The [Monday] Papers
In the last two years, a new metric has taken hold to gauge the level of youth violence in the city: the number of Chicago Public Schools students killed.
I've questioned before whether this is a meaningful number; what do the schools have to do with it? And particularly, what do the public schools have to do with it?
It's true that some of these tragedies have occurred to kids on their way to and from school. But still, I have to side with police and school officials featured in a Tribune story on Sunday.
"The problem expands far beyond just public school students, none of whom have been killed in recent years on school property during school hours, police and school officials said," the Tribune reported.
A Sun-Times editorial last week noted that "Bryan Samuels, the top CPS official who oversaw [a] data analysis, found the shootings were typically much closer to the victim's home than to his or her school. The median distance from the shooting to the victim's home was 0.4 miles, while the median distance to the victim's school was 1.2 miles.
"CPS also found that 70 percent of the shootings took place between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. - outside the hours of the school day and after-school programs."
And yet, that very editorial opened this way: "In this school year alone, 25 Chicago Public Schools children have been murdered."
This isn't a CPS problem. Mostly, it's a gang problem.
"Gang conflicts are the leading cause for Chicago's homicides overall, accounting for 45 percent of those in which a motive is known," the Tribune reported on Sunday. "Police say it's also the No. 1 motive behind killings of youths."
To attach this to CPS is both unfair and inaccurate.
That's not to say CPS doesn't have a role to play; of course it does. Consider:
"In a University of Chicago study of gun violence among school-age children in the city, researchers found that the turning point for most happens at 13 or 14. Nearly half of the youths in juvenile detention were poor students who, after dropping out of school, turned to gangs as a means of support."
Whatever can be done to keep kids in school ought to be done. But ultimately, the issue is poverty. And that's something CPS can't solve.
"That $56,000-a-year figure is very close to the 2007 U.S. Census estimate of median family income in Illinois - a point at which half the households in the state earn more and half earn less."
"[A] family of four with an income of $100,000 a year would pay the state an additional $660 in taxes - or nearly 25 percent more."
Which certainly doesn't sound like an onerous burden to me. And again, note how the use of percentages can sometimes distort; not only in comparison to the raw number but in comparison to the 50 percent rate increase we've been hearing about. There are times for raw numbers, and times for percentages. This is a time for raw numbers: how much will we have to pay?
* "I was only troubled by the way the half-hour battering of Cramer made him look almost like a fall guy for the global recession and financial collapse," writes Clarence Page. "He's more of a symptom of an underlying pathology of the media."
But that was exactly Jon Stewart's point when he said to Cramer, "This isn't about you."
But whether it's the Iraq War, the financial collapse, Chicago's corrupt City Hall, or the struggles of newspapers, the media never seems to understand that the solution is to change the way you do your jobs.
The Daily Show and the Onion are as much scathing indictments of our news organizations as they are satirical representations of our lives in these United States. It's like Dilbert - you shouldn't just laugh about it and say, "Heh heh, yup, that's the way it is alright!" You should change the way it is. Because there's a big price to be paid for not doing so.
* The Rock 'N' Roll Highway Revisited. Who knew it was in Arkansas? Our very own Don Jacobson did.
* "Nine years into the 21st Century, why isn't every squad car in America equipped with a dashboard video camera?" Steve Chapman asks. "Why do we persist on relying on the slippery, self-interested, incomplete and unverified accounts of opposing participants when we have the means to see the truth with our own eyes?"
It turns out that only 11 percent of Chicago Police Department squad cars have cameras that record traffic stops. The department (in other words, the mayor) says it's a matter of cost. But, Chapman writes, "Spending $13 million looks extravagant only until you compare it to the cost of losing lawsuits over police misconduct. From 2005 through the middle of 2008, says the Chicago Reader, the city paid out $115 million in police cases. Dashboard cameras don't have to prevent many million-dollar judgements to be a bargain."
I wonder what the efficacy and revenue-generation of dashboard cameras is versus red-light cameras.
* Spring flings and tourney trash talk. By our very own Jim Coffman.
* "St. Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland so we could get drunk and drive home on his feast day," Abdon Pallasch writes today.
Trash & Cash
The Beachwood Tip Line: Mysteries solved.
Posted on March 16, 2009
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