President Trump: Please Help Save Chicago

President Trump: Please Help Save Chicago
AP Photo/Teresa Crawford
President Trump: Please Help Save Chicago
AP Photo/Teresa Crawford
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In 1900, the city of Chicago achieved an engineering marvel by reversing the flow of the Chicago River, forcing the water current away from Lake Michigan, rather than into the massive body of water. For decades, the dirty river had spilled contaminants into the Great Lakes, sickening the masses in an area dependent on lake water for drinking. Reversing that flow saved the health and vitality of the then-fastest-growing city in the world.

Now, over a century later, Chicago faces another mammoth task – reversing the sad and continual tide of human blood in its streets, far too often flowing out of the bodies of young black men. Over the weekend, an astounding 60 people were shot in the city, nine fatally.  In one  2½-hour period Saturday night, 25 people were shot.  A paramedic interviewed by the local ABC affiliate called the town “a war zone.” This past weekend’s violence, while shocking, is hardly unprecedented in the Windy City.  On the July 4 weekend of 2017, over 100 people were shot, with 14 killed.

A six-year Yale University study determined that blacks are an astounding 128 times as likely as whites to get shot in Chicago. Many factors feed into this carnage, but perhaps the most damning statistic, from a University of Illinois study, detailed that for young (age 20-24) men of color in Chicago, 47 percent of blacks and 20 percent of Hispanics are neither employed nor in school. The failures of the city’s public school system monopoly have produced thousands of listless young men, unprepared for productive lives, roaming Chicago streets.

What is the response of city leadership to this frightening crisis? The all-Democratic City Council seems largely unfazed, content to raise taxes, adding to the already-unsustainable debt, in order to cater to public sector unions. For Mayor Rahm Emanuel, deflection serves better than solutions. He was feted by an adoring New York studio audience as he proudly declared to Stephen Colbert that Chicago is a “Trump-free zone.”

Well, Mr. Mayor, I hope that situation soon changes, and I urge the president to take expedited action in the very city you’ve neglected, sir. 

Mr. President, children in a once-great American city cannot play in parks without fear and cannot attend schools where they can thrive.  As a constitutionalist, I instinctively defer to federalism and prefer local control, but this situation spirals downward with such ferocity that federal intervention represents the only stabilizing remedy, especially in light of the cowardice of local leaders.

For the near term, our city needs military troops to guard streets in the most dangerous areas. Soldiers have historically been deployed after riots to achieve calm, and Chicago’s current riot is merely a slow-motion one. In addition, with the school year starting soon, a show of protective force – with many of the service members themselves black and brown – would assuage nervous parents. The president should also direct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to personally lead a task force located in Chicago to flood the city with assistance in the coming months, leveraging all the federal government’s powers of law enforcement.  Longer term, we desperately need school choice and aggressive urban enterprise zones to encourage investment in the most blighted neighborhoods of the west and south sides.

In addition to protecting the precious lives of American citizens, such moves would also reap political gains. The Trump economic boom is already proving incredibly beneficial for minorities, sending black and Hispanic job markets to record highs. As a result, recent polling shows a surge of support among both black and Hispanic approval of President Trump. The burgeoning economic progress, combined with serious overtures to help the embattled minority communities of Chicago, would surely engender further political goodwill for Trump.

Chicago has, quite literally, rebuilt from the ashes of tragedy before. After the massive fire in 1871, visionary urban planner Daniel Burnham encouraged leaders to “make no little plans.” We can again think big and resurrect this city that represents the literal and figurative heart of this great country -- and help from Donald Trump could prove decisive. 

Steve Cortes is a contributor to RealClearPolitics and a CNN  political commentator. His Twitter handle is @CortesSteve.

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