Austin calls report of remarks on Kirk a ‘flagrant misrepresentation’
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org June 5, 2013 11:04AM
Updated: June 5, 2013 11:08AM
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) on Wednesday characterized as a “flagrant misrepresentation” her suggestion that U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) may have been suffering from the aftereffects of the devastating stroke that sidelined him for a year when he suggested the mass arrest of 18,000 Gangster Disciples.
“I want to let people know that my late husband died of a massive heart attack (TIA) and I dare not take any occasion to make mockery of any potentially debilitating or fatal medical ailment,” Austin said in a prepared statement.
“The newsworthy content is that Senator Kirk and Congressman Rush will meet [again] to discuss ... addressing the rising homicides, violence and anti-social behaviors happening around the country and specifically on the streets of Chicago. I strongly hold to the merit that money well-spent must include resources that will soundly deter the lure of crime gripping our communities in both the short- and long-term. No further comment!”
Confronted prior to Wednesday’s City Council meeting with a recording of her own words, Austin angrily refused to discuss the issue. She blamed a Chicago Sun-Times reporter for misinterpreting her comments and instructed the reporter to “get away from me.”
The controversy stems from remarks that the notoriously outspoken Austin made this week when asked about Kirk’s controversial mass arrest proposal.
Austin, powerful chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee, acknowledged that U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) should have chosen his words more carefully when he called Kirk’s plan an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.”
But Austin was every bit as passionate in her denunciation of Kirk.
“I don’t think it’s a white boy syndrome from the North Side. I don’t make statements like that. I think that’s awful for [Rush] to say something like that. But, nevertheless, maybe the stroke affected” Kirk, she said.
A Sun-Times reporter then asked the aldermen if she truly believes that Kirk’s stroke had anything to do with the mass arrest proposal.
“To make a statement like that — lock up 18,000 African-Americans without a blink — something affected his thinking to make a statement like that,” she said then.
“You say you’re gonna work to find $30 million to lock up 18,000 African-Americans? There are other uses you can have for $30 million. What happened to rehabilitation? All you know how to do is lock up Africans?”
Rush was the first to blast Kirk’s plan, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that it was a “headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic” and “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem” Kirk “knows nothing about.”
Austin agreed — to a point.
“I don’t think he should have made it as racial as he did, but he was just as passionate about it as I am. How dare you?” she said.
“There are gang members who do identify themselves as Gangster Disciples. True enough. But how do you put 18,000 people in that category? I thought that was awful of [Kirk] to say something like that.”
Last week, Kirk asked U.S. Attorney-nominee Zachary Fardon to redouble the battle against street gangs and put the heat on Chicago’s largest gang, the Gangster Disciples.
Kirk said he would ask the Senate Appropriations Committee for $30 million “to go after gangs like the GDs ... and pick the biggest and baddest for a federal effort.”
“I think it’s completely within the capability of the United States government to crush a major urban gang,” Kirk said at a news conference with Fardon and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
“Just think of what the greatest generation did here in Chicago, pretty much crushing the Capone organization.”
Before going public with his plan, which would overwhelmingly affect African-American gang members, Kirk did not seek any buy-in from the three Illinois members of Congress who are black and whose districts would likely be most affected by the sweep.
The three Democrats — Rush, Danny Davis and Robin Kelly have all been critical of Kirk’s idea.
If there is $30 million for Congress to spend, better most of it be allocated for “job creation and job training,” to address the gang problem, Rush said.
Rush’s House district includes communities plagued by gang violence. He said his criticism of Kirk is “not to excuse their activities.”
Rush said an arrest sweep “is not going to work. ... It is not a law and order, lock ‘em up solution.”
Kirk and Rush met Tuesday in Washington to hash out their differences. They agreed to work together on the vexing gang issue with Kirk agreeing to take a tour of crime-ridden Englewood.