Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is one-thousand percent right when he stated to the media in regards to the behavior of his grandson and his hood-rat cohorts, “What happens at my house and my yard is not [city] business. How I feel and how I think is not a public record.”
But here’s where the mayor is one-thousand percent wrong: When the suspected criminal behavior of these young would-be gangsters spills out of his house, and the houses of others, and into the streets of Cleveland, then it becomes the public’s business.
When public dollars have to be spent on the police and courts (not to mention to correct the harm done to members of society that are impacted by criminal behavior), that makes it the public’s business. When we have to mop up the mess and stitch up the wounds made because of bad parenting, then it becomes our — society’s — business.
Nonetheless, it’s hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for Mayor Jackson, whose entire life and career have been dedicated to improving the conditions of the residents of the City of Cleveland, from the time he was a police prosecutor throughout his life as a dedicated elected official. The fact that this suspected criminal behavior hits so close to his home speaks more about the intransigence of gang life in Cleveland (as well as other large cities in America) than it does any personal shortcomings on his part.
On more than one occasion when I was covering City Hall politics I heard Mayor Jackson warn residents of more stable communities that if they thought the negative behaviors were going to stay locked up in certain inner-city neighborhoods they were fooling themselves. He was deadly accurate, unfortunately.
Not to make excuses, but to give reasons, the groundwater in many poor communities in America is poisoned: poisoned by decades, if not centuries, of neglect. The end product of poverty is too many families that simply do not have the wherewithal to save their young men from lives of street violence. What we have been able to do is save many young women from one of the ravages of inner-city life and the proof of this has been the steadily declining teen birth rate over the last three decades. This was accomplished by laser-like focusing on the problem.
What needs to happen if we truly want to move the entire region forward is to design strategies that identify the boys that are bound to fail and fall through the cracks and get them help early on. Identifying those in need of help is not difficult at all since we know who they are by age 8 or 9. Families where a young parent(s) is struggling to properly raise their (primarily) male offspring into successful and crime-free adulthood, have to be provided with the dire support they need. If we would have embarked on such programs years ago we would not be faced with the current gang problem.
Until we figure out how to remove the poison from certain neighborhoods, then we have to be prepared to remove the child from those poisoned neighborhoods and continue their upbringing at alternate locations or via other means. Yes, this is a tall order, but programs like The Harlem Children’s Zone have proven such strategies can and do work. All we lack is the political will.
But know this: We can only make the region as good and as strong as the worse communities in it. We simply have to start from the bottom up if we sincerely want to fix the problems facing us.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.