I would like to address some statements Ms. Jones made in her Viewpoints column, June 5 [Why the Brach site shouldn’t become a high school]. Why you would compare the Austin community to a small white town in Virginia?

According to the Danville, Va. website, 65.18 percent are white and 33.01 percent are black. Total population 108, 685, majority are white females, 52.84 percent compared to males 47.16 percent (Source: US Census, 2000 and 2006).

Austin is predominantly black and slowly changing. Plus, our elected officials allow Brach’s candy factory to remain abandoned for almost a decade-without protecting it or boarding it up from drug dealers, spray painters and prostitutes. Our elected officials have turned a blind eye and allowed anyone who wants to get into the facilities. Alderman [Ed] Smith (28th Ward) wasted time without calling the community into action to see what they wanted. Ald. Smith did not call the company to say, “Your facilities need to board up their windows and make sure nobody has access to Brach’s.” There should be a heavy fine each and every day it’s not secure.

Also, I want to point out in her other column, June 19 [A black entertainment district fits the Brach site best], Ms. Jones is in favor of a casino and hotel at the Brach site. Ms. Jones, you are at it again. Don’t believe the hype of Ms. Jones. She just wants to get her groove back.

The reality is, Ms. Jones, this is not about you, nor Showtime at the Apollo. It’s about the best interests of our kids and what benefits them, period-and that is a state-of-the-art high school at the former Brach’s candy factory.

Please, Ms. Jones, let me ask you a couple of questions. Have you seen the contract regarding the deal between ML Realty and Ald. Smith? Do you know the reason why this current plan between the distributor and Ald. Smith has been tabled by the planning committee? And finally, did you talk to or get a chance to meet with Ald. Smith regarding the Brach site? If so, you should have a little more knowledge of what we are talking about.

How do a casino and hotel serve as a solution? Please allow me to answer it for you: A casino adds more problems than solutions. It will have a big burden in Austin and its economic future, with foreclosure rates skyrocketing, that will be the least of your problems.

In the study titled, “Business Profitability vs. Social Profitability: Evaluating Industries with Externalities, the Case of Casinos,” economists Earl Grinols and David Mustard used an economic cost-benefit analysis and found “the cost of casinos are at least 1.9 times greater than the benefits.” In other words, one dollar’s worth of casino profits and other social benefits costs taxpayers at least $1.90 in “cost-creating activities such as crime, suicide, and bankruptcy,” and the expensive social problems engendered by “problem and pathological gamblers.”

Casinos increase crime in their host counties and crime spills over into neighboring counties to increase crime in border areas. “Casinos create crime, rather than attract it from elsewhere,” they found. In 1996, the last year for which statistics were available at the time of their study, “casinos accounted for 10.3 percent of violent crimes and 7.7 percent of property crime in casino counties.” Auto theft is the crime that increased the most. Robberies increased by 20 percent, despite increased expenditures by law enforcement agencies after casinos opened.

For example, the total number of crimes within a 30-mile radius of Atlantic City increased by 107 percent in the nine years following the introduction of casinos to Atlantic City, same for other cities. The crimes include rape, murder, larceny and grand theft auto. Crime in American counties with casinos has fallen at a slower rate than it has in non-gambling counties.

Currently, you are facing a prostitution, liquor store, gang and drug problem that stretches from Harrison to Division and to Cicero. These problems are moving westward. Why would you give them latitude to stay in our community? With a high school at Brach’s, it will curb some of these problems we are having on Cicero. Maybe the liquor and cellphone store on the corner would go away, or be forced out of the community. Having a high school at the Brach site at least provides hope and change for the future of our children.

(Source: Neighborhood Against the Parkway Casino)