"...And in their silence, I had only to walk their streets to see the boarded-up buildings, burned-out homes, and dying commercial areas. I listened and I knew the people were hearing a different drummer. As I walked the city streets, there was also the blight caused by people. People who don’t care… children tossing litter onto our streets and yards… the defacement of buildings.
—All signs that civic pride in many neighborhoods is at a low ebb.
We must care. We must all care..." (Jane Byrne's Mayoral Inauguration Speech/Sun-Times)
35 years ago former mayor Jane Byrne uttered those words. Things have not changed much. Walking the streets of impoverished neighborhoods, there are still boarded buildings, vacant versus burnt out homes, dying commercial areas and, now, miles of vacant land in the aggregate.
Walk through Lawndale, Englewood, or some of the other impoverished and violent areas of our city and see for yourself.
In these neighborhoods the future of Chicago is being gunned down. Young people with bright futures, infants and toddlers.
Politicians give treacly statements, some shedding alligator tears. There is no outrage. Even the media is tame in its criticism.
Chicago is a city of ghosts. Ghost victims of natural and human fatalities. Ghosts of murder and mayhem. Ghosts of their mourners.
It is said if you listen close during the wee hours before dawn, you can hear the screams and moans of the victims. You can hear the keening of the mourners.
Sadly, this is our history. A sordid history we keep repeating.
The current spate of violence could and should have been prevented. Not by hiring more police or ridiculous so-called anti-violence programs.
For over fifty five years politicians did nothing to end the cycle of poverty. Instead, they allowed it to continue until it became a vicious multi-generational circle.
Poverty is the number one cause of crime in large urban areas. In some neighborhoods crime is the only economy.
That crime is killing innocent people, especially children.
Crime is so prevalent, the politically correct and tender sensitivity police gave it the euphemism of "alternative economy" so as not to offend the criminals or damage their self esteem.
Elected officials at the city, state, and federal levels who represent these areas did nothing. Many are career politicians whose obituaries will tell of the so-called sacrifices they made during their life of alleged service. Those obits will be lies.
Others are so-called leaders and political preachers who led nothing but lives of privilege. They too did nothing. Worse, they obtained their power and privilege on the backs of the poor, the victims, and the mourners. Their obits will be lies.
Politicians and alleged leaders let these neighborhoods lie dormant. They refused to spur or bring economic development and the resulting employment to these areas.
All they brought were the scams, frauds and cons of ever expanding social services. That is how they stay in power and leadership.
What Chicago needs are heroes. People with vision. People like those who settled, built, and made this city "America's City" in by the mid 19th Century. People like Ogden, Hubbard, Wentworth, Palmer, Field, Pullman, and McCormick, to name a few.
These people exist in Chicago. They are the same people reshaping the Loop, Near North and North Sides. The people who built up the South Loop. The people who risked, invested, and reaped fortunes out of their beautification and gentrification projects.
They are the major developers. They are executives of major corporations. They are the bankers, investors, and money managers. The are the movers and shakers. The people who have the real power.
Working with the mayor, zoning and planning officials, they can bring light manufacturing, warehousing, transportation, and other commercial, industrial, and retail entities. They could buy or use eminent domain to eliminate the blight of vacant land and buildings.
They could build.
All that vacant land is shovel ready.
They could be the new builders of Chicago. The new designers of a new economy. They could also earn new fortunes. They would be remembered as heroes.
Instead of going to this talent and money pool, the politicians do nothing.
As long as there is the vicious cycle of multi-generational poverty there will be crime, murder, and mayhem.
As long as social services and crime are the only economies in these communities, young people and toddlers will die.
There will be screams of victims and keening of mourners.
The ghosts haunting, screaming, and keening in Chicago will have more company.
Chicago is a city of scoundrels. You vote for them. You make them leaders.
You are all at fault.
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