MEDIA WATCH: Safe Passage already collapsing as Rahm's propagandists -- including Chicago's police chief -- claim it's been a success

Two weeks ago, as Chicago's mayor was pushing the propaganda talking points about his school closing policy and touting so-called "Safe Passage", Substance asked the simplest question about the program: Would you take a bullet for Rahm Emanuel for a ten dollar an hour job with no medical benefits? The answer hasn't been long in coming. As Chicago's Board of Education has been cutting back on trained professional security staff who work as full-times workers since the mayor's school board took over in May 2011, at the same time the Board has been relying more and more on low-paid "security" people culled from the desperate ranks of the unemployed to serve as chattel for politically connected contractors who get most of the dollars being re-directed towards the privatization of CPS security. It's been an open secret within the school system, and it's now becoming an obvious scandal among the many bubbling up under the feet of Chicago's frenetic media-hounding may, Rahm Emanuel.

The trouble with being exposed as a liar and puerile propagandist -- as Rahm Emanuel has been -- is that credibility lost cannot be regained. Even in the current climate of corporate news organizations, Rahm's regular attacks on reporters have built up a climate of ill will that will not go away. And when Chicago's mayor chose to use a massive rally of Safe Passage workers a week before school began to call out reporters and TV news crews in front of hundreds of people, he was almost setting himself up.

One of the most dangerous "Safe Passage" routes in Chicago has little to do with street gangs (although they are part of the danger). Above, children are required to cross Ogden Ave. -- eight lanes wide -- to get to their new school. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.Almost as important to the collapse of Rahm's claims for "Safe Passage" is the fact that the dollars going to the program are patronage for the politically connected contractors who have gotten the contracts (often as a result of no bid deals with outfits that have no security record). The actual workers on the street are being paid $10 an hour for working a morning and afternoon shift for a total of five hours per day, splitting their days so that they cannot work another job. The money being made from "Safe Passage," like the public dollars for so many of Rahm's projects, goes to the corporations and other outfits that get the deals, not the people who do the work.

And so it came to pass that on the first school day of the second week of the 2013 - 2014 school year, one of Rahm's toadies, Chicago Police Supt. Gerry McCarthy, was claiming that the program was a "success" (because nobody has been killed yet?) while observers across the city were noting that many of the "Safe Passage" routes were missing their "Safe Passage" people.

And community and parent groups, as well as teachers, were promising to continue counting the "Safe Passage" people as long as the mayor's school closings are in effect. The rationale behind "Safe Passage" was that many of the schools that have been closed were in areas known to the children and their families, and some of the schools to which the children now have to go are in areas controlled by rival street gangs. Behind all that is that fact that Chicago's ghetto and barrio street gangs are now in their fourth generation and are functioning as corporations with as much "entrepreneurship" -- although in illegal activities -- as any Chicago's corporate mayor could dream of. Chicago's gangs are a combination of "The Wire" and "Breaking Bad," only they are not fiction, but a reality of a city that has allowed them to increase in power since most were born during the 1960s. (Anyone skeptical of this analysis from your reporter, who served as gang security coordinator at one of Chicago's roughest high schools and then as Director of Security and Safety for the Chicago Teachers Union can Google Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples, MLDs, or a dozen other Chicago gangs and watch the current videos).

In a way, the news about "Safe Passage" on the morning of September 4, 2013 was Rahm's worst nightmare: the truth was not only being reported in print, but was on TV.


CPS Safe Passage Worker Turnover An Issue As Top Cop Calls Program's First Week A Success

Posted: 09/03/2013 5:35 pm EDT | Updated: 09/03/2013 5:36 pm EDT

Students walk along a designated Safe Passage route to Laura Ward Elementary School on the West Side on August 28, 2013 in Chicago.

A week into the new school year, the Chicago Public Schools' expanded "Safe Passage" program is cautiously being marked a success even amid new reports of Safe Passage workers walking off the job.

“Last week, we got through the mornings and the afternoons without any incidents. The fact is that’s going to continue," Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told CBS Chicago Tuesday morning.

Hours later, CBS learned of massive turnover in pockets of the city as well as allegedly unmanned corners along routes. In the Roseland neighborhood, the station reports half the safe passage workers quit last week alone and that a designated spot at 119th and State went unmanned Tuesday morning.

A supervisor for American Enterprise, the vendor responsible for that route in Roseland, told CBS the report was untrue and that "floaters" cover the area, but was later unable to explain why no worker was at the corner during the designated passing time Tuesday morning.

Earlier, the parents in public education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Illinois told WBEZ turnover of Safe Passage workers is bound to be an issue for a job that pays $10 an hour for a split shift totaling about five or so hours a day.

McCarthy's squad and CPS have been under close scrutiny since the school year started as thousands of students were forced to navigate new routes along often unfamiliar and dangerous territory to their "welcoming" schools following a massive shutdown of 50 schools last spring.

(LISTEN: Will 'Safe Passage' Routes Really Keep Chicago Kids Safe?)

Despite an absence of incidents during the Safe Passage hours -- they vary by school but begin roughly two hours before schools start and end three hours after the final bell -- there have been numerous shootings along the routes in just the past several days.

There were two shootings along Safe Passage routes during the violent three-day Labor Day weekend alone.

The Safe Passage program started in 2009 with 37 schools, most of them high schools, but added 51 new schools after the round of spring closures.

Parents of young students walking the new Safe Passage routes remain split after the first week of school. Susana Salgado, mother of an 8-year-old who attends school on the West Side told NBC Latino the special route isn’t the solution to safety concerns.

“I don’t think this will make much of a difference,” Salgado said. “There’s a worker who is just standing there and not taking care of the children. She’s not even helping them cross the street.”

Rosa Jimenez, a mother of two children attending a CPS school along a Safe Passage route disagreed. “I feel safe. There was nothing like this last year,” Jimenez said, noting she will still be escorting her kids to and from school despite the Safe Passage workers.

The program's sustainability is a long-term challenge that CPS has, so far, done little to address. The total budget for Safe Passage is $15.7 million and officials said the program will be "reassessed" before the next school year.


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