* From the White House, June 26, 2020…
Dear Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot:
I write to you today to call your attention to and urge action on the devastating violence in Chicago. While I have been heartened to see crime reductions nationally the last few years, I have been horrified by the continued violence in this great American city.
I recently read an article from the Chicago Sun-Times on June 8, 2020, “18 murders in 24 hours: Inside the most violent day in 60 years in Chicago,” which discussed the severe crime and lack of law and order in our Nation’s third largest city. The article details how “85 people were shot and 24 killed the previous weekend, the most in modern history in Chicago.” Your lack of leadership on this important issue continues to fail the people you have sworn to protect. I am concerned it is another example of your lack of commitment to the vulnerable citizens who are victims of this violence and a lack of respect for the men and women in law enforcement. The article recounts the following horrors:
A hardworking father killed.
A West Side high school student murdered.
A college freshman who hoped to become a correctional officer, gunned down.
18 people killed Sunday, May 31, the single most violent day in Chicago in six decades.
The weekend of May 29, 25 people were killed and another 85 wounded by gunfire.
The most violent weekend in Chicago’s modern history, stretching police resources that were already thin because of protests and looting.
Violence and death, which are disproportionately harming young African Americans, are tragic and unacceptable, particularly on such a shocking scale. According to the Chicago Sun Times, “shootings across the City increased by 71 percent last month,” and just this past weekend 102 people were shot in the city’s most violent weekend of the year. A 3-year old toddler was killed. More Americans have been killed in Chicago than in combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq combined since September 11, 2001, a deadly trend that has continued under your tenure.
The American people (hardworking taxpayers) send you millions of dollars in Federal funding each year to support public safety in Chicago. In 2018 and 2019, the City of Chicago benefited from $136 million in funding from the Urban Area Security Initiative Grant Program, and another $68 million was recently announced for Chicago from this important program. The Department of Justice awarded and is in the process of awarding nearly $20 million to support law enforcement and law-enforcement related entities in the City of Chicago and Cook County across 2019 and 2020, including resources for combating opioid abuse and recidivism reduction. The Department of Labor has also awarded funding to programs targeting prisoner re-entry and recidivism reduction in the Chicago area. My Administration allocated $898.6 million to the City of Chicago and Cook County from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which helps support your first responders on the front lines. In the absence of any modicum of leadership, however, these substantial sums of taxpayer money are not being turned into results, and the safety of your most vulnerable communities continues to deteriorate. These funds are in addition to those collected through your combined insatiable appetite to tax the people of Illinois and Chicago.
I will continue to lead the way to support historically disadvantaged communities and would welcome your help in these endeavors. In December 2018, I signed into law the First Step Act, marking the first major reforms to our criminal justice system in over a decade. This brings historic reforms to make our justice system fairer and to help inmates successfully transition back into society by providing prisoners with a second chance through rehabilitative programs and fair sentencing. Additionally, when I signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, we created Opportunity Zones. Nationwide, nearly 9,000 communities have designated Opportunity Zones, including over 130 in Chicago, which are incentivizing investments in areas that have been forgotten for far too long. My Administration has also provided robust, unprecedented support to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Recently, on June 16, I signed an Executive Order advancing important reforms to elevate a noble profession and strengthen the essential bond of trust between police officers and the communities in which they serve. My Administration continues to work closely with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and others across the political spectrum to advance further policy improvements and meaningful reforms.
Unlike previous Administrations of both parties, I am willing to tackle unsolved challenges. If you are willing to put partisanship aside, we can revitalize distressed neighborhoods in Chicago, together. But to succeed, you must establish law and order. The combination of crime, high State and local taxes, and onerous State and local government regulations have caused thousands of Illinoisans to flee to other States. Between 2010 and 2019, Illinois lost more of its population than any other state in the Nation. If you are interested, I am willing to ask members of my Cabinet to meet with you and help devise a plan to make Chicago safe, since a successful formula has escaped both you and your predecessors. My Administration would also welcome the opportunity to engage with you and your colleagues as you develop bipartisan policy recommendations to improve policing and make our great cities safer for all.
Unfortunately, you continue to put your own political interests ahead of the lives, safety, and fortunes of your own citizens. The people of Chicago deserve better.
Donald J. Trump
Lightfoot replied: “I don’t need leadership lessons from Donald Trump. As our police officers, street outreach workers and residents continue to work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, he’s using the victims of gun violence in our city to score cheap political points, spew racist rhetoric, and ignore the impact of COVID across this country. It is despicable, disgusting and all too typical. Same old tired playbook. How about some leadership not steeped in the divide and conquer tactics?
“I stand with the Governor in providing for the safety and well-being of our residents.” […]
Trump has focused on Chicago crime since his 2016 presidential campaign, accusing city leaders and then Mayor Rahm Emanuel of thwarting police and at one point pledging to “send in the Feds.”
One of Trump’s oft-cited claims, which has never been proved, is that he talked to a “top police officer in Chicago” who told him he could stop crime in the city “within one week.”
* Pritzker press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh…
President Trump is a failure who has once again resorted to a press stunt in an attempt to distract from his long list of failures, especially his response to the deadly coronavirus and nationwide calls for racial justice. The people of this state and this nation have unfortunately come to expect his unhinged attempts to politicize tragedy with his predictable and worn-out strategy to distract, distract, distract. The Governor stands with the Mayor in working to accomplish meaningful change.
* Tribune editorial board…
Pritzker and Lightfoot should call him on it. Schedule a meeting with Justice Department officials. Draw up a wish list. Federal dollars and law enforcement assistance are valuable. Maybe it means more manpower, more imaginative approaches, more technology. There are existing, effective social service programs in Chicago, ranging from gang conflict mediation to teen mentoring, that would benefit from a targeted infusion of federal dollars.
Deep breaths before commenting, please. Thanks.