CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to take sides Thursday in the verbal jousting over street gangs between Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Kirk has said he wants U.S. Attorney nominee Zachary Fardon to focus on taking down the 18,000-member Gangster Disciples street gang if and when the Senate confirms Fardon as the next top federal prosecutor in Chicago.
Kirk has said he would work to get $30 million in new funding for the U.S. Attorney’s office to target street gangs, especially the Gangster Disciples, after two of its members were charged with the murder of honor student Hadiya Pendleton.
In an interview with the Sun-Times, Rush said Kirk’s idea was an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.”
The mayor said it should not be a choice between spending $30 million on street gang prosecutions as Kirk suggests, or using the money for job creation and after-school programs, as Rush told the Sun-Times.
“Doing the types of things you need to do to give kids a safe alternative, like midnight basketball … or making sure that we also have stiff penalties so people paid a consequence for their crimes; it’s not either-or. That’s what the ’95 crime bill showed. You have to do both,” Emanuel said.
The mayor said the city needs both a tough local and federal crackdown on gangs, as well as jobs and youth programs like the city’s so-called “midnight basketball” program, which seeks to get young men off the streets and into supervised late night basketball programs
“These are good kids. If given the choice, they’ll pick the right choice … which is basketball on a Friday and Saturday night, not on the street corner in the city; with an adult who cares about them and nurtures them,” he said. “On the other hand, we have people – gang members – who are treating our streets as if it’s their personal shooting gallery. That’s not. Those streets belong to our citizens, and our children, and our families.”