Tag Archives: Chicago

Suddenly I Don’t Feel So Safe…..

Heartbreaking. Yesterday in Chicago, a fifteen-year-old was shot dead–evidently caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out. Just the week before, she’d been thrilled to participate with her school’s band in the Presidential inauguration. Like the children at Sandy Hook in Newtown, she was an innocent child who had her whole life ahead of her.

As we ate dinner last night, the television news reported on two other shootings. It also covered a portion of the Congressional hearing on the administration’s proposals for background checks and restrictions on the sales of large “magazines” that allow a shooter to rapidly fire multiple shots without reloading–including, poignantly, halting testimony from Gabby Gifford, the Congresswoman shot in the head in Phoenix while meeting with her constituents. The cost of her miraculous survival was on full display–this formerly vibrant woman is now partially blind, able to form words only with great effort, partially paralyzed.

A colleague shared with me an article from Slate, featuring a graphic and an interactive map of all the firearms deaths since Newtown. You can access it here. As of a couple of days ago, the toll stood at 1440. Just since Newtown.

Can we craft laws that will eradicate all this violence? No. Will background checks eliminate the ability of criminals to get their hands on weapons? No. In a country with a toxic gun culture and an estimated 300,000,000 guns, we aren’t going to be able to wave a policy wand and make it all go away. But surely, we can make it incrementally more difficult to kill and maim, to destroy lives and terrorize law-abiding citizens.

The survivalists (one of whom, the news just reported, has killed a school bus driver and abducted a young boy) and the paranoid see every modest measure to protect the public as part of a plot to disarm them. Newtown has had one salutary effect: it has pulled back the covers and given the American public a good look at that worldview, as expressed by Wayne LaPierre and his fellow crackpots at the NRA, and most of us–including responsible gun owners–have been understandably appalled. (Until now, like many other Americans, I had considered the NRA simply another lobbying group, rather than a cult. I was wrong.)

It shouldn’t take another Newtown, or the death of another promising 15-year-old, to shake well-intentioned lawmakers out of their complacency. As for those elected officials whose inaction has been purchased with NRA support, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I will no longer vote for a candidate who accepts campaign contributions from that organization.

Just because we can’t wave a magic wand and make everyone safe doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take reasonable measures to reduce the violence and mayhem. And “reasonable measures” do not include arming kindergarten teachers. It’s past time to stop the crazy.


Audacious in Chicago

This morning’s New York Times reports that Rahm Emmanuel will announce a 7.1 billion-with-a-b infrastructure improvement plan for Chicago. Improvements will be made to everything from the water system to the airport, from public transportation to parks. The improvements will be financed primarily through a public-private investment trust, details of which Mayor Emmanuel is supposed to announce later today.

I found this paragraph particularly interesting:

Some public-private partnership projects have been criticized as giveaways to the private businesses that take them over — including two prominent cases in Chicago itself, the privatized Chicago Skyway and the city’s parking meter system, which obligate the city to leases that span generations. Mr. Emanuel says that the city has learned an important lesson, and that “I am not leasing anything,” or selling off the city’s assets, he said in an interview. “I’m using private capital to improve a public entity that stays public.”

Great cities are places people want to live. As former Mayor Hudnut repeatedly reminded us, livable cities are first and foremost “cities that work.”

Most of us don’t want to live in housing that is unkempt and run-down, but we also understand that we aren’t improving our situation if we sell the stove to pay for new carpet.

In order to build a great city–especially in these days of fiscal hurt–its leaders need vision, and the audacity to insist that investment in the public square is both necessary and important. The audacity to refuse to sell off public goods to private profiteers.

The audacity to defend and maintain great urban spaces for the generations of citizens who will enjoy them.