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Lake Shore Drive plan must serve people, not just cars

Updated: September 15, 2013 6:12AM

We agree with a Chicago Sun-Times editorial that Lake Shore Drive’s “primary job is to move traffic.” That includes cars, yes, but within this corridor the number of people on buses, foot and bikes rivals the number traveling in cars. They are “traffic” too. It is also essential that we remember that our lakefront is more than just Lake Shore Drive.

Our region will benefit much more from this multimillion-dollar public investment if we focus on serving people, not just cars. For instance, public transportation can move more people than cars within a limited space. As counterintuitive as it sounds, returning Lake Shore Drive to its roots as a boulevard with slower speeds could also increase the road’s capacity so that it could move more cars while improving safety conditions.

History demonstrates that the result of car-centered planning has simply been more car traffic, and with both ends of Lake Shore Drive emptying cars onto congested neighborhood streets, a car-centric approach makes even less sense.

By creating a people-centered plan that makes the most efficient use of our limited public space, we can improve the driving experience while also providing better access to the lakefront, attracting tourism and business to the city, enhancing the parks, protecting the environment, improving residents’ quality of life and, yes, moving more people.

Chicago, let’s have a people-centered conversation about the future of our lakefront.

Ron Burke, Executive Director, Active Transportation Alliance

Erma Tranter, President, Friends of the Parks

Brian Imus, State Director, Illinois PIRG

MarySue Barrett, President, Metropolitan Planning Council

Momentum working against the failed Drug War

Finally, the criminal justice pendulum starts to swing back toward the middle.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a speech before the American Bar Association that the hallmarks and cornerstones of injustice — racial discrimination, contracting civil liberties, the tying of the hands of federal judges in the sentencing process, and the imposition of three-time-loser laws and mandatory-minimum sentencing for nonviolent criminals and nonviolent drug offenders with reckless abandon as if Americans were made of money to waste on prisons — are about to end.

Unmentioned in press reports of Eric Holder’s speech and the speech itself are the efforts of people like Julie Stewart and organizations like hers, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). For 25 years, these thoughtful organizations have been calling for the reform that is now finally in sight. This reform will put an end to draconian sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders, a public policy pothole that historically collected politicians’ votes, churned public opinion into thoughtless frenzy, wasted limited public revenues, accomplished racially discriminatory arrest, prosecution and incarceration law-enforcement practices, and supported the economic interests of drug gangs and drug cartels that feed off the intolerance of the war on drugs that made violent crime the new incurable American cancer.

Thanks to other organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Students for a Sensible drug Policy (SSDP), National Organization Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Marijuana Policy Project (MMP), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and many more, hope is on the horizon for resuscitation of individual freedom and the recovery of society.

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, the prescription of medical marijuana written by the voters and state legislatures in 20 states, the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use in Portugal in 2000, and the rapidly coming legalization of marijuana and other drugs in Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica — all these developments are a bright light at the end of the long, dark drug-war tunnel, Renaissance after a self-inflicted World Drug War. Even the United Nations and its three drug-prohibition treaties that are the “Fountainhead of Drug Prohibition” worldwide may succumb to reason, reality and reform.

James E. Gierach,

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,

Palos Park

Huntley right about politicians

Columnist Steve Huntley was right on target on Tuesday. The everyday, ordinary person doesn’t stand a chance against the politicians who set up salaries, pensions and medical care for themselves. It was right to have them get the same health insurance as everyone else, but they didn’t like it. At some point I hope we as citizens join together to help straighten this out, by voting them out of office.

Jim Kallas, Orland Park

County needs to use special grand jury investigations to help city battle crime

Summer is here and shootings and murders have dramatically increased in Chicago. Nine murdered and 41 shot on Father’s Day weekend. Twelve murdered and 62 shot on the Fourth of July weekend. Children shot and killed on a regular basis. More than 1,000 persons shot this year. One of the main reasons these shootings occur is there is little deterrence. The odds of being arrested for a shooting are terrible. Chicago Police detectives cannot solve many of these crimes because of a lack of cooperation by victims and witnesses. The rappers and gangs call it “No Snitch.” The Mafia calls it the code of “Omerta.” Well, there is a way to defeat this policy and the solution has been around for about a thousand years. It is called a grand jury investigation, specifically, a special grand jury investigation.

Federal law enforcement, on many occasions, has successfully used special grand juries to investigate organized crime. This has resulted in many successful criminal prosecutions. However, most of the gang-related shootings in Chicago violate state law, not federal law. And since the problem is not statewide, the proper venue for impaneling a special grand jury falls to Cook County.

Chicago detectives would have uncooperative victims and witnesses subpoenaed to testify. If they do not testify fully and truthfully, they can be incarcerated in the county jail for contempt. There are additional means to compel their testimony but space does not permit discussing those procedures, but it can be done.

However, these shootings are seen as a Chicago problem for which the mayor and police superintendent take the heat — not Cook County officials. But a significant part of the solution lies with our elected Cook County officials. (Chicago does not have the legal authority to impanel any grand jury.) I understand the county’s precarious financial situation; however, this can be a win-win situation for them. Since it costs Cook County, on average, over $46,000 to treat every gunshot victim at Stroger Hospital, a reduction in shooting victims and the subsequent savings can be used to finance a special grand jury. The $300,000 budgeted for a gun court, which is now not going to be implemented, can also be redirected.

Regardless of expenses, Chicago citizens are also citizens of Cook County. It is the responsibility of both government entities to do everything possible to keep their citizens safe.

Lt. Mike Flynn,

CPD, retired,

Norwood Park

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