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Sandoval blasts Blagojevich on veto, but there’s more than meets the eye

Thursday, Sep 27, 2007

* As you already know, the governor vetoed all of CeaseFire’s appropriation for the current fiscal year. The group has been holding demonstrations across the state and did another one in Chicago yesterday

Supporters of the violence intervention group CeaseFire said Wednesday that shootings will increase if the Chicago-based organization does not receive the $6.2 million that Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed from the state budget last month. […]

The governor cut $463 million intended for an assortment of projects. Blagojevich spokesman Justin DeJong said that CeaseFire has done good work but that the organization should find different sources for money to pay for its operations.

* More background

Cease Fire uses former gang members as neighborhood liaisons to intervene in gang feuds. They say there have been six fatal shootings since Cease Fire lost its funding.

“There’s a general feeling among gangs that if Cease Fire is not out there, it gives us a free reign,” Cease Fire outreach worker Melvin Santiago explained.

* And from the same story comes perhaps the harshest rhetoric I’ve ever seen used against Gov. Rod Blagojevich…

State Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) had some strong words for the governor. “The caskets and the killings partly lay at the door of Governor Rod Blagojevich,” Sandoval said.


* Despite the rhetoric and the dire predictions, this is not a black and white issue. The group has more than its share of critics and was whacked but good in a recent auditor general report. Then there’s this

The Chicago Police Department has supported CeaseFire’s work for years, with former Police Supt. Philip Cline and other officials calling for an expansion of the program. On Wednesday, though, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the department can’t back a claim that CeaseFire helps reduce crime. ‘While CeaseFire has made significant contributions to the community and has been recognized by their presence and anti-violence programs, it would be difficult to quantify operationally how those programs translate into reduced homicides, shootings and violent crime,’ she said.

* More background on the audit…

The audit found that of $6.5 million the legislature promised to communities over a two-year period, CeaseFire disbursed $5.4 million, using the rest on expenditures not specified in state documents, Holland said.

Usually, the legislature could demand that CeaseFire return that $1.1 million because the program didn’t spend it as intended, Holland said. But that law doesn’t apply because most of CeaseFire’s money was doled out through the “member initiative” process that lets lawmakers fund pet projects in their districts.

That last point is really why the funding was vetoed. The program was supported mostly by House Democrats and had some powerful opponents among Senate Democrats, so Blagojevich axed the cash. Simple as that.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Just Sayin' - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 9:38 am:

    Dear WBBM news,

    I know you’re just a TV operation, but c’mon. It’s free “rein.”

    Thank you,
    The Management

  2. - Anon - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 9:41 am:

    Senator Sandoval is the most obnoxious member in the history of the GA. Inflammatory comments like the one he made here should never come from the mouth of a person whose name is preceeded by the word “Senator.” Rather than blaming the governor, Marty needs to try to be part of the solution. He is very alone in that chamber, and I cant remember the last time that he was part of the solution, and not part of the probolem.

    I hope that somebody gives him a race and calls him out on all of his BS.

  3. - Patriot - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 10:00 am:

    In addition to vetoing CeaseFire’s appropriations, the Governor has yet to sign SB1397, “Jessica’s Law,” which was sent to him on 8-9-07.

  4. - Cassandra - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 10:02 am:

    Ceasefire sounds like a lot of prevention programs. A lot of hype, nice six figure salaries for the top people, lots of funny money getting spread around, poor (or worse, crooked) management of the money, and lots of taking credit for results which might well have occurred without the program.

    The U. of Illinois seems to have a stake in this as well. Will they be held accountable for all the mismanagement? They should, but they won’t.

    As to the dead gang members…sorry for the families, but how about survivors taking responsibility for your own lives and neighborhoods instead of expecting the govt and various do-gooder groups to do it for you. I don’t know which gangs they belonged to, but urban Chicago gangs are hardly unsophisticated or stupid. They know what they’re doing and they know it’s dangerous. And they’re rich.

    We overburdened taxpayers need to stop supporting
    programs like Ceasfire, which function as welfare for gangs. Let the gangs use the drug money for local social programs if they want them.

  5. - amy - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 10:46 am:

    News reports on the Ceasefire controversy have
    provided some insight, but not complete analysis,
    of the actual work provided by Ceasefire….numbers
    of contacts made, that kind of thing. I hope that
    some reporter actually digs into the audit report
    and tells us exactly how many person to person
    contacts (not people at marches) were made
    by this group for the HUGE pot of money they get
    from the State. The few contact numbers that were in the articles were freakishly low. A nice chart
    would clarify for all. If the quantifiable action
    is really so small, think how much more could have
    been done by hiring more police with the money! The police department has lots of contacts in
    these neighborhoods. Imagine what the shooting
    would be like if police were pulled from
    neighborhoods. Maybe the Ceasefire strategy
    is more appropriately a part of some government
    human services department.

  6. - fedup dem - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 11:37 am:

    Senator Sandoval makes a sensible statement! Why didn’t the TV stations break in with a news bulletin upon learning this? My poor heart can barely withstand the shock!

  7. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 11:39 am:

    There is something very fishy about this whole program. Doling out money to “former” gang members to talk to current gang members about not shooting each other? That’s a job?

  8. - BLAH - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 12:45 pm:

    Do you honestly think CeaseFire managers make six figures. Common now. Let’s paint this picture: housing in Chicago is expensive, so if your lower or middle income then you really can’t afford to live in a nice neighborhood or send your kid to a nice school (let alone a private school and because our tax system is regressive, more of a percentage of your pay goes to taxes than a more wealthy person). So you live in a neighborhood where gang members “rule”, no matter how many police patrol the streets. The only thing your kid sees are gangs and violence so that’s who they end up turning to.

    Right now all big urban cities are faced with drugs, gangs and more violence than ever before and it’s not because everyone just let’s it go, it’s because kids grow up in this environment and that’s all they know. Of course there are community members that try to change it, but we are talking about gun violence and drugs, gangs are not going to listen to a few community members and no law (thanks to the NRA) is going to prevent it.

    That is why a group like CeaseFire is so necessary. Read their annual reports. They actually have reduced crime, not only in Chicago neighborhoods, but around the state.

    “CeaseFire as welfare for gangs” sounds absolutely uninformed and ridiculous. How about tax expenditures as welfare for corporations or the war as welfare for contractors or Medicare as welfare for seniors.

  9. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 1:48 pm:

    Cassandra and Amy,

    Unfortunately you don’t know what you’re talking about. CeaseFire has a tremendous track record of success, a record that has already been validated not only by extensive anecdotal evidence, but also by an ongoing study at Northwestern University.

    The program is headed up by a world renown epidemiologist (Gary Slutkin) who decided to take a different approach to combatting inner-city violence. The results have been tremendous which is why the program is supported by a huge array of civic leaders from Cardinal George to Mayor Daley, and why demand for the program caused them to expand their reach well beyond Chicago. It’s a real tragedy that this has become caught up in Rod’s follies. And while Sandoval’s rhetoric maybe OTT, his point is absolutely valid.

    As to the audit, it’s important to keep in mind what they did and didn’t say. This isn’t a Chicago State situation where anybody is accused of spending money for personal use or for buying gold-plated toilets. The auditor’s primary point was that there was a lack of proper accounting for a small percentage of the funds spent. Nobody was accused of getting rich at the public trough.

    The CeaseFire folks have already acknowledged that the auditor raised good points and that they will change their accounting practices accordingly.

    And no, before anyone asks, I don’t work for them. But I’m familiar with the organization and am a fan of their largely thankless work.

  10. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 2:07 pm:

    I’ve seen them throw the annoying pity us, pity us marches after someone gets shot. I find the marches annoying because I don’t believe they do a lick of good other than allowing the residents to let out their anger. But I have also heard about some quieter work they do, one on one, with gang leaders and members to try to keep peace between the gangs and make sure misunderstandings don’t lead to needless violence. I can see why that might be considered desireable, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea because what you then have is a better organized gangland environment. The drugs trade seems to be at the root of the problem, it’s the cause of the territorialism and most of the violence of the gangs. Until we can deal with that, if we can deal with that, groups like CeaseFire can do a little around the edges, but they can’t fix the problem.

  11. - Cassandra - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 4:18 pm:

    Numbers can be arranged to say anything.

    But if Ceasefire is that great, I’m sure they won’t have any difficulty attracting private donations to replace the money the guv cut–in an entirely reasonable decision, in this case. Our taxpayer pockets are not bottomless.

  12. - I'm just sayin - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 5:13 pm:

    Ceasefire also gets dollars from Cook County, the Feds and other private groups. It’s simply not enough. I’m sorry but if somethings working to address the violence in communities (not just Chicago) let’s continue to do it. One thing I am sure of…we’ve lost the war on crime/drugs so long ago. Remember “just say no?”

    Well the fact of the matter is guns/drugs/crime are related. You might also add poor education, lack of social programs, lack of access to health care, high unemployment are all a recipe for what fuels the underground economy. Ceasefire workers have been on the other side of the law and this is one way for them to make amends and help the community that they have offended.

  13. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Sep 27, 07 @ 5:56 pm:

    I’m just sayin,

    Couldn’t agree more. If everyone waited to deal with the symptoms until the disease has been cured, the whole world would be pretty darned miserable. CeaseFire is an important attempt to treat the symptom (violence) of poverty/drugs and an all too prevalent gangs.

  14. - Larry Diaz - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 1:26 am:

    Angelo Torres used to work for Cease Fire.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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