The headline in today's Chicago Tribune reflects what has become a nightly occurrence as we learn how Chicago shootings ratcheted up to 12 more on our streets Monday night. The article includes a quote from a resident of the Little Village neighborhood where one of the incidents took place who said, "Little Village, ain't nothing new." Sad, but not accurate. There is something new that the Little Village resident can take solace in: no more plastic bags.
The Chicago City Council has now banned plastic bags in stores. Yes, our elected officials have saved citizens from the scourge that is the plastic bag. The new ordinance will go into effect in August 2015, when retailers occupying stores that are more than 10,000 square foot will no longer be allowed to offer plastic bags. The ban will be extended to smaller chain stores and franchises in August 2016. Fines run between $300 and $500 each time the ordinance is violated.
I"m sure that the Little Village neighborhood resident is thrilled, as am I, another satisfied Chicago homeowning customer, that the City Council spends a considerable amount of their collective time worrying about plastic bags while people are getting gunned down on Chicago streets every day and night. I mean really? What can 50 elected officials be expected to do about street gangs running around shooting people in their wards? Exactly what they did -- debate and vote on banning plastic bags in stores to reduce the amount of plastic waste clogging up dumps and garbage cans.
Sarcasm aside, I do understand the need for our aldermen to address environmental issues. We are all responsible for leaving the planet in as good a shape as possible for our kids. But, I think anyone would agree that while a clean planet is a nice goal, I'd much rather my child grew up in a safe city than one where shootings are covered in the newspapers the way you sit at Wrigley Field following a Cubs game with a scorecard. Therefore, I am forced to rely on those who have more responsibility for these things than I do - the elected and appointed officials - to make the right decisions and spend their time effectively and efficiently.
Is spending time debating a plastic bag ban effective and efficient? Sure, if all other things were equal. Unfortunately, they're not. Every single day there are people being shot on our streets and it has now become ho-hum news. Oh sure, some shootings maintain their newsworthiness if the victim and/or the location is somehow unique: honor roll student caught in cross-fire, park near President Obama's house the site of a drive-by, or a mother enjoying a prom night photo session shot in the back trying to run for cover. However, the average Little Village or Englewood or Austin shootings, still get the everyday "22 year old victim shot in the chest and taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in serious condition" coverage. And then, that's it. Maybe a neighborhood vigil or protest, but then it all just fades away.
How long will we continue to accept the Little Village resident's "ain't nothing new" assessment? Apparently for quite some time. I don't see any urgency among our leaders or any new, cutting edge efforts to offer creative solutions or even the mimicking of best practices used elsewhere to attack violent crime and its sources. Instead, there are heated debates about the costs associated with the use and disposal of plastic bags and the added expense of using paper bags.
Yes, it's complicated and solutions are difficult and take time. No, I have no suggestions. I'm just sick of what I see and read around here.
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