Blagojevich looks to give $150 million to stop violence

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If his $25 billion capital proposal passes in the Illinois House, Gov. Rod Blagojevich will have the money to pump $150 million into a new statewide anti-violence program. The program, named Community Investment Works, would fund job growth, community dev

“Every week we’re losing young lives to violence. And the trend is likely to get worse as schools let out and young people have even more free time,” the governor said. Of the total sum, $30 million will provide 20,000 summer jobs in “high need” communities, and $20 million will fund after school and youth mentorship programs.

Twenty-seven of the 39 “high need” communities and towns are in Cook County, and were determined by violence rates. They are: Humboldt Park, Albany Park, Logan Square, Rogers Park, Austin, East Garfield Park, Maywood, West Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Brighton Park, Gage Park, Cicero, Little Village, New City, Southwest Chicago, Auburn-Gresham, Englewood, Grand Boulevard, South Shore, Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, Roseland, Chicago Heights, Harvey, South Chicago, West Pullman and Woodlawn.

“If you talk to most students who are in the legal system, they will tell you that the reason they got in the street or caught up in the life is that they needed to feed their families. It takes a lot of stress off their back, when they know that they made their dollar legally,” said Bryan Echols, executive director of Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization, a youth services program based in Woodlawn.

The remaining $100 million will be accessible through grants; $50 million for organizations that secure neighborhoods by developing empty lots and vacant buildings, $40 million for organizations that promote job growth and $10 million for police departments to buy equipment that boosts public safety. Kim Jackson, executive director of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, said she is pleased with the governor’s holistic approach to addressing crime.

“The money is not for existing options, but to stimulate new options. I know our community needs as many new options as possible. Our issues are multifaceted, and if our issues are multifaceted, we need multifaceted solutions,” she said. Jackson said that LCDC is currently converting a vacant firehouse into a community arts center, and she would have applied for a grant had the money been available earlier.

“I’m glad that (Blagojevich) realized this is something that is definitely needed for our communities, but we would have really appreciated that a lot sooner,” she said. Echols agreed. “There are finally some channels opening up where folks from the neighborhood are getting the ear of people at the top.”

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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