Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Obama vs Dart – who’s the focal point as Chicago copes w/ urban violence

First Lady Michelle Obama was in Chicago this past weekend; partaking in the public mourning for Hadiya Pendleton – the teenager who has become the symbol for innocent victims getting caught in the crossfire of urban violence.
OBAMA: The "big" gun, so to speak

She met with the family, and tried to create the impression that the president himself hasn’t forgotten his home city of the past three decades. He cares!

THAT’S PROBABLY WHY Obama himself plans to be in Chicago on Friday. Just three days after he gives the State of the Union address (with Hadiya’s mother, Cleopatra, expected to be present in Washington), Obama will be present in Chicago to give a State of the City, so to speak.

It will be interesting to see if Obama merely reiterates his recent rhetoric of the need for stricter laws concerning firearms – particularly when it comes to weapons with magazines that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition at a time.

Or will he come up with something genuinely relevant to Chicago? While the firearms restrictions might be a legitimate point, the fact is that they are a divisive issue. Keeping the focus there might solely turn Hadiya Pendleton’s smiling face into some sort of symbol that the conservative ideologues will demonize.

They’ll probably argue that if Pendleton could have had some sort of weapon, she could have shot at her attacker (even though that attacker likely wasn’t within clear sight of the girl).

BUT THIS IS a case where I’m not sure Obama is the official who needs to be most active. I realize that the South Side activist types have been crying and whining for days that Obama needs to be a physical presence in Chicago to counter the violent images, and that this visit on Friday will go a long way toward appeasing them.

But when Obama is in Chicago that day, I’m wondering if more significant activity will be taking place in Gary, Ind.
DART: Getting overshadowed?

That is where Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he plans to be on that day. What he says he hopes to accomplish is some sort of meeting with law enforcement officials.

Because while many Indiana residents like to denigrate Chicago and Illinois by claiming we’re a violent cesspool, Illinois people like to think that all the firearms being used for this violence are coming from Indiana.

SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE THE Hoosier state has lesser restrictions on actually purchasing a weapon – making it possible for people to legally buy a weapon there, then surreptitiously allow them to “fall into” the hands of people who could not legally get a weapon.

Dart’s office uses the statistic from the University of Chicago Crime Lab that 20 percent of all firearms seized by Chicago Police since 2008 could be traced back specifically to Indiana.

I’m not saying that’s true or false. There probably is an element of legitimacy to it – yet I also realize that a statistic can be found to verify the legitimacy of just about anything that someone wants to believe.

The idea that law enforcement officials in both states are ignoring the tendency to blame each other, and are actually getting together to possibly work on the problem is something of significance.

PERHAPS MORE SIGNIFICANT than the idea of the president making an address that will get public attention for a few seconds – until the news cycle spins on and we become more concerned about whether or not the Chicago Bulls will actually matter this season!

Personally, I’m interested to see the public reaction to the dueling events.

For the Associated Press reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy were invited by Dart to join him in Gary in meeting with that city’s police chief, Wade Ingram, and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

Why do I have a hard time envisioning Obama’s former chief of staff venturing to Gary to be with Dart when the president himself is in town? And why do I suspect he won’t be alone – in that a lot of people will be lured into the pomp and circumstance of the president rather than substance?


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