Rahm, Congress Members Call For Federal Money To Fight Chicago Violence
WOODLAWN — The man overseeing all the YMCAs in Chicago said the centers in Woodlawn and beyond do as much as they can to help steer Chicago's kids from violence.
Early childhood education, after school programs and anti-violence efforts run through the YMCA are available because of government funding, something that has dried up not only in Illinois but nationally, said Dick Malone, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.
"This is the front line of our community," Malone said. "It's only because of those resources that we are able to do what we do. Those resources are shrinking every day."
Members of the U.S. House of Representative's Black Caucus joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other civic leaders Friday at the South Shore YMCA, 6333 S. Stony Island Ave., to advocate for more federal funding for such programs and efforts.
Led by Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd), the group was on hand to tout its Urban Progress initiative that the officials hope ends in a federal bill that earmarks money for anti-poverty and anti-violence efforts in inner cities.
"We cannot afford to let our American urban centers suffer any more," Kelly said.
The Urban Progress initiative is seeking federal funds to better urban areas in three ways: through economic development, enhanced community policing and common-sense gun regulation, Kelly said.
Kelly said she doesn't have a figure in mind that she would like to see earmarked toward the effort, but Emanuel did.
Emanuel said he is hopeful Congress will pass prison sentencing reform, a move which would end mandatory minimums for some crimes and also free up federal money now used to house prisoners.
The mayor said such legislation could free up as much as $20 billion over 20 years, and Emanuel said he wants 30 percent of that to go to three specific areas: after-school programs, summer jobs and mentoring initiatives.
Emanuel said those programs are known to reduce violence and give urban kids a leg up. He said the city is providing money for 25,000 summer jobs for inner city kids this year, even though state and federal funding for the program has been reduced by 70 percent.
"There's not an urban center that didn't have to make up for the federal government walking away," Emanuel said. "We are making up for Washington's sins. We can't keep doing it."
Though Chicago is something of a poster boy for inner city violence, the elected officials from Detroit, New York and elsewhere said it is very much a national issue.
"We want Chicago to know you're not alone," said Brenda Lawrence, a Democratic Congresswoman from Detroit. "We have a crisis in America. It's time to do the work."
Kelly said she brought the Black Caucus to Chicago's South Side to not only show the issues facing inner cities, but also to highlight some of the efforts to curb violence that can be replicated elsewhere.
The group had dinner Thursday with parents of those lost to gun violence, and on Friday they were also scheduled to visit Kids Off The Block in Roseland and Inner City Muslim Action Network in Chicago Lawn.
"I wanted to get by the national headlines about violence in the city," Kelly said. "You always hear about the lives lost, but not about the lives saved."