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Friday, July 16, 2010

What Does It Take to Get Your Attention?

I am haunted by the stream of stories I read about Kansas City and the escalating homicide rate this summer. I currently reside in Camden, NJ - which is supposed to be the crime capital of the nation. Camden is a walk in the park compared to KC! The only reason KC does not end up higher on the crime rankings is because the city has more people. If crime rankings were crimes per square mile instead of crimes per 1000 people, KC would probably be #1.

61 homicides and counting and this is only July. Staggering. And much of the crime is east of Troost, through Brookside and South KC get their share too. However, the violence on the eastside is waaaaaaay out of whack. Nary a word is spoken about this. Not from the Mayor, city council, or civic leaders. Words are spoken by The Call, Alvin Brooks, various neighborhood and activist leaders. But it is only whistling in the wind. No one with any power is hearing us.

I have watched the crime and violence center in the south 80's and move to the mid 50's. Now the violence is moved to the high 30's. Yep, it is getting too close to my neighborhood and I don't like it, no sir, not one bit.

Meanwhile the Northeast has been blazing for some time and I hope that doesn't move south. I have no desire to be in the middle of two war zones. I have no idea where the violence is coming from, but I have an idea it is gangs and drugs, domestic violence, and the result of a great deal of frustration. In case the rest of the city hasn't noticed - there are no jobs, period. I'm so sick of various national political voices suggesting that people are not interested in working. People in my neighborhood would love to work IF THERE WERE JOBS available to them.

I seem to recall that the Mayor touted New Tools for Economic Development to foster assistance to the Eastside. Haven't really seen ANYTHING resulting from that gravy train except some bucks for the favored consultants. Our city council people are doing NOTHING substantial to stop the violence or improve economic opportunity.

I don't like the Tea Bags, but I really couldn't care less about them. People are dying in the streets and we spend time on a bunch of political sniping???? Have we become so callous that murders and shooting don't garner any attention? We don't need candlelight vigils, we don't need prayer vigils. What is needed is jobs and direction.

One of the efforts underway is the group "I am my Brother's Keeper" that organizes neighborhood action and the July event "Taking it to the Street". While it is a real gesture, it is preaching to the choir. Time to take the conversation out of the 'hood and into the boardrooms.

I understand how KC politics works - it has often been described as "parking lot politics" meaning that it works on informal networks of people talking, planning, and then acting. It is often out of sight, fraught with deal making, and compromised to death. It works in KC and is unlikely to change any time soon. So if those of us who are fed up with the violence and death in KC want to change things, then maybe we need to be "Taking it to the Parking Lot" and buttonhole every pol and civic leader in KC to get some traction. What KC leaders don't like is to be embarrassed in public and called on the carpet. They will respond to requests and suggestions that will enable them to be seen in a good light.

It is election season and this is a once in 4 years opportunity to work the parking lot politics. See you on the asphalt. Let's get this done.

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