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City gun violence a tough issue for Democrats
Duncan, Vallas, and Catanzara running for mayor in Chicago. Claim they have the plan.
“We already have more shootings so far this January than last January,” Duncan said — though the latest CPD data actually shows the number of shooting victims this year is down compared with 2021, as is the number of homicides. — Sun-Times
With midterm and municipal elections on the horizon, Democrats are being challenged from the right over reports of rising urban crime. In general, Republicans have found big cities with large Black and Latino populations to be inviting targets for attack, using fear of crime to especially rally white suburban and rural voters. It was Donald Trump who fired off the first round in current racist Republican attacks on the cities like Chicago back in 2020.
Crime nationwide has declined consistently for a quarter-century starting in the early 1990s. But for a large share of Americans, perceptions don’t keep up with reality. For example, in a recent survey, only about four in 10 readers knew that the national murder rate last year was lower than the year before.
Here in Chicago, where there has been a recent spike in gun violence which has been intensified by the Covid pandemic, incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot is taking heat for the bump from her political opponents. She will likely be running against at least three of them, two Republicans and one Democrat, each of whom claims they have the solution and sees the issue as Lightfoot’s Achilles heel.
The three, all white men positioning themselves for a run against the city’s first Black, lesbian mayor, include two former Chicago schools CEOs, Democrat Arne Duncan and Republican Paul Vallas, along with the Trumpian president of the F.O.P., John Catanzara.
Vallas, a former Daley machine guy who ran for mayor in 2019 and managed to get a meager 5% of the vote, would be back running alongside Duncan, his former mentee at CPS. Vallas was the first Chicago schools CEO appointed by Mayor Daley. He in turn brought in Duncan who became the second. After Vallas was fired by Daley, he went on to run the schools in Philly, New Orleans, and Bridgeport, CT, where he pushed privatization and charter schools to replace hundreds of closed public schools.
He was hired to run the New Orleans school system following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. There he piloted the liquidation of the city’s public schools, the busting of the teachers union, and the firing of every teacher.
As Ed Secretary, Duncan used the threat of withholding federal dollars from states who resisted his call to close schools and fire thousands of teachers whose students scored low on standardized tests.
Strangely, it’s hard to find any mention of the pair’s devastating education policies in local press coverage of the upcoming mayor’s race. But we educators know that those failed policies are closely connected to the city’s problem of youth violence and the school-to-prison pipeline.
Of the three, Duncan would probably be Lightfoot’s strongest opponent with big money behind him from his billionaire patron, Laurene Powell Jobs, and possible support from his old boss, Barack Obama. Currently, Duncan is Managing Partner of Chicago CRED (Create Real Economic Destiny), which he co-founded with Powell Jobs.
Catanzara would hardly be worth a mention here except for the $205M increase in annual members’ dues he’s instituted to fund his “powerhouse Political Action Committee.” He says the money will be used to send a clear message that “police are under attack,” and “we need to let these politicians know that enough is enough.”
While the trio blames Lightfoot for this year’s spike in neighborhood street shootings, neither offers an alternative comprehensive anti-violence plan. Such a plan would have to include major investments in impoverished, segregated neighborhoods, stopping the easy flow of guns into the city, and closing the ever-widening wealth gap.
It’s doubtful that Lightfoot or any other big-city mayor can do all this on their own, especially with the Build Back Better legislation on hold in Congress and with neighboring states having lax gun laws and national and state legislators afraid to enact stronger ones. While Lightfoot has made big city investments in the south and west sides, she will have to do more than rely on CPD to reduce gun violence. They arrive on the scene only after the fact and their relationship with Black and Latino communities has been mainly adversarial and chilling.
Duncan’s main pitch has been to get the city to fund his CRED group to the tune of $400M in order to “stop the bloodbath.” He initially called for defunding of the police by reducing the number of cops on the streets. But later, he flipped and attacked Lightfoot for leaving the Chicago Police Department “in crisis” and police officers “exhausted.”
When Duncan was asked if he still advocates fewer sworn officers at a time when Chicago has roughly 11,900 officers on the street, down from more than 13,000 a year ago, he hedged:
“There doesn’t need to be less sworn officers. The number is relevant. But what’s much more important to me is how those officers are deployed. How they’re used.”
Vallas is trying to lend Catanzara and the racist FOP an air of respectability while echoing their demand to “take the cuffs off of police” and put them on “criminals.” I say literally since he has been hired as a consultant to FOP.
I have no idea what Catanzara’s political objective is beyond establishing a fascist dictatorship with himself as fuhrer.
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