Laura Washington: No cool down from Chicago summer of discontent

SHARE Laura Washington: No cool down from Chicago summer of discontent

Father Pfleger and LaKeisha Hamilton embrace before a St. Sabina Peace March on a Friday in June.

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Labor Day is rounding out a long, not-so-hot summer in the city.

June was cold. Chicago is broke. There is fear on the streets.

Some highlights and lowlights: The city’s epidemic of violence continues. Black and Latino Chicago are sweating out relentless violence, drawing national headlines.

In the month of August alone, at least 336 Chicagoans were shot, up 12 percent from a year ago, a DNAInfo analysis shows. Forty-four died.

Those ugly numbers got little notice. In Chiraq, we have become numb to the killing.


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The Rev. Michael Pfleger knows how much black lives should matter.

All summer, Pfleger and the faithful of St. Sabina Church have led the Friday Night Walk for Peace, demanding an end to the violence on the streets of Auburn Gresham. Without them, the death toll would surely be higher.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel embarked on his second term with a decisive majority. He heard the critics who made him squirm in his reelection campaign, he promised. The fuzzy sweater is gone, and he says he will listen more.

Emanuel called three public hearings in the dog days of summer, but seemed ill-equipped to handle the blowback from Chicagoans fed up with high taxes, failing schools and city services.

At one raucous session, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy hustled the mayor away as his angry constituents ambushed the stage. The panicked look on Emanuel’s face said it all.

The summer heated up with a weeks-long hunger strike, led by the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School. The strikers drew national attention and have won most of what they said they wanted.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool forged a reasonable plan with big potential. The strikers say the new, open enrollment arts school is no compromise, but a betrayal endorsed by African American patronage hacks.

Time to move on. The parents and students will get a new, improved, school. The activists will have to find another way to expand their power base.

They will. By endorsing the plan, elected officials long despised by KOCO — State Rep. Christian Mitchell and 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns — are bigger targets than ever.

On another political front, the U.S. Senate race is the marquee event in the March 2016 Illinois Democratic Senate primary.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth may be the darling of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but Andrea Zopp is not cooperating. The former Chicago Urban League CEO is raising money and talking tough.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin will jump in the race soon. Boykin and Zopp are both African American. They may rev up the base, but also spilt the vote.

The DNCC may laugh last.

Chicago’s summer is ending in a financial quagmire, but The Fat Nag sees opportunity in disaster. The mayor and Chicago City Council are looking at a slew of painful property tax increases and fee hikes. Ald. George Cardenas (12th), is pitching a penny-an-ounce tax on soft drink syrup and powders, and canned and bottled sweet drinks. He argues it will help curb obesity and fund public health efforts.

Opponents say we are already pay too much in “sin taxes” on soft drinks.

We need more ammunition against obesity. If you were on the streets of Chicago this summer, you know it is out of control.

The fat is killing us, too.


Follow Laura Washington on Twitter: @MediaDervish

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