|Student artwork from Harlan
Well, this is certainly a sad state of affairs. The violence that takes place in a number of city neighborhoods are taking their toll on the city's aldermen.
I wanted to focus the excerpts here on 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin although we hear from other Alderman on the city's west and south sides from Woodlawn, South Shore, Englewood, and Austin:
For Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), the violence that’s gripped Chicago this year is personal.Ah jobs, Ald. Austin is noted as pointing to the mall she constructed off I-57 near 119th that contains a Target, Jewel, Marshall's, even an LA Fitness to provide jobs for her community. Alas if jobs from that mall didn't put a dent into the violence she's experiencing in her area, now we have to ask what would put a dent in it?
Over Memorial Day weekend, a college freshman home for the summer was shot to death just five doors down from Austin’s sturdy A-frame home in Roseland on the city’s South Side. He was a friend of her grandson.
“People say, ‘Well, you know they’re not gonna do all that around the alderman’s house,’ ” she says. “Yeah, you wanna bet?”
For her and nine other members of the Chicago City Council, the rise in the number of killings that has cast an unwanted national spotlight on violence in Chicago isn’t just something they read about or see on the news or wring their hands about during council meetings. They walk outside, and it’s there.
The Chicago Sun-Times took a look at murders and shootings in the city over a span of 13 months beginning in June 2011 and found at least three instances of such violence within two city blocks of where 10 Chicago aldermen live — one out of five members of the City Council.
...In Roseland, Austin remembers how things were when she moved in 40 years ago. There was a certain snobbish neighborhood pride among people living in the middle-class community then. Today, some people call the area the “Wild Hundreds,” referring to its street addresses but also to the crime and violence that the splintered and warring gang factions have brought with them.
“I don’t really want to say this, but now I’m frightened,” says Austin, who lives within a couple of blocks of where three murders and one other shooting took place in the period the Sun-Times analysis covered. “Now, I’m afraid of dying.”
People sometimes ask her, as aldermen, to reassure them that steps are being taken and that things will get better. “How do I tell them, ‘Don’t worry, it’s gonna get better,’ ” Austin says. “I don’t have no solution to tell them it’s gonna get better.”
‘I don’t live in a bubble’
“They don’t know what it’s like, and they never will,” Austin says. “They don’t have to live the life that we live.”
The May 26 shooting death of her grandson’s friend Jaylin Johnson, a college student who ducked headfirst into a bullet, hit Austin hard. From her back porch, she can see the memorial to him, which his mother tends every night.
“My grandson called me: ‘Granny, you gonna be upset. Jaylin got shot down the street,’ ” Austin says. “That boy just came home from school. That was devastating. I didn’t even know anything to tell the mother . . . to any mother.”
The police haven’t caught Johnson’s killer, the investigation stymied in part because a police surveillance camera nearby wasn’t working. “Why wasn’t it working?” Austin asks. “We pay all this money for it. You got every traffic red-light camera working. Why was that one not working?”
Austin says she’s scared for her safety, angry with the gang-bangers and frustrated that City Hall doesn’t do enough.
“You know there’s a great need for jobs and nothing for these young people, but all these gang members don’t want to work,” Austin says. “They say they want work. They lie. If you want a job, you want training, you can go anywhere in the city and get it. So don’t fall back on that lie. They don’t wanna work. They want that fast-life money.”
Austin doesn’t believe the police in the 5th District are given enough resources to stop retaliation shootings, solve murders and squash crime. “Out here, oh, ‘They’re just killing one another,’ ” Austin says. “But they don’t squash diddly-squat out here.”
Collectively, the shootings amount to “mass murder,” she says. And that has her changing her thinking in at least one way.
“I never believed in the death penalty before, never, because we don’t have the right to the power of life or death,” Austin says. “But I’m changing my mind. There’s no severe consequence to killing somebody. . . . A shooter knows that if he gets caught, they can’t do nothing but send me to jail. Wow, that doesn’t frighten them, not at all. Going to jail means nothing.
“If it was one of my grandchildren or my children that got shot, I’m almost positive I would be in the penitentiary because I’m not gonna leave it up to society to get me any justice. I would find that person,” Austin says.
She takes a breath and exhales hard. She considers her own words and gives herself a scolding. “Oh, you shouldn’t have said that,” she says. “Well, I’m sure I shouldn’t have. But I’m speaking now from a broken heart.”
BTW, here's 6th Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer's response to the violence in his ward.