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Letters: Joffrey Ballet takes a bow

Amanda Assucena and Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet in "Maninyas" by Stanton Welch. File photo by Cheryl Mann.

“Repeatedly, the Joffrey Ballet was quashed, and repeatedly Robert Joffrey resurrected it in a new form, with new dancers and choreographers. Each time, he aimed beyond his reach. At each fateful juncture, he moved instinctively into a new niche. He adapted — and he prevailed.”

The above sentence concludes author Sasha Anwalt’s definitive biography, The Joffrey Ballet — Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company. As we celebrate our 20th year in Chicago, and the launch of our 60th anniversary season, The Joffrey has indeed prevailed — in fact, it has thrived and grown in the great city of Chicago.

We thank Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago for honoring the Joffrey Ballet with a Fifth Star Award Wednesday night and for embracing the company since its relocation here in 1995. As we accept this award, we salute the entire Joffrey Ballet Family. We also applaud the other award recipients who enliven and enhance our great city.

We honor our past with pride and have the privilege of leading the company and its academy, and community engagement programs to a bright future.

We could fill volumes with the individual names of those who have and continue to make Joffrey a quintessentially American dance company. We invite each of you to take a bow as we send our profound thanks. You make it possible for us to “aim beyond…”

Ashley Wheater, artistic director, the Joffrey Ballet

Greg Cameron, executive director, the Joffrey Ballet

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Go, Cubs

I’ve lived within eyesight of Comiskey all of my life. My devotion is to the Sox and the neighborhood. But in all fairness, Cub fans should have a winner, and I hope that Rizzo and Co. take the team into a World Series.

John E. Aranza, Bridgeport

Biggest bully: Trump

I thought our country was fighting against bullying. But I’m wrong. The most popular person in this country is its biggest bully — Donald Trump.

Carole Gallotta, Lyons

Cook County needs gun czar

This past July, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle summoned the Cook County Board of Commissioners to approve a 1 percent sales tax hike on Cook County consumers.

At the time, several commissioners questioned the wisdom of acting so hastily, before the president’s office even presented the board with a budget. President Preckwinkle answered that we could not afford to wait to hike the sales tax, because Springfield’s track record of dysfunction and inaction had placed the county in the position of having to act on its own.

On her sales tax increase, President Preckwinkle’s message was simple: We cannot wait for Springfield. Cook County must be the master of its own destiny.

But two months later, President Preckwinkle appears more than willing to pass the buck to our gridlocked state government when it comes to the issue of gun violence.

The year 2015 has seen dramatically escalating levels of gun deaths in Chicago and Cook County. The death toll continues to climb steadily and the price is steep. The estimated yearly cost to our local economy is roughly $2.5 billion. And despite their composing only 25 percent of the Chicago’s population, African Americans make up 80 percent of those killed by gunshot wounds in Chicago in 2015, the Cook County Medical Examiner reports.

This is a disaster unfolding in real time. It is no exaggeration to say that people are dying nearly every day from gunshot wounds in Cook County.

As county commissioner for the 1st District, which includes many of the neighborhoods where the levels of gun violence are highest, I have spent the summer proposing and working to advance a critically important policy designed to confront gun violence head-on — the appointment of a Gun Violence Czar to coordinate law enforcement, public health, judicial and economic policy among different units of government for the single, express purpose of halting these murders.

Thus far the president’s office has declined to support the appointment of a gun czar. This despite the fact that County jails, County hospitals, and our County Circuit Courts are suffering disproportionate costs as the result of the violence. The president points to the work of her Justice Advisory Council, which distributes “violence prevention” grants to nonprofits that participate in a competitive application process.

But this past summer, the JAC awarded $800,000.00 in “Violence Prevention” grants and none of that money went to the areas where the levels of violence are highest. Not a penny went to Austin, for example, which leads all 77 Chicago neighborhoods in shooting deaths.

Furthermore, by any objective measure, the Preckwinkle administration’s efforts to curb violence have failed. Whatever the level of investment, the problem has only worsened, and it continues to worsen at an alarming rate.

Now, with the problem having grown too large to ignore, President Preckwinkle has decided to wade into the debate with a policy prescription that is a passive response to an aggressive crisis.

In contrast to her frantic rhetoric around the sales tax increase, President Preckwinkle now wants Cook County to wait for Springfield.

In an editorial in this week’s Sun-Times, Preckwinkle cited $70 million dollars of Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds that the State of Illinois expects to receive next year. Calling the money “manna from heaven,” the President implies- without stating specifics- that this money can be used to address the scourge of gun violence that has ravaged Cook County’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Sitting on our hands while state officials- who are currently unable to produce a budget- determine what to do next year with funds from Washington, D.C., is not a solution to a public safety emergency.

President Preckwinkle argued in July that the county must act swiftly, on its own, to avoid a fiscal doomsday.

Now the county faces an actual doomsday, where action is required not just to save money, but to save lives. In the face of these genuinely dire circumstances, the president seems oddly content to let Springfield take the wheel.

As the president reminded us while pressing us to adopt her sales tax hike- Cook County must be the Master of Its Own Destiny.

It is time that the communities imperiled by gun violence pose a direct question to the Preckwinkle administration:

Why wait for “manna from heaven” when we know that God helps those who help themselves?

Richard R. Boykin, Cook County commissioner, 1st District

Open county animal shelter

It’s inhumane that Cook County still does not have a shelter for stray and abandoned dogs, cats and other companion animals. The money would be readily available if the county finally consolidates wasteful agencies and services. Cook County leadership purports to be progressive. To prove it they should proactively hire a professional, experienced and qualified staff who can adeptly oversee a shelter that compassionately rescues, saves, rehabilitates and finds homes for precious canines and felines. It would be a vast improvement in contrast to the ineptness of the current Cook County Animal Care Department, which is too incompetent to even trace missing pets.

Brien Comerford, Glenview

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