Pam's Points: Shootings take aim at our future, and voters go down the middle

Pam's Points: Shootings take aim at our future, and voters go down the middle

June 30th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Shootings by the number

The number of shootings in Chattanooga is down from this time last year. As of Friday, we had seen 59 shootings in 2014 compared to 65 in the same period last year.

Nine people had died from gunshot wounds by late June in 2013, while a pair of homicides last week brought 2014's total so far to 13 deaths.

Just think what our numbers might look like if city officials and help groups were not pulling out all the stops with a violence reduction initiative.

Let's hope it's not too little, too late. And, certainly, let's not give up on the initiative too soon.

Meanwhile, a Friday Chattanooga Times Free Press report featured information about the city's first career center. In that story, Ronald Glass, a 28-year-old with a jail record, was quoted as saying he is trying to find a job but is getting no response to his job applications because of a robbery conviction. Now, even though he has earned his GED and studied landscaping, brick masonry and welding, he still has no paycheck.

He was in line Thursday at the Carver Youth and Family Development Center as Mayor Andy Berke and City Councilman Moses Freeman cut the ribbon at one of five career preparation centers.

Again, it's all in the numbers: Among 159 shooting victims during a 14-month period ending in February, 146 victims (or nearly 92 percent) were black. Black unemployment in Hamilton County is more than double that of whites. So is the black arrest rate. In 2009, 349 individuals went to state prison from Hamilton County. Most going to prison -- 53 percent -- were black, according to an Ochs Center report.

And in four Chattanooga communities -- all inner-city areas -- one of every 50 males has returned to the community from prison within the last two years, the Ochs report found.

We must find a way to reach these young black men who have fallen or been pushed out of school, who have taken to guns and who now have more jail experience than work skills. If they can't find jobs and a way back into society, they will find their way back to violence.

The career center workshops will begin in July. They won't be just more GED-readiness pep talks. The workshops will include interviewing skills, time management training and other forms of real-world help. Hamilton County Public Defender Ardena Garth will tell people with criminal records how those records can be expunged or how they may respond to interview questions about their pasts.

Everyone makes mistakes, but we must provide a path to productivity for those who have paid their debt to society and want to again become productive citizens.

Which way the political wind?

Unlike what we see and hear about ideological extremes that seem to define American politics, hard-right and far-left thinking is held by only a minority of the public.

A new Pew Research Center study finds instead that most voters are "unpredictable, frustrated and don't cling to strong ideologies." In fact, this majority public, for the most part, is unified by just one emotion: "frustration with politics and little else," according to Pew.

And here's the interesting part: They have the potential to strongly impact the 2014 political races, the Pew study found.

Now, doesn't that make you smile?