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Letters: Fee for police adviser could prove a bargain

After numerous bad decisions concerning interactions between the Chicago Police Department and its citizenry, Mayor Rahm Emanuel finally has made a sound decision in hiring retired Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey to consult on re-
storing that broken relationship.

Not only was Ramsey a high-ranking Chicago cop in the ’90s, meaning he knows its strengths and weaknesses, but he has been an adviser on community-police
relations to President Obama. This makes him the rarity Chicago needs:
The inside outsider, He owes no favors, so can critique unsparingly.

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

Yet critics have already denounced his $350-an-hour consulting fee, which sets no new high mark for consultants to government bodies. Anyone who thinks that’s too much need only compare it to the hourly rates for lawyers charging the city
to defend errant cops, or the $500 million paid to settle wrongful death lawsuits against the city for cop shootings over the past 10 years. If Ramsey’s input contributes to even a 5 percent reduction in that pattern of liability, his fee would be the first true bargain Chicago has realized in a very long time.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

Alarming situation

Something terrible is going on in Illinois and in the nation. People with mental illness are being killed in encounters with the police in alarming numbers. The recent killing of Charles Hollstein in Zion by police officers is an example of this alarming situation.

A recent study reported by the Treatment Advocacy Center finds that a person with untreated mental illness is 16 times more likely than a person without a mental illness to be killed in an encounter with the police.

Some people may believe the reason for this is that people with mental illness are so violent that in many cases police officers have no alternative than to shoot. But facts do not bear this out. Many, many studies have shown that people with mental illness who are in treatment are no more prone to commit a violent act than the general public is.

The key then is treatment. Mental illnesses are quite treatable, but treatment only works if people can get it. And what has been happening in Illinois regarding treatment? At a time when many states are increasing their mental health budgets, Illinois has led the nation in the size of the cuts to its mental health programs. Governor Rauner’s proposed budget and the current budget impasse in Springfield have only made that situation worse.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has eliminated two line items in the state budget which help community mental health centers pay for psychiatric services. The budget impasse also means that since the start of the fiscal year in July many mental health centers have not even been paid for services they are able to provide. As a result, mental health service providers across the state are reducing psychiatric services, eliminating programs and laying off staff. Hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois who are living with mental illnesses are now unable to get the treatment they need.

We now call upon the Governor and the members of the General Assembly to fix this problem immediately. If not we will continue to see thousands of people — people who with treatment, could recover — suffer needlessly, and we will continue to see tragedies like the ones in Zion and elsewhere. Our government leaders in Springfield must act now to remedy a terrible situation they have caused.

Maryrose Peters, president, NAMI Barrington Area
Pat Rodbro, co-president, NAMI Cook County North Suburban
Angela Adkins, executive director, NAMI DuPage
Laurie Huske, president, NAMI Kane County North
Mary Jouppi, president, NAMI Lake County
Kimberly Knacke, executive director, NAMI Metro-Suburban
Venus Gintowt, co-president, NAMI North West Suburban
Scott Parks, president, NAMI Schaumburg
Marianne Bithos, president, NAMI South Suburbs of Chicago
Tina Mackey, president, NAMI Will-Grundy

Restore cuts

Let us support the call by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, to restore those severe cuts for the homeless, those seven hundred who are without jobs, our most vulnerable citizens. Where is our humanity ?

Angelo Sturino, Park Ridge

We need a budget

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s refusal to pass a state budget will hit our young people hard, particularly less affluent students.

I teach on the South Side of Chicago at Deneen School of Excellence. Starting at preschool, I prepare my students to accomplish their dreams — which includes a college education. I know many of my students will depend on grants like the Monetary Award Program, a grant that is offered to Illinois students in need. These grants can be the difference between students choosing whether or not to go to college. Without a state budget, there is no funding for this program.

Colleges depend on the revenue they receive from these grants. Some of the colleges with large endowments can shift monies around, but schools without this advantage may need to cut programs to keep their lights on.

Chicago State University may close altogether if a budget is not passed soon. They do not have the money to finish the current semester. Northeastern Illinois University’s president recently said that although the school has enough to complete the spring semester, NEIU might also need to shut down without an appropriation soon. I did not attend Chicago State University, but a number of my colleagues and friends did. It would be a travesty if CSU and NEIU were to close.

CSU and NEIU are commuter schools that serve working class communities of color. These young people deserve a college education.

Erma Voss, Auburn-Gresham

Ripping away services

The state budget crisis is tearing apart the web of services that exist for people with disabilities and seniors. Our state government has a responsibility to protect the general welfare, and that includes making sure that mental health services, early intervention, home services and many more are actually in place.

These services are now being ripped away from the communities that need them. When people with disabilities elect public officials, it is our expectation that they will uphold the  Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws that ensure that people with disabilities get a fair chance. Right now, our rights are being threatened by the lack of a budget. We don’t have a spending problem because not enough is spent to make sure that basic needs are met. We have a BUDGET problem and a REVENUE problem, and without a solution to either one, people with disabilities and seniors are essentially being faced with choices that could mean life or death. I urge our elected officials to take immediate action to solve the budget crisis. I am writing on behalf of my son Noah, a 30-year-old man with autism, and the thousands of others who have disabilities in Illinois.

Ellen Garber Bronfeld, Skokie

Community fails children

Lost amidst the ongoing debate on gun access and gun laws, is the “why.” Why are young men and women pulling that trigger? What drove them to the point of desperation that they felt their only way out was shooting someone? Look no further than the trial of Donnell Flora, accused of providing the weapon that his 14-year-old niece used to kill another girl over an argument about a boy.

Family is supposed to be your rock in hard times, not the impetus that drives you to commit murder. A grown man getting on a bus and traveling to the site of an altercation with a weapon for the sole purpose of ending a teenage argument?
The community has failed these children.

Scot Sinclair, Gurnee

Poisoned politically

When an anti-government governor poisons the citizens of Flint to save a few bucks, we are all being poisoned politically.

When an anti-government governor refuses to expand Medicaid to score political points, we are all being denied proper health care.

When an anti-government governor refuses to adopt a budget with sufficient revenue to provide for the needy, we are all being denied responsible government.

Think about that the next time a rich businessman attempts to buy your vote on false promises of prosperity for all.

Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn