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Preckwinkle: More money for summer jobs for youth in high-crime areas

Monday, June 18, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Saying “we have to do more to halt violence in our neighborhoods,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Monday that $120,000 will be funneled to a city-county summer youth jobs program for Chicago kids living in high-crime areas.

That’s in addition to the $145,000 in grant money the county has directed to “One Summer Plus” a city-county initiative that Preckwinkle says will benefit 700 Chicago teens attending more than a dozen schools “with the highest risk of violence.”

All told, the $265,000 from the county will be used to pay for the mentoring part of the jobs program. Kids will be paired with a mentor who will advise them on a range of issues, including what to expect at a jobsite, as well as ensuring they’re getting to work on time.

It’s the county doing its part to help kids who live in communities plagued by violence, Preckwinkle said.

“This has been a very troubling summer in terms of the level of violence, particularly on our weekends. I dread reading the Monday morning papers, to see how many people have been shot and how many, particularly young people, have lost their lives,” she said, citing a Sun-Times story about 16-year-old girl killed in the West Englewood neighborhood. “And when you’re faced with that kind of spike in violence you need to figure out what you can do to be supportive of the efforts to reduce it, and this is one of the things we’re going to do,” she said, adding at one point: “We have to do more to halt violence in our neighborhoods.”

Asked whether the program would help kids deep in gang activity, Preckwinkle said it may not — but it may steer kids on the margins in the right direction.

“This program might not impact those who have made a deliberate choice to engage in criminal or anti-social conduct, but there are all kinds of kids kind of around the edges,” she said.

Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Southwest Side Democrat, told reporters he got his first summer job under the Richard J. Daley summer program in the late 1960s and can “truly appreciate” the importance of increasing funding for the program.

“There are many young people throughout the city who desperately need an opportunity to do good things during the summer,” Garcia said, as he stood next to the late mayor’s son, Commissioner John Daley.

The added $120,000 in taxpayer money Preckwinkle announced comes from a county fund used to provide matching dollars for any grant money the county receives, according to county Budget Director Andrea Gibson.

“We’ve often said a kid only gets to be 16 or 17 one time and for someone to have an opportunity to have a job — maybe the first time they’ve had a job — could be a turning point in their life,” said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, a North Side Democrat.

Gainer had proposed using an unexpected $160,000 — to date — in amusement tax receipts to the county from Lollapalooza ticket sales for summer youth jobs. The money is coming in to the county after music festival organizers agreed to stop asking for a tax exemption — a free ride highlighted in a Sun-Times report last year.

But Preckwinkle said that would require cutting through bureaucratic red tape and reopening budget proceedings.

One Summer Plus falls under the multi-million dollar One Summer Chicago umbrella, which is touted as a partnership of local government, community groups and non-profits, whose goal is to provide 17,000 summer jobs and 168,000 “educational and recreational opportunities” to keep young people ages 6 to 24, according to the city’s website.

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