This is a new series on CNN, produced by Robert Redford.  It shows former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel trying to make Chicago better, while dealing with protests over a plan to close fifty-four schools.  (The largest such closing in the country).

Back to that in a moment.  I wanted to take time out for a detour to discuss Chicago from my perspective.

I’ve been there many times, and have family and friends there.  It’s a fun place to visit.  The Field Museum.  Science Museum, Hyde Park, the old Pullman village, and Wrigley Field for starters.  (I might as well confess, I’ve managed NOT to be there in Winter).

Mayor Emanuel is not one to mince words.  I winced though at the scene of the Chicago radio talk show when they referred to the Mayor as a circumcised Mayor Daley.  Did I detect a note of Anti-Semitism there?  Am I being overly sensitive?  Maybe, maybe not.

The “1871” building with the high tech start ups was an interesting look at trying to modernize the Chicago economy.

Of course, you don’t have good television without conflict.  Here it was the closing of the schools.  I understand the Mayor’s point.  It’s important to consolidate schools not just to save money, but concentrate resources to benefit the majority.

The financial part is especially important.  Moodys just ranked Chicago’s bonds as barely above junk bonds.  The city is going to have to raise taxes AND slash spending.

Mayor Emanuel stated 56% of African-American males drop out of Chicago schools.  He wants to change that again, with the resources he has.

Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”  No one wants their neighborhood school closed, but there is an added rub here.  Chicago’s gangs.

Gangs in Chicago go back to the beginning, look at Prohibition.  If a gangster like Lucky Luciano said “Chicago is a real goddamn crazy place.  Nobody’s safe in the streets!”  It has issues.

The Police Commissioner is a guy from the Bronx, named Garry McCarthy.   Yeah, I’m from Brooklyn, but can identify with that.  He uses Comstat to determine where the crimes are happening.  Mayor Emanuel has to use computer programs for the schools to see where those resources are best placed.

To tie this up, the Mayor is trying to husband resources for the schools, the Police Commissioner is trying to clean up the gangs, with the resources he has.

Again, no one wants to see their local school closed.  It some neighborhoods in Chicago though, that means more than just a longer trip to school.  It means they have to go through enemy gang territory to get to the new school.  That fact gives you a new understanding.  Better schools don’t be anything, if a child is killed walking to them.

The Mayor though, has to think on a broader spectrum.  He can’t print money, only has finite resources.

The show covered the protests and the closing of fifty of the fifty-four schools on the list.  I did get a kick out of young Asean Johnson from the Marcus Garvey School.  Very articulate for a nine year old.  (Reminds me of the eleven year old son, of my Rwandan buddy Anastase, Cadeau.  More about Cadeau in another post).

Both sides, the Mayor and the teachers claimed victory, after they went on strike over this.  That’s usually good, no one felt they got their nose rubbed in it.   Shouldn’t politics be the art of compromise?    Mayor Emanuel could’ve taken an attitude of “The people in these gang neighborhoods don’t like or vote for me anyway and he could just do the math and see who backs him and turn his back on those areas, but he isn’t.  As dangerous and local as their concerns are, the Mayor, unfortunately has to think of a bigger picture.  (I know, easy for me to say).

Then there is the heroic principal of Fenger High School, Elizabeth Dozier, trying to turn it around.    The school still has failing grades, but she is trying against some rough odds.  No one wants to see the school that graduated Eliot Ness and Director Robert Zemeckis have such problems.  I hope she gets to have the “Peace Walk.” she wants.

One sad statement was that kindergarten kids are already talking about having gang colors.  I had to sound like Nancy Reagan and just say no, but here, the kids themselves need to say they don’t want gangs anymore.    Otherwise, more honor students like Derrion Albert will not live to develop their potential.



About tucsonmike

I am originally from Brooklyn, New York and now live in Tucson, Arizona. I have discovered a passion for writing. I have five books out now, with a sixth on the way. Take a look @ my book list: The Search for Livingstone An Affair of the Heart The Search for Otzi Griffith Justice in Space. Moriarty The Life and Times of a Criminal Genius Available now on Smashwords - Amazon and Barnes and Noble As to not bore my public with just "Buy my book," I am also interested in baseball, the outdoors, art, architecture, technology, the human mind and DNA. I learned Ashkenazi Jews, of which I am one, have to lowest rate of Alzheimer's in the world. Therefore, I treat my brain as a muscle needing a workout. I enjoy good food, flirtation, beautiful women (I am happily married for thirty years), so just flirting ;) I was considered autistic when I was young, trying to figure out if I have a mild form of Aspergers and learning from that. That is for future posts. You can also see I love history. Enjoy my sarcastic silly look at the world, and making History more interesting than a textbook.
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4 Responses to Chicagoland

  1. Eileen Hamer says:

    Interestingview from an outsider, who may see more clearly at times than those closer. But I am from Chicago and you forgot to mention that the schools being closed are both underused and not doiing their jobs. the kids going there are not learning well. As for the teacher’s union, that’s all about power and jobs, not at all about the students. When the teachers had to take competency tests a few years ago, most on the south side failed–failed high school level tests. Friends of mine teaching them said the tests were laughably simple. Incompetent teachers will probably not have careers once their failing schoola are closed, and that’s a good thing for the students.

    • tucsonmike says:

      Eileen thank you for responding and adding the part I left out about why those schools are being closed. No question, those kids are cheated by incompetents. I’m originally from New York City and its teachers union is no different. Albert Shanker infamously said he didn’t care about the kids, but about the teachers.

  2. Piper Bayard says:

    Sadly, education has become an industry in which the kids serve to provide jobs for countless superfluous federal and state bureaucrats, countless superfluous school psychiatric bureaucrats, “education support” corporations, anti-bullying program corporations, test development corporations, testing data center corporations, etc. Does anyone have any idea how many people are employed because of state and federal testing requirements alone? Not to mention all of the bureaucratic positions created by No Child Left Behind and expanded by Core Curriculum. Seriously. I live in one of the “best” school districts in the nation, and even here, every child is seen as a financial opportunity. The goal is to slap any label on them (TAG, Special Ed., ADD, etc.) that will bring money into the system and justify everyone keeping their jobs. The perpetuation of the system is paramount over any educating that gets done. Job retention for all those who feed off the system comes first. I can’t imagine that it’s any different in Chicago.

    • tucsonmike says:

      It wouldn’t be different in Chicago. The Mayor closed 50 schools for low attendance & underperformance. Turns out, a lot of bad teachers were washed out too. Agreed, all the teachers union cares about are the job. Albert Shanker once infamously said, I don’t care about the kids. They don’t vote for me. This begs many questions. Who funds the schools? What should the goals be? Should they be Federal? Many questions need answering.

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