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Chicago Civic Media 



. . .  BUT so Violent 


and the violence







Chicago Sun-Times, Feb 10, 2022


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every year?

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chicago made itself violent.

CHICAGO can make itself safe.


chicago CAN
rethink public safety
for a digital age    

That's right. Because six decades into the digital age, Chicago is relying entirely on an industrial-age public safety strategy of violence reduction ti address its digital-age violence. And the outcome of six decades of violence reduction Chicagoans are more unsafe today than at any time since the 1960's. 

For over a century, violence reduction has relied on law enforcement (police, courts, prisons) to protect the public. In recent decades, Chicago has also as a public health problem for which which medical and sociological professionals are also responsible .


So what makes for public safety in a digital age? For decades the answer has been staring us in the face from our TV and device screens. But Chicago has never put it to use.

In digital-age cities, public safety becomes a matter of using available digital-age public communications systems in ways that enable city residents (leaders included) to connect, think and act in ways that mobilize the city to realize a universally-desired goal: that of making the city safe for all residents. A city where anyone can go anywhere without fearing for their life.

and here in 20 seconds

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this means planning big  

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever growing insistency."

- Daniel Burnham, 1909 Plan of Chicago

Since the dawn of the digital age the 1960's Chicago has addressed its digital-age public safety problems with industrial-age . 

partnering to make chicago safe?

Absolutely. In our view, the digital-age lesson for Chicago to date is unmistakable: a working Chicago SAFE partnership of citizens and City Hall will sooner or later prove to be indispensable not just to any plan to make Chicago SAFE but for any plan even to reduce the city's violence.

Evidence for the necessity for such a partnership is seen in the manifest failure over the past six decades of every one of Chicago's violence reduction plans. Today, Chicago is indisputably more violent than ever. And the violence that decades ago was a neighborhood phenomenon has suddenly, in very recent years, become a citywide phenomenon.  

In the wake of this eruption of violence, the best that can be said of Chicago's current crop of leaders - political, public safety, public health, business, academic, religious, educational, civic and media - is that every one of them is struggling in vain to come to terms the impact of violence on their professions, precisely as Chicago's leaders have been doing all these years.

Today many leaders are hoping that Chicago's violence will abate now that the worst of the Covid epidemic appears to have passed and the citywide violence and riots sparked by the murder of George Floyd havesubsided.

This in our view is wishful thinking. We predict, to the contrary, that Chicago's violence will intensify and worsen until the time comes when all Chicagoans (leaders included) are addressing violence together: as a large, well-informed community of connected citizens and leaders committed to building a digital-age City That Works for all 2.7 million residents. The digital-age goal is for Chicagoans to make their city a safe place to visit, work, play, learn, worship and raise a family in for all Chicagoans

Nothing less that this unifying goal, we are convinced, can possibly make Chicago (or any city) safe or less violent in a digital age. This is so due to the ubiquity citywide of digital communications devices like cell phones and computers and their enormous power to disrupt traditional authority in all of its forms.

In the absence of any credible citywide effort to address violence - one that has broad public support - it is clear to us that Chicagoans on both sides of the law will continue to use the disruptive power of digital communications in self-protective or self-aggrandizing ways that aggravate the city's violence by further alienating and polarizing Chicagoans in all kinds of ways: political, racial, economic, social, religious and generational.

That said, it's clear that many will see this Chicago SAFE goal as itself an instance of wishful thinking. We submit it, however, as nothing more nor less than a digital-age upgrade of the visionary industrial-age goal proposed to Chicago by Daniel Burnham in his 1909 Plan of Chicago. Burnham gave Chicago the physical infrastructure that Chicago's leaders today all acknowledge is the very backbone of Chicago's stature as a world class city.

Clearly, Chicago cannot continue to make itself violent forever. Sooner or later, the city will have to find a way, clear and visible to citizens and leaders alike, to address its violence effectively.

Here's why.

Happily, Chicago's digital-age media have ample tools to create this level playing field. But it will make Chicago safe only to the extent that America's historic I WILL CITY wants to do so and decides to do so. For in a digital age, Chicago's safety, much like the hotly contested games of Chicago's beloved pro sports teams, becomes strictly a matter of willpower: of who want to win most, the forces of violence or of safety.

On the positive side of this media-based equation, consider the salient yet widely overlooked fact that the vast majority of Chicagoans (leaders included)   want safety. They yearn for it, many desperately so: for a safe city to visit, work, play, worship and raise a family in. For a city where you can go anywhere without fearing for your life.

This citywide desire, articulated citywide, becomes the driving force behind Chicago's ongoing, media-based, citywide drive to MAKE ITSELF SAFE.

played out on level playing fields in Chicago's mainstream media,

On the negative side of this equation, however, is Chicago's longstanding, mind-numbingly defeatist acceptance of violence as a hard, unalterable fact of city life. Like brutal Chicago winters. This utterly demoralizing mindset first took Chicago in its grip during the 1960's with the sudden and simultaneous rise of Chicago's heavily-armed, drug-dealing, youth-victimizing street gangs and the rise of local network TV news with its sensationalized, if-it-bleeds-it-leads, soundbite coverage of gang violence. Decades of this alarmist coverage since then have hardened this mindset with fact that Chicago's violence in recent years has become a citywide as opposed to a neighborhood phenomenon. 

Today, Chicago has utterly lost sight of the possibility of safety: of its ability to use miracle of modern communications technologies in ways that empower Chicagoans and their leaders to MAKE CHICAGO SAFE.


So how can Chicago 

Easy. The answer is staring in the face from our TV and device screens. It's all about expressly constructive uses of digital age communications. Instead of using them solely as Chicago is doing now - mainly, to report on City Hall's consistently and  disastrously failed efforts over the past six decades to merely reduce violence - use these technologies in addition to inform, inspire and mobilize Chicagoans their their leaders to make their city SAFE.

Indisputably, these technologies have ample power to create and maintain an ongoing citywide drive to make Chicago SAFE.


- as Mayor Lightfoot was saying  in 2019

   before COVID and George Floyd

This media-based partnership can tap deep into the experiences, insights, talents, wisdom, and yearning for safety of ALL Chicagoans. And it can help Chicago mobilize the boundless energies of all Chicagoans to make Chicago SAFE.

so which media are best equipped
to mobilize chicagoans and city hAll
to make chicago safe?


+The second dominant in Chicago of Chicago's six network TV stations.

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And these TV stations rule the roost of Chicago's digital-age public communications system and the print/electronic media that comprise it. Of these stations, five are commercial; the sixth is public and not for profit. 

Soon we'll see how WTTW 11, the public station, can at minimal cost  demonstrate to all five commercial stations the enormous profit potential of mobilizing Chicagoans and their leaders to make Chicago SAFE.  But let's look at the ONE QUALITY that all Chicagoans (city leaders and media included) must earn from each other in for Chicago to make itself SAFE.   

but no partnership

Without a degree of citywide trust, Chicago has zero chance in a digital age of reducing its violence, let alone making itself safe. The reason for this isn't hard to see: given the power of digital-age communications devices (e.g. computers and cell phones) to strengthen or weaken trust in large cities like Chicago, the distribution of these devices among virtually all Chicagoans means that the power to strengthen or weaken trust is now distributed citywide. 

And trust must be earned. And verifiable (trust but verifiy). Trust among citizens and between citizens and City Hall.  And trust in the media programming that fosters trust citywide. Trust makes citizens and City Hall responsive and accountable  to each other for Chicago's digital-age safety. Trust that gives all Chicagoans an informed voice  in the government decisions that affect their lives. Trust that fosters CITIZENSHIP.  

The answer has been staring us in the face all along from the TV screens that rule the roost of Chicago's all-powerful digital-age public communications system.

When these stations start building trust, other Chicago media will follow suit. Because building trust is profitable for all media that connect Chicagoans and City Hall in ways that verifiably help Chicago make itself SAFE. 


That's a digital-age axiom. It follows from the hard fact that disruptive, violence-obsessed uses of digital-age media contribute substantially to the hyperpolarized, mistrustful state of American political discourse today. Gone is the degree of trust in government that gave America political stability during the industrial age. Today, polls show that Americans now fear for America's very future . 

In Chicago,
the only remedy
for media-driven mistrust
in a digital age is media-based
TRUST. Trust that connects Chicagoans of
all ages and backgrounds and gets Chicagoans
and City Hall and working together to make Chicago
a SAFE place to visit, work, play, worship and raise a family in. 
This will happen when Chicago (at long last) wakes from its
six-decade nightmare of self-inflicted violence
and FINALLY decides to use its digital-age
public communications system to
make itself SAFE. 

chicago's trust deficit 

Do Chicagoans trust  

their police? Or City Hall? 

Or each other?  Or Chicago's  

media? Not much! We're too

afraid.  Of violence itself.

And of the violence we

see in media. 

Fear stifles trust.

And fueling this fear 

are six decades of media  

coverage of Chicago's disastrously 

failed efforts to ever reduce its violence. 

Chicago will be helpless to reduce its violence

until it breaks free from the violence reduction 

mindset that keeps it from  asking what it

would take to MAKE CHICAGO SAFE 

for all residents.

For decades, Chicago's

mind-numbing violence reduction 

mindset has lulled Chicagoans into

accepting violence as a hard, unalterable 

fact of Chicago life.  Like brutal Chicago winters.

It never had to be this way. Chicago

could have made itself

SAFE decades ago.

So how does chicago build trust ?

Realizing this goal will make Chicago America's first city to use the miracle of modern interactive communications technologies expressly to make itself SAFE. 

During the industrial age, Chicago was proud of being America's I WILL CITY. Chicago will take pride in being America's first digital-age WE WILL CITY when it replaces its industrial-age, police-centered public safety goal of violence reduction with the digital-age, citizen-participatory goal of SAFETY for all Chicagoans. Chicago will then be poised to make itself 

more on how can CHICAGO
make itself safe

Here's another digital-age axiom: public safety in a digital age is not merely a public safety (police) or even a public health (medical and sociological) problem. It is fundamentally a public communications (media) problem: a matter of uses of media that enable cities to think and act as intelligent communities committed to safety of all members..

Second, Chicago's media, with citizen input, can devise and implement citizen-participator content and programming that   

  • Attract and hold large, citywide audiences

  • Facilitate constructive citizen/government interactions that strengthen citizenship and build TRUST

  • Routinely produce constructive, verifiable safety outcomes that earn the support of Chicagoans and City Hall alike 

  • Be managed and/or governed in ways that maintain their integrity and functionality

  • Be profitable for the media that host them

At Chicago Civic Media we've developed programming that meet these criteria. But they were too costly for local TV stations to produce. So we decided to think SMALL and scaled-down our Chicago SAFE programming for Chicago's TV stations to air at minimal cost. And here's the version we like best . . .   

And guess what? It begins simply.

With two empty chairs.

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Two Chairs on which two Chicago leaders


take their seats


, , , in order to suspend their

hostilities long enough to fulfill a pledge

(made beforehand) to jointly complete, 

on deadline and in full public view, a


that earns a degree of RESPECT and TRUST

from  the people of Chicago . . .

So which two feuding Chicago leaders

would Chicagoans like to see seated

in the two chairs first?


  • MAYOR lightfoot AND COUNTY BOARD PRESIDENT toni preckwinkle


  • Ald. Ervin (28th Ward) and Ald. Villegas (36th Ward)

  • dem. Governor Pritzger and rep. billionaire ken griffin

  • mAYOR lightfoot and ATTORNEY GENERAL kim fox

  • Mayor lightfoot and chicago teachers union LEADERS

  • Mayor lightfoot and forner education secretary arne duncan

  • your ideas!                                                         email us!​ 


and where should this event happen?

WHERE ELSE? on chicago's

tv evening news

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Because tV is where most Chicagoans go for

their local news, sports and weather.



profitable WAY TO host this event.




For sure.

two chairs is a



(when they are meaningful


In violence-ridden Chicago, what enables Chicagoans to take PRIDE in being a Chicagoan these days? Hands down, it's the televised GAMES of Chicago's beloved pro sports teams. This is so In part because Chicagoans TRUST the three-tier rule structure of 1) on-field rules and referees, 2) instant replay and 3) expert commentators that governs all TV sports telecasts.

Here's the thing. Tweaked for civic purposes, this trusted rule structure can do for Chicago's ongoing drive to make itself SAFE exactly what it does for the championship drives of Chicago's pro sports teams:  earn citywide trust.


Chicagoans and City Hall can work together. They can take PRIDE in Chicago as a great American city whose citizens and leaders are firmly committed to citywide safety. Kicking off this digital-age drive for safety is a low-budget Chicago SAFE contest. It starts as a newsmaker interview, though on an intriguing barebones set showing just

which are shortly taken by two city leaders whom viewers to their surprise instantly recognize as publicly feuding leaders. Viewers are witnessing a new TV experience. Their attention is fixed . . .   

and here's what happens next

9  Two Chairs: details and profitability (for media)

So will TWO CHAIRS actually  


OF COURSE NOT. It's only the first of many future Chicago SAFE games intended to inform, inspire and mobilize Chicagoans and City Hall to make Sweet Home Chicago safe. And there's no guarantee that Chicago's media-based games will make Chicago SAGE. The resulting uncertainty and suspense will attract TV viewers and fuel demand for a continuing news story followed by other Chicago (and national) media. This is so in part because Two Chairs from the outset presents itself as a challenge to the I Will City to make itself SAFE as a digital-age We Will City.

The stakes could hardly be higher. Whenever two feuding leaders fulfill their Two Chairs pledges on time, they BOTH win. So does Chicago. Big time. Whenever they don't, they both lose. So does Chicago. BIG TIME.

In Two Chairs there will be wins and losses, as in any sport, as other pairs of feuding Chicago leaders play the game, having seen the benefits to Chicago and their political careers of doing so. Win or lose, Chicago's drive for SAFETY goes on, like the championship drives of Chicago's pro sports teams.  And the long it goes, the more the quality of play improves, and the safer Chicago gets.

With Two Chairs, Chicago has the chance to turn its six-decade vicious cycle of failed efforts at violence reduction into a virtuous cycle committed to citywide safety.

two chairs is new

It's fresh. A entirely new use of TV. No American city has ever seen, let alone tried, anything like it before. Two Chairs will be the talk of the town when it airs. Its large audience will spur other media to imitate it. And they will do so at no cost because with partial (temporary) exceptions, all CCM projects are public domain and free for anyone to use. (CCM funds itself with consultant fees.)


will have outcomes determined by viewer votes, as on reality TV shows like American Idol,  In  so doing, they  will reflect and contribute to the great game of voter-driven American democracy itself. These non-partisan, non-ideological and issue-centered TV games will make Chicagoans and their leaders responsive and accountable to each other in Chicago's drive not only to make itself SAFE but to address any and all matters of citywide concern. In future Chicago SAFE games, City Hall will work closely with

 Chicago's number one digital-age

public safety resource: THE


well, looking from the publicly-owned lakefront that
daniel burnham gave chicago in 1909 . . .

Since 1990 Chicago Civic Media
has designed dynamic multimedia formats to
give all Chicagoans an informed voice in the
government decisions that affect their lives.