A casino the better choice for Brach site

I’ve been following the Brach debate that has been waged by Austin residents and activists. I’m personally still in favor of a casino at the Brach’s site, mainly because a high school would not bring jobs to average Austin residents. How many high schools do we have in a one-mile radius from one another? We are blessed to have Westinghouse High School in neighboring Humboldt Park, and Christ the King Jesuit High School is currently being built in Austin. Some in the debate have said children from one community will not accept children from another community. I sort of agree. However, how do we explain children dropping out of high school in their own wards, precincts and school districts? The last time I was at the casino-and I dare not say which one-I saw religious, political and community leaders there. Were they there gambling or conducting research? You be the judge. If a casino is built in downtown Chicago all you “cry baby activists” are going to pull your hairs out while yelling “racism.” It’s also disheartening when an Austin pastor publicly attacks a civilian journalist just because her views differ from his. Wow, have we sunk that low in this noble debate? Back in the day when crime was high, we had taverns on every street corner. Now we literally have a church on almost every street corner, and crime is even higher. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And who came up with the stupid idea that a high school would bring jobs for Austin residents? A high school would create jobs for people with degrees and advanced diplomas, which most Austin residents do not have. The only jobs left would be cleaning the floors and toilets, and some pseudo security guard positions. Half of the Brach site should have been turned into a casino. The other half should have been converted to a trade university for ex-offenders, most of whom are high school dropouts lacking real life employment skills.

Rev. Jim Allen

Guns keep us safe

In England, Wales and Australia, nearly 75 percent of homes are broken into while in America it’s closer to 3 percent [What are your feelings about gun control? Street Beat, July 10]. Criminals are not dumb-America is armed.

Fred Bradford
Submitted at www.AustinWeeklyNews.com

Youth suffering from state budget crisis

On behalf of human service agencies statewide, I want to express my distress over the public safety and health crisis caused by state budget cuts made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Half of the funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention programming in the state has been eliminated, and $11 million of these cuts are targeted at youth and special populations in need of assistance. We are now facing a serious public health crisis, one that will have a devastating impact on our most vulnerable: kids. Statewide, agencies are being forced to reduce programs, or cut them all together. As a result, our kids are once again getting the short end of the stick. At Youth Outreach Services, we will now have to turn away more than 1,200 youth and families throughout Cook County in need of substance abuse treatment each year, including 400 kids in Austin. And we are not alone. Thousands of kids impacted by dozens of agencies statewide will face the same problem. These kids will have nowhere to turn and will be at greater risk of illness, gangs and violence. Many will end up in more costly treatment systems, such as hospitals and jails. It is illogical to make funding cuts that will cost the state and tax payers more in the long run. Most importantly, it is detrimental to make funding cuts that put the safety of kids and families in jeopardy. Political feuding in Illinois gets nastier each year, and the consequences are becoming more and more destructive to Illinois’ citizens. The real victims of this budget crisis need elected officials to get back to work and do everything necessary to avoid this public health tragedy in our communities.

Rick Velasquez
Executive Director, Youth Outreach Services

Wishing for the best

Delores, we are wishing you a speedy recovery [Austin Weekly News reporter battling cancer, July 17]. We met you in December 2007 with our daughter, Siedah, in Oak Park. I remember your encouraging words to our daughter. That was Siedah’s last interview she did for Wednesday Journal and the Austin Weekly News. We pray that God gives you the strength to endure the process.

Dora Sivels
Submitted at www.AustinWeeklyNews.com

(Siedah Sivels, 21, lost her battle with cancer on March 30, 2008)

A lost opportunity for Austin’s children

Make no mistake about it-the city council’s recent passage of a $10.6 million tax incremental financing giveaway to ML Realty is a major setback for the future of the Austin community. We will all regret this deal, and the loss of the Brach 25-acre site for a new high school campus, for decades to come. Our political leadership on the West Side failed to seize the moment. More than half of Austin’s students must travel outside of the community for high school. That is a major problem. Many must cross into unwelcoming neighborhoods as an educational barrier. To not have a large, quality high school in Chicago’s most populated community is a crisis, especially given Austin’s high dropout rate, gang and drug challenges, and teen pregnancies. Altogether, the missed opportunity for a major education campus at the Brach site is a tragedy and travesty. We know that the vision of a large, attractive educational environment for all the children in Austin, and the greater West Side, was more than possible-had the political and community leadership been on one accord. What a wasted movement. The 25 acres of land supplied at the Brach site simply does not exist anywhere else in the community. Well, everyone agrees, publicly, that Austin needs and deserves what was envisioned for that site. We must now move quickly to identify and acquire the next best location. For some of us, we have the ability to afford options other than the public schools for our children. But every child in Austin deserves access to an equal, high-quality education. Shame on us for not moving in concert to respond to this crisis. A summer summit to build on our momentum is in order now. Let’s stay away from the personality conflict and look toward our collective legacy. Let’s get moving now. Our children and our future cannot wait.

Rev. Marshall E. Hatch