Study after study and forum and forum confirm what most of us have known for a long time. Black unemployment is a hindrance to the community and only gets lip service from those who could impact it-particularly our municipal and county governments. For Black youth unemployment, there is a consensus that the numbers range from a low of about 40 percent to slightly more than 50 percent. The latter figure seems to be more accurate. Summer jobs programs don’t begin to address the Black youth unemployment issue. The debate over whether there are enough jobs continually escapes a definitive answer.
An obvious and repeatedly overlooked source of employment for young people, many if not most who have no marketable skills, is repainting speed hump arrows. Age and weather have rendered the warning arrows on the city’s speed humps barely visible. That lack of visibility too often sends a vehicle nearly airborne for a second, followed by a jolting landing. The result too often is undercarriage damage, not to mention the temporary scare of being separated from the pavement.
People traveling along streets they’re familiar with almost instinctively know where the humps are and drive accordingly. It’s the visitors to an area who are likely not to notice the humps until their vehicle has lost contact with the street. The reason is the chevrons painted on the humps have all but disappeared.It seems to take years to get them repainted.
If the mayor and city council initiated a youth employment program focused on re-painting speech humps drivers would be saved some misery and repair costs, while the city’s streets would be markedly safer. If the city hired 2,000 young people between the ages of 17-24 the repainting project could be completed in a few months. With summer upon us, now is the perfect time to launch such a project. Hopefully, by summer’s end, all of the humps would be repainted.
From there, the youth workers could take on what may be the most unsightly areas of the city-viaducts. These lanes have become a dumping grounds for everything from layers of cigarette butts to discarded clothing. Like the speed humps, this problem gets no attention from City Hall. The mayor touts Chicago as a world class city but the doubling down of debris and disrepair of viaducts makes one wonder if the world class designation is only for tourists and residents be damned.This should be an ongoing drive to rid our viaducts of drivers’ waste. The same young people, and maybe an additional cohort should be charged with this work. They should be paid at least $10 per hour.
Let’s go along with the fairy tale that the city has no money. If the mayor can find a benefactor to pony up $12 million for bike lanes, surely he has the connections to get someone to pay for something meaningful-youth employment.