West Side group says new tax needed to help stop the violence

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The Greater Austin Independent Political Organization wants to know if you’d be willing to give up a cup of coffee a day to fund programs that might curb the violence on Chicago’s West and South sides.

Residents from both sides of Chicago met earlier this month at New Vision Church, 3718 W. Chicago Ave., to share ideas on how to improve the quality of life in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

The Greater Austin IPO is proposing a 1.5 percent tax on city income, which organizer Jason Lee said could raise an additional $1.2 billion in revenue for the financially strapped city. That money could be used to create more than 26,000 jobs with livable wages in some of the city’s neediest communities, Lee said.

The tax would work out to $900 a year on an income of $60,000.

“If our household made $60,000 a year, we’d basically have to give up $2.50 a day to create this program. So we’d have to give up a medium iced latte from Dunkin Donuts every day,” Lee said. “Now I’m not saying that’s not a sacrifice, but think about what we’d be able to get.”

The Greater Austin IPO was formed after Tara Stamps’ unsuccessful run last year for alderman in the 37th Ward, held by Ald. Emma Mitts.

But Stamps and her volunteers said they still feel an obligation to the community to keep raising awareness of the issues the voters told her were important during the 2015 campaign, as reported by Austin Talks.

Other ideas shared at the meeting included improving education and employment opportunities, strengthening spiritual connections, better training and increased presence for Chicago police officers, and youth mentorship programs.

Some participants talked about the need for more grassroots efforts to improve relationships with their neighbors to help offer young people some guidance away from violence.

Jose Rueda, a Humboldt Park resident whose son was shot to death earlier this year, said he has joined with other neighbors to go out to the streets to talk to young people and other families who have lost loved ones.

“We have been standing out on corners talking to gang bangers, talking to the community, to try and get them to get our streets back and find alternatives for young people to find jobs and get an education,” Rueda said.

“I know what it is to lose a child to the violence. And I also know what it is to go to a police station to get answers and not get listened to.”

The number of shootings in Chicago has already surpassed last year’s totals, with still over a month left in 2015.

As of Nov. 22, there were 2,689 shooting victims in Chicago, up from 2,587 during all of 2014, according to the Chicago Tribune.

DNAinfo.com has reported 43 murders in Austin so far this year, 38 of which came as a result of shootings.

Austin resident Demitra Kelly said she volunteered for the Greater Austin IPO because she wants a future for her children where they’ll be able to live “normal” lives.

“I don’t let my kids go anywhere without me. Period,” Kelly said.

“I want my children to be able to live normal lives. I want my children to be able to go to the corner store to buy sodas and chips, and meet their neighbors and other teens that are in the neighborhood like normal kids. My kids don’t even know other kids their own age in their own neighborhood.”

The Greater Austin IPO will meet next at 10 a.m. Dec. 12 at the PCC Austin Family Health Center, 5425 W. Lake St.

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