So, I've spent a lot of time this week after returning from Mexico catching up on what I missed out on. I was up-to-date on the World Cup, but I had been oblivious to everything else that happened for the two weeks I was gone.
The first shock when I came back was the horrible 4th of July weekend Chicago had, during which 82 people were shot and 16 of those victims had died. The Twitterverse responded rather quickly, using the hashtag "FixingChicago" as a way of generating awareness and share ideas on how to change the city. The issues range from violence to education and are all tangled up together in a web of politics, racism, and money.
Now, I've led a pretty good life on the North Side of the city, but I don't think that bars me from believing that something needs to change and having an opinion about maybe how we should go about doing that. It disgusts me how a city I love, at city in which I have spent most of my life, can be so broken. I'm not a first-hand witness to a lot of what goes on, but I'd love to try. I mean, at this point I think we're pretty desperate. 16 dead is 16 not alive and is 16 too many for the 21st century.
So there's a lot going on in Chicago all at once. But before we say "I spot a problem, let's do this and hope it'll go away," as we have done in the past, maybe we should look at how all these problems are related and find the most efficient way to go about solving everything. Yes, everything. I'm out to save the world, I think you should join me for the ride.
Now, hold on. Let's just make a nifty list of what these shifting problems, we'll call them variables so it's like math, are: gun violence, access to education, and public transportation are the biggies, at least that I see.
Now, let's dissect them, starting from the bottom:
Public transportation is a biggie because without it, a lot of people can't get around to school or work or wherever they need to go to be able to support themselves and prepare for their futures. It's a big deal. And when Ventra was launched, it was a hassle but ended up being pretty good to CPS kids, it's 75 cents a ride, with 15-cent transfers. Not terrible. But this summer, despite many kids being involved in school-related activities such as sports or summer classes, or having internships or jobs that'll have a great impact on their post-high school lives, the CTA bumped prices back up to full fare for students. But even when it is at a reduced price, the CTA doesn't go everywhere. There are areas of the city that are in desperate need of a bus service, but I haven't heard anything about that. So public transportation's a biggie that isn't being handled very well at the moment.
Education is a biggie for what I hope are obvious reasons, but let's look at how it's impacted by public transportation and how it impacts gun violence to really get a sense of what's going on. So, like mentioned earlier, CTA dropped the ball on fares for students this summer, and a lot of kids rely on public transit to get to school. Like, a lot a lot. So there's that. And also, it's been pretty much proven that when kids are in school (good, safe schools, specifically), they have less time to do other things like getting involved with the wrong people and the wrong things. But with all the recent school closings and budget cuts, students have been forced to travel farther (amplifying the dependence upon public transportation and the issues with it not being accessible by all students), which also means more time on trains and buses and less time studying. Education is powerful, we've learned it from Malala Yousafzai. It amazes me that people still don't understand this. If anything Chicago, a 131-year-old city, should know by now. So education's also a biggie.
Violence is a biggie because it's what's caused outsiders to call us "Chi-raq," what's made residents afraid, and what, most strikingly, has killed way too many mothers, sons, fathers and daughters. Now, it's also a biggie because it's what sparked the whole #FixingChicago movement a few short days ago. It riles people up, it provides hard data, and it needs to stop. And the thing is, I believe it can. With the new awareness this tragedy has generated, maybe it's time that people will start looking for a new, multi-faceted approach to truly fixing Chicago. The bandaid approach of patching up little issues here and there just isn't cutting it anymore. And in my opinion, starting from the bottom, with public transportation and education, it's possible to change the culture around here. So, I say, let's get kids to school in a fast, safe way, and then let's actually teach them some things with teachers who are well-qualified and want to be there, and then let's let them work out their own problems and make their own decisions. I feel like the numbers will drop.
So, that's my quirky kind-of-solution-but-more-like-an-explanation of what I think needs to happen and is currently going on in my city. These are my biggies, but there are many more issues, like medical care and food deserts, homelessness and minimum wage. So, forgive me, if I left out one of your biggies and you're upset. Maybe it's a good thing you're upset because maybe it'll inspire you to come up with your own kind-of-solution-but-more-like-an-explanation and share it with the world.