You rock. No, you rock. OK, we all rock.
The biggest kudos went to the team charged by Mayor Jim Kenney to come up with a new violence-reduction plan in 100 days, which I guess by city standards is a tight deadline.
But then consider that in those same 100 days it took them to come up with “The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities,” 440 people were shot in Philadelphia and 117 of them were killed.
Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who expressed cautious optimism about the sweeping initiatives, knew one of the people who died during that time, a man whom he’d bump into on a corner not far from his Wynnefield home while the councilman walked his dog in the mornings. Jones was just about to start his workday. The man was just ending his. He didn’t want to be on that corner, he told Jones. He wanted a job but was having trouble finding one. Jones said he would help. The man was gunned down a few months later.
It’s awful, and further proof that we don’t have time to waste. And yet, as awful as any one death is or the 351 deaths that we had in 2018, I’d be a lot less cynical right now if what was presented last week inspired some sort of renewed hope that City Hall was actually going to hold people and programs accountable — in our lifetime. Before we add $4 million more to the $13 million we already drop on antiviolence programs. I’d definitely be a lot less disgusted that public officials keep dusting off old reports and tired ideas and expecting applause.
Let’s start with all the claims that this plan is new. It is not. I mean, there are some new faces feeding at the public trough of violence prevention funding, but. . . . The much-touted new community crisis intervention program strikes me as Philadelphia CeaseFire 2.0, that other community crisis-intervention program. The Police Department will continue to use a combination of “intelligence-based and community-oriented policing,” but now we have something called “Operation Pinpoint”?
Pinpoint me this: Who thought that declaring violence a public health problem was somehow revolutionary? One more time for the folks in the back: Violence is a public health epidemic. Full stop.
Even one of the photos in the 32-page report, of a group of black young men in blue caps and gowns, was used in a previous violence-prevention report released under the Nutter administration . . . in 2013. Though that one was 55 pages, so clearly someone sprung for an editor this time. (They also used a photo from one of my Fill the Steps Against Gun Violence events, which was actually kind of awww. ...)
Recycled ideas and photos aren’t the most offensive thing about the latest iteration. I’d like some new ideas, but maybe we wouldn’t be on the hunt for “new” if we had proper oversight of the old. We definitely don’t need more reports. And for the love of taxpayers across this city, we don’t need to hire any more “experts.” What we need is follow-through and accountability, transparency and honesty. We need to fail fast, as the business types love to say, because this is literally life and death.
We have long known what the problems are -- they were right there in the latest report: crushing poverty, generational trauma, not enough access to opportunities or jobs, too much access to guns, too little coordination between programs that already exist, and not enough or any, really, accountability or measurement of their effectiveness. That’s something the city is still working on and will apparently be working on forever and ever, amen.
What is really troubling -- obscene, really -- is the pageantry of false promises and exaggerated progress, while families bury their dead.
And yet, hand to Baby Jesus, I am rooting for this latest effort. I’m even rooting for the people who have convinced themselves that renaming old efforts is progress, that their plan is better than the last plan and the one before that. That I am a cynical meanie. Prove me wrong!
I agreed with the few people who conceded that the plan wasn’t new or perfect, but were willing to give it a chance. I actually like many of the initiatives. I liked them last time, too. As long as we’re honest about the efforts.
And if they aren’t working, do like singer Ariana Grande and say, “Thank U, Next.” Every wasted moment, every failing initiative is a life potentially lost.