime and violence as the most pressing issues facing the city. Chicago has long wrestled with guns and gangs, and the splintering of large gangs into smaller, disparate groups has added to the bloodshed that largely plays out on the South and West Sides. As of late April, murders were up 54 percent from last year, and shootings were up by 70 percent."

Summing Up

The problems of Chicago and other big cities aren't new.

The political issues facing Chicago and other large U.S. cities aren't new either.

In the streets, the status quo prevails. Meanwhile, in the public schools long led by the teachers unions and aligned Democratic Party 'machine,' the longstanding status quo also prevails. The kids and adults continue to suffer for it, as do we all.

It's likely that the good people in Chicago and other cities will continue to vote for things as they are and long have been, even though keeping things that way won't result in changing conditions for the better.

Voting for the status quo (in Chicago and elsewhere) is a vote for insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result). As my Dad used to say, if we WISH IN ONE HAND AND SH?T IN THE OTHER, SEE WHICH ONE FILLS UP FASTER.

Wishing isn't the same as doing, and sometimes the doing starts with the voting.

As Spud says, "If you can dream it, you can do it."

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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