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Chicago Is Losing Its National Clout, But Fight For Our City Is On

By Mark Konkol | November 10, 2016 5:12am
 About 30 people gathered Sunday at the corner of 63rd Street and King Drive for an anti-violence rally. Lunden Gregory (2nd from right, in light blue coat) is holding the weekly gatherings to create an
About 30 people gathered Sunday at the corner of 63rd Street and King Drive for an anti-violence rally. Lunden Gregory (2nd from right, in light blue coat) is holding the weekly gatherings to create an "MLK Peace Chain" in response to the violence in the area.
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DNAinfo/ Josh McGhee

CHICAGO — For many Chicagoans, the presidential election results landed like a sucker punch that knocks the wind out of you and makes your eyes water.

If that’s you, catch your breath.

Wipe your face.

Stop obsessing on the big picture — the stuff you can’t control.

Chicago has more pressing troubles than the guy moving into the White House.

Our city’s generations-long problems are the stuff that a liberal African-American president from Kenwood and his former chief of staff-turned-mayor haven’t been able to fix.

Eight years after President Barack Obama’s historic victory, Chicago remains a violent city starkly divided by class and race.

Remember, a week after performing at Obama’s second inauguration, King College Prep majorette Hadiya Pendleton, an honor student, was shot and killed near the school.

First lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya's funeral. President Obama mentioned her in his 2013 State of the Union address in a plea to end gun violence.

Still, the shooting in Chicago hasn't stopped.

Now, some people at City Hall would like you to think that hiring more cops and putting new “reforms” in place after police got caught lying to cover up the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, who officer Jason Van Dyke shot with all 16 bullets in his gun until the black teenager was dead, is a sign of progress.

Here’s the reality: Shootings and murders are up. And the Chicago Police Department continues to solve fewer than a third of murders. About 90 percent of people who shoot someone escape criminal charges.

Court settlements negotiated by City Hall continue to establish de facto policies that harbor a “Thin Blue Line” code of silence in our Police Department.

How do we know? Listen to the audio and video of the police shooting that killed unarmed African-American teenager Paul O’Neal in July.

Police officers strapped with body cameras still fired shots at a stolen car as it sped down a residential block on the South Side. O’Neal was killed by a bullet that hit him in the back while he was running away.

The attorney representing O’Neal’s family, according to the Tribune, accused the officer of turning off his body camera. He used the word “cover-up.”

Still, the U.S. Justice Department hasn’t included City Hall’s role in creating policies that protect the code of silence in its investigation of the policies and practices of a Police Department that most Chicagoans still don’t trust.

Violence and police misconduct are divisive issues that get a lot of media attention, but they're not all that trouble Chicago.

One could argue that under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, the great canyon separating the rich and powerful from the poor and forgotten continues to widen in our town.

Other than a soap factory in Pullman and a fancy organic grocery in Englewood, people living on the South and West sides of town continue to abide in decay.

There is little sign that City Hall has made any serious effort to breathe life into the vast swaths of land abandoned by industry that employed entire neighborhoods.

This year, 48 high-rise building tower cranes — 31 more than 2011, the mayor boasts — have dotted the skyline in the rich part of town.

One high-rise developer quoted in a City Hall spin machine release said his Streeterville residential tower serves as a “catalyst for additional investment and symbolizing the growing appeal of Downtown as a home for future generations of Chicagoans.”

A home for “future rich Chicagoans” would have been closer to the truth.

You won’t find one of those tower cranes on Chicago’s largest vacant lot, the 589-acre former U.S. Steel property in South Chicago that has been abandoned for decades

It’s lakefront property, for crying out loud.

Donald Trump won the presidency without winning the popular vote. That’s an outcome beyond our control.

The future of our city is not.

But we’re on our own.

On Tuesday, when the policies of Clinton-era Democrats — many that were orchestrated and pushed by Emanuel — were soundly rejected nationally, Chicago lost its clout in Washington.

The influence Emanuel had in the Obama administration that landed the presidential library in Jackson Park and marked Pullman a National Monument ends on Inauguration Day.

Now, the best we can do is to fight to make Chicago the kind of city that we hope against hope our nation will become one day — a place that’s more socially tolerant and less segregated.

We can pressure our leaders to break long-standing, racists traditions and make Chicago an economically diverse city where the rigged criminal justice system no longer blatantly targets poor minorities and covers for dirty cops.

If we want to live in a city that doesn’t tolerate racists and misogynists, pushes to break glass ceilings and educates all its children equally, even if they live in parts of town that our leaders have abandoned for generations, we can’t let an Election Day punch in the gut stop us.

Catch your breath. Wipe your face.

Keep fighting for our city.

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