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Please, don’t screw this up

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The long Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and is perhaps best known in Chicago as the beginning of its long, hot season of gun violence. The morning-after news coverage typically notes the holiday “was the most violent weekend of the year so far,” or some such thing.

You’ve probably seen the polling that shows crime isn’t the super-hot political issue it’s often portrayed to be. But don’t kid yourself. It’s still high enough on voters’ lists to make a difference, usually coming in second behind economic issues.

That’s one reason why Gov. J.B. Pritzker sent out a press release last week touting his violence reduction efforts, including “surging” $18 million in new state funding for a thousand summer jobs in Chicago for kids in “high-risk” situations. He claimed in the release that $10 million has already been released to groups ahead of the summer.

The governor’s office told me the Illinois Department of Human Services has sent $83 million “out the door” this fiscal year to community providers for anti-violence efforts. It also says $27.2 million is “heading out in the next month, before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

That spending, the Pritzker administration says, is up from the $60 million spent by IDHS in all of last fiscal year. In addition, the administration points to $113 million in grants available to groups through the department’s notice of funding opportunity process.

Considering that the city of Chicago alone is directly spending $1.7 billion this fiscal year on law enforcement, these are relatively modest programs. But the state money is still a decent pile of cash.

And because the state largesse is being spent by individual grant recipients, there’s always the danger it could be misused or misdirected.

Just ask former Gov. Pat Quinn, who took an enormous amount of political heat for the way some of his $54 million anti-violence Neighborhood Funding Initiative Program money was spent in 2010, leading up to the election.

Quinn was slammed for various silly attempts to keep kids off the street, up to and including paying kids to march in a parade with the governor. Nothing much ever came of the various probes into the program, but, even if there was no criminal intent, its execution was a complete mess and ill-conceived. The last thing Pritzker needs is a re-run.

Some Democratic state legislators have been pushing news media outlets to write stories about how their favored anti-violence groups haven’t received more funding, but the governor’s office has resisted in certain instances where the groups would likely draw unfavorable attention from those very same media outlets.

The Pritzker people have taken a different approach than Quinn, and hopefully (for the governor’s own sake and for the state’s) they won’t be making the same sort of mistakes as the last Democratic governor.

Even so, it’s likely that somebody will screw up somewhere and wind up on the front page of a newspaper or the leading item during a TV newscast. Violence interruption and prevention programs rarely get the benefit of the doubt from the news media. From the coverage, it would be easy to conclude that Quinn’s program had far more downsides than upsides. Because of that, it took years and years before the state legislature was willing to give the concept another chance.

On the other hand, if there’s too much caution, then not enough grant money arrives in time for the summer, which would be a PR disaster. It’s also worth noting that it often takes a month or more for groups to complete the paperwork and navigate the various processes to actually receive grant monies after the cash has been awarded by the state.

So, even though the state can claim the money is “out the door,” the funds may not yet be available to spend.

But this should be more than just about the fact the state is spending money. It’s crucial these programs actually show some real, tangible results.

Chicago and most smaller cities in this state have been gut-punched by violent crime. Police officers and replacement recruits are in short supply here and throughout the country. Violence interruption and prevention needs to show tangible results, not only for the present, but for the future. Convincing the General Assembly to support more programs down the road could turn out to be nearly impossible if this fails.

So, please, everybody, don’t screw it up.


  1. - hmmmm - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 8:54 am:

    ==You’ve probably seen the polling that shows crime isn’t the super-hot political issue it’s often portrayed to be.==

    Respectfully: No, no I have not.

  2. - NotRich - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:02 am:

    Violent Memorial Day weekend.. shootings all over the City. Nuf said

  3. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:03 am:

    ===Respectfully: No, no I have not. ===

    Then you’re new here.

  4. - It's all Good - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:06 am:

    10 people killed, 42 wounded by gunfire over Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, the most violent in five years

  5. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:08 am:

    -Just ask former Gov. Pat Quinn, who took an enormous amount of political heat for the way some of his $54 million anti-violence Neighborhood Funding Initiative Program money was spent in 2010, leading up to the election.

    Quinn was slammed for various silly attempts to keep kids off the street…-

    Remember this now that he is testing the waters again.

  6. - duck duck goose - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:14 am:

    There are likely two drivers of this problem: (i) demographics (crime correlates to the percent of the population between 15 and 25); and (ii) the surfeit of guns. There’s not much a state or city government can do about either of these things. Anything they do will be nibbling around the edges of the problem.

  7. - Huh - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:27 am:

    The media’s irrational microscope on non-police violence prevention is a big story here that you allude to, but you also just leave it as a political reality rather than something that needs to change. It’s wild to me that police are rewarded with more funding when crime rates go up, but community violence interruption programs get dismantled for the same reasons when they’ve barely had enough time to draw any conclusions from their work. Policing and carceral “solutions”, on the other hand, have decades of research to support their lack of efficacy in solving problems.

  8. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:34 am:

    “There’s not much a state or city government can do”

    Agree - and the likely leading cause of Chicago’s violence is a lack of parental involvement. Here are the Mayor’s comments …

    “But it starts in the home. And it starts with responsibility — of the parents, the guardians and the caring adults — to make sure that they’re doing what all of our parents did: Which is to set firm, clear rules on conduct. … Parents, you’ve got to instill that message and drive it home to your children.”

  9. - RNUG - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:20 am:

    Crime waves are at least partly generational.

    The various intervention / mitigation programs need to be looked at and measured that way … over generations, and the funding needs to be mostly consistent over generations.

    When you are in the middle of such a crime wave, citizens just want it to stop. About all you can do short term is active policing aka broken window style, and prosecution and punishment of the miscreants, something a lot of people on the left are opposed to. It may not deter the crime wave, but if the repeat participants are off the street, you will have a lower level of crime. All of that also requires money and determination to stay the course of active intervention and prosecution.

    So the solution is money, lots and lots of money, on all the above.

    Public safety may poll #2. Personally I think crime will be the #1 issue on voters minds because they can’t do much about national and international economic issues, but they can influence policing and prosecution through their votes.

    Remember, all politics are local.

  10. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:25 am:

    somewhere somebody has a map which has all the not for profits on it. that way we can see who is doing what and where. from experience there is lots of duplication. there is no excuse for lack of results. get it done.

  11. - Huh? - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:44 am:

    The doppelganger is back. 9:27am isn’t me. I just started to look at capfax during lunch.

  12. - froganon - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:48 am:

    Churches and pulpits are a part of the solution to both information and preaching against violence. The lead pastor at my large, suburban mega church called the violence at Uvalde and Buffalo “unimaginable”. I dropped him a note saying the unimaginable part was a week without a mass shooting and violence. I asked him to use the power of his pulpit to call out the moral bankruptcy of our thoughts and prayers as we continue to look away from the carnage of having too many guns too easily available. The U.S. of A leads the world, by far, in both gun availability and gun violence. When the majority of Americans put more value on our lives and those of our children than on gun availability we can stop the violence. We have that opportunity at every election.

  13. - Huh? - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 1:07 pm:

    “the power of his pulpit to call out the moral bankruptcy”

    I wish religious people would call out moral bankruptcy of many issues. Unfortunately, from experience, religious leaders are similar to elected officials, more interested in maintaining their power and influence.

  14. - Just a guy - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 3:33 pm:

    Until we collectively find a way to address the fact that there are, what, approximately 150,000 gang members living in the Chicago area, this isn’t going away. As It’s All Good noted, this is the worst it’s been Memorial Day weekend in five years. Because five years ago it was worse. I saw the video footage of the shootout in broad daylight on Cambridge and Chicago in Cabrini Green (please note, it’s not the “former Cabrini Green” area as I’ve seen some try to paint it). Three blocks from where Lori’s new casino is going in. Right across the street from The Montgomery and The Hudson, developments that exemplify where all these new residents in Chicago are flocking to. We’ve had a gangs and guns problem in Chicago for decades. We didn’t have body cams and video cameras (i.e. cellphones) in everyone’s hands 10-15 years ago. The gang and violence issue is very deep-seeded. In some cases its generational. And it certainly isn’t going away any time soon. I would love to have an answer, and would happily volunteer time to try and work on it - but in a situation like this, where do you even start?

  15. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 3:48 pm:

    ===I saw the video footage of the shootout in broad daylight===

    Yep. Just standing in the middle of a downtown street, cars going by, shooting and getting shot at without a care in the world. No easy answer for that.

  16. - Back to the Future - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 4:18 pm:

    Article covered violence interruption programs in an intelligent way.
    First you have to give the Governor credit for giving these kinds of programs a chance.
    Second we are going to see mistakes made and some degree of corruption, but on balance we just have to expect as well as hope some good things come out of these programs.

  17. - Scott Cross for President - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 5:53 pm:

    Back to the Future @ 4:18pm

    == we are going to see mistakes made and some degree of corruption ==

    Agreed. If we’re going to treat gun violence as an disease, then our treatments may be experimental. They may be inefficient, ineffective, they may fail. But that doesn’t mean we quit trying. Corruption is unacceptable, but the fear of a negative report later from an auditor general, tough questions at a committee hearing or other heat from trying to do the right thing shouldn’t mean we quit doing everything and anything we can to stop the body count and trauma.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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