CHICAGO – The day after more than 70 community-based organizations joined Governor Rod R. Blagojevich in announcing Community Investment Works, ten well-respected youth advocates and the Governor sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to act swiftly to pass the new plan and help stem the tide of youth violence in Chicago and around Illinois. Community Investment Works is designed to address a range of factors contributing to youth violence, including the lack of employment opportunities, lack of safe social and recreational opportunities, and disengagement from their communities.
“Our communities are in crisis, and we need immediate action,” the letter to lawmakers stated. “We need a budget that works for people. The ongoing violence is tearing our communities apart. You can do something about it. Community Investment Works is simple and is centered on principles the General Assembly has consistently supported”
The plan will include:
$30 million for the Governor’s Summer Youth Employment Program to provide up to 20,000 job opportunities for kids statewide. The majority of positions will be in 39 “high need” communities.
$20 million in grants to community providers for after-school and unattended youth programs that make sure kids have safe and productive options during non-school hours, including evenings.
$100 million to rebuild deteriorating neighborhoods, support local businesses and stimulate job growth in at-risk communities, and equip law enforcement with advanced field technology to boost public safety.
Twenty-four Chicago Public Schools students have been killed this school year by gun violence, with still over a month to go before the school year concludes. Since Sunday, there have been five more reported shootings in Chicago, including one Monday night in which 3-year-old Marshawn Williams was hit by a bullet while playing outside his family’s apartment in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.
Full text of the letter follows:
Dear Honorable Members of the 95th General Assembly:
Yesterday, more than seventy community-based groups joined together to announce Community Investment Works, a historic and immediate plan to stem the tide of youth violence in Chicago and around Illinois. We are now writing to urge you to act quickly to enact this plan as part of the capital bill funding package, and bring lasting peace to our neighborhoods.
Our communities are in crisis, and we need immediate action. Consider that:
With over a month left in this school year, 24 Chicago Public Schools students have already been killed by gun violence. This comes on top of the 24 kids killed last school year.
Since just Sunday, there have been five widely reported shootings in Chicago, including one at approximately 6:15 pm Monday night in which 3-year-old Marshawn Williams was hit by a bullet while playing outside his family’s apartment in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. We are all praying for his recovery. If a 3-year-old was shot in your neighborhood, you would be demanding action too.
This is not just a Chicago issue. Violence negatively affects communities around the state. Data maintained by the Illinois Department of Public Health indicates that 76 kids under the age of 18 were intentionally killed by firearms in 2005.
We need a budget that works for people. The ongoing violence is tearing our communities apart. You can do something about it. Community Investment Works is simple and is centered on principles the General Assembly has consistently supported.
Employ – 20,000 summer jobs for youth under the age of 22. Jobs keep communities vibrant and safe.
Engage - $20 million for community-driven after-school programs. When kids are engaged in self-esteem building activities, they control their own future.
Rebuild - $100 million to rebuild communities, invest in business through community-based organizations, and support public safety efforts.
In a state with a budget in the tens of billions, $150 million is not only achievable, it is money that will make an immediate difference. Support Community Investment Works. Please pass it now.
Rod R. Blagojevich
Father Michael Pfleger Reverend Dr. Richard L. Tolliver
St. Sabina Catholic Church St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church
Steve Cole Robert Howard
President and CEO President and CEO
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago Boys and Girls Club of Chicago
Jose E. Lopez Maria S. Pesqueira
Executive Director President and CEO
Puerto Rican Cultural Center Mujeres Latina en Accion Inc.
Freddy Santiago Terry Solomon, Ph.D.
Pastor Executive Director
Rebano Companerismo Cristiano Illinois African American Family Commission
Jack Wuest Lt. Colonel David E. Grindle
Executive Director Divisional Commander
Alternative School Network Metropolitan Chicago Division Salvation Army