Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh to to cry about Chicago:
Two summers ago a home invasion by gang members on the city’s South Side went wrong when one of the robbers shot another one in the back of the head, according to Chicago police. Sixteen-year-old Douglas Bufford was killed, and 19-year-old Jermalle Brown was charged with first-degree murder. His trial begins on Aug. 15, and it may attract more attention than usual in a city plagued by violent crime, just as his arrest did. Why? Because at the time of the shooting, Douglas Bufford and Jermalle Brown were also on the Illinois state payroll, earning $8.50 an hour to hand out antiviolence pamphlets.
Remember: when you pay a thug not to hurt you or destroy your property, it’s extortion. When you pay a thug to distribute pamphlets, it’s an antiviolence program.
More gallows humor:
Down the grant chain, there was little more accountability. Benton Cook, who led two NRI programs, to the tune of $4.15 million, for the Chicago Area Project, had a felony record for writing bad checks in Tennessee, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He was paid $146,000 over two years as a program coordinator at the Chicago Area Project—a social-services organization for preventing juvenile delinquency that was selected as a recipient of NRI funds despite owing the state more than $200,000 for a failed summer-jobs program in 2008.
Other NRI expenses included hiring a petting zoo and ponies for an event and a $1,000 golf outing, according to the state audit report. One organization used NRI funds to pay back taxes from four years earlier, the investigators found. Work programs—including the one that hired Jermalle Brown and Douglas Bufford—paid young people to distribute antiviolence pamphlets promoting, among other activities, striving for “inner peace” and attending yoga classes.
Project Hope, another recipient of NRI funds, was supposed to help young ex-inmates avoid recidivism. But the Sun-Times found that the nonprofit was operating out of a day-care center in a suburb of Chicago other than the community the grant was supposed to serve. Nor could the organization show what it had done with its $15,770 grant, according to the paper.
Of course, the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative’s $54.5 million does come from tax revenues but it’s chump change. You’ve got to wonder about the untold (and unaudited) billions that are flowing from the pockets of Illinois citizens into who knows whose pockets.