|"This is a Trump-free zone," Mayor Rahm Emanuel boasted in June.|
It was only a few weeks ago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and top-cop Eddie Johnson were patting themselves on the back while claiming credit for the reported 15th consecutive month of declining gun violence. The good news came just in time for Rahm who used it as a jumping-off point to his re-election campaign.
He even used the occasion to thumb his nose at Trump, who is fond of making Chicago his punching bag whenever he wants to whip up his deplorables into a racist, anti-urban frenzy.
"This is a Trump-free zone," Rahm bragged. "We have facts. What matters ... is what happens on the street."And the facts are that at least 75 Chicagoans, nearly all black and Latino, many of them children, were shot and at least a dozen killed on city streets last weekend. Now Rahm has turned his fire away from Trump and on to victims of street violence.
By Monday, there was no more back-patting. No more shit-talking Trump. Instead, the mayor started pointing fingers at parents and community residents, blaming them for low morals and a shortage values. Trumpism without Trump, if you will.
Diverting attention from the burning issues of poverty, education and joblessness Emanuel scolded his critics.
“You can talk about jobs, and they count, but in parts of the city where there aren’t jobs, people did not pull the trigger."Then moving from bad to worse the mayor echoed Trump's racist lock-'em-up demagogy.
“There are too many guns on the street, too many people with criminal records on the street, and there is a shortage of values about what is right, what is wrong, was is acceptable, what is condoned and what is condemned.”Yes, there are way too many guns on the street, most of them flowing in from across the Indiana line. Remember, it was Rahm himself, as Obama's chief of staff in 2009, with a Democratic majority in congress, who put the kibosh of what was probably the last attempt at national gun-control legislation.
As for "too many people with criminal records on the street" -- that's a line right out of Trump's repertoire, at a time when there are more than two million people in prison with African Americans being incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites, that's racist scapegoating at it's worst.
Current policies make it difficult for those coming out of prison to find employment. For example, it's extremely difficult or impossible to get records sealed or expunged, especially those of juveniles. This adds to the problem and drives crime and violence numbers upward. A criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50%, says the NAACP. The negative impact of a criminal record is twice as large for African American applicants.
Last weekend's explosion now has Rahm, still in campaign mode, promising to put 600 more cops and detectives into the neighborhoods hardest hit. The “strategic deployments” will add 430 officers to five South Side and West Side police districts: Calumet, Gresham, Ogden, Harrison and Austin.
But there is no correlation between police saturation of a neighborhood and violence prevention. Cops enter the picture (and usually not in a good way) only after the fact. And the siege strategy rarely includes beat cops and relationship building. Rather the focus is crisis deployment.
I know it's too easy to blame Rahm for last weekend's shooting. It's easy because after six years in office, his policies still favor investment downtown and in wealthy areas of the city and the deprivation and lack of investment, closing of schools, libraries and social-services in the neediest neighborhoods. But the problems predate go beyond Rahm Emanuel.
The isolation and destabilization of neighborhoods, particularly on the south and west sides of the city, began long before Emanuel came to power. They are a big part of the black exodus from Chicago and play a major role in generating violence and crime. And so far, I've heard little beyond tweaky reforms from his top mayoral contenders.