Friday, May 25, 2007

The column he should have written

After Eugene Kane's last column, I said I preferred the sound of the clucking chicken. I complained that it was a column he had to write even though he had nothing substantive to say.

Given a second crack at the column, Kane found something to write about.

These are residents who are mainly law-abiding and non-violent but who understand the rest of the city lumps them in with the criminals in their neighborhood simply because of their proximity to all the mayhem.

When something as horrible as the drive-by shooting of Jasmine Owens happens, these residents want answers from those who can make changes. For them, that means the mayor, the police chief and their local alderman.

In this case, many people want to know what Ald. Willie Hines - who represents the district where Jasmine was killed - thinks should be done to make the community safer.
Unfortunately Kane may have found an angle to the story, but Hines has not.
"Government has no magic pill," said Hines, who is also Common Council president. "Elected officials are only one part of the solution. It has to be a collective effort. Anyone who thinks government can solve the problems by itself is disillusioned."

Fair enough. But I have always believed elected officials do have the responsibility to deliver resources to their constituents. In this case, the resources should be additional police protection.
Kane concludes by not letting Hines off the hook.
As alderman, Hines said, he wants to provide support to the Police Department so it could keep residents safer but also wanted to hold cops accountable for their actions within the community, which seems like a pretty mixed message these days.

In the end, I get the sense powerful people in this city don't have any more answers to the problem than the rest of us.

Maybe it's time to stop waiting for them.
What's one of the biggest frustrations of people outside of Milwaukee's North side? The lack of accountability of elected officials. If you want results, pressure needs to be applied to those that can cause the right things to happen: more police protection, better policing methods, and a judicial system with a philosophy of protecting the public. That means pressure on the mayor, the aldermen, the district attorney and the elected judges.

Meanwhile, Paul Soglin answers Rick Esenberg on violence in the inner city and finds virtue in the Middle Class:
Historically, poor communities, while less safe than wealthy communities, have not always been violent. Similarly, there are many once wealthy, or at least middle class neighborhoods, that fell to the onslaught of both violence and poverty. The very neighborhoods in Milwaukee with the highest violence are examples of the latter.

Many fine neighborhoods with a culture that respected and valued work, community, family, education, and in some instances faith, fell under the pressure of poverty and crime. Good people lived there. They had the culture and the values.

What they did not have was the will. They lacked the will to fight as their community was challenged. Some gave up and fled sooner than others.

We call it middle class flight. It is not white flight; it is not black flight. Anyone with the resources and the means left. And with it, went many of the moral standard bearers. A vacuum was created and a culture of violence filled it.

As the middle class blacks left for the same reason as their white counterparts, they took with them the leadership that is needed in the public schools, the playgrounds and the workplace.
Nice to know the bourgeoisie has some redeeming characteristics, even in Soglin's eyes. But I think the economic argument at best is screwing up cause and effect, that the values of the middle class are those that make those families middle class rather than consign them to poverty.

The economic argument certainly doesn't answer the questions we might have. Why the surge of crime now during relative prosperity? Why is it that poverty stricken areas in the past did not have this level of crime? How much of it is cultural, and are the cultural factors contributing to long-term and entrenched poverty within certain segments of our society? And what do we do in the meantime?