Opinion and Forefront

MACALLISTER: Bring back the CCC for troubled youth

August 3, 2013

MacAllisterThose chosen to govern have wrestled eternally with troublesome, often serious situations. Political disunity, stalemating action in city or state. Law enforcement losing its battle against dope, gangs and crime.

Invariably, the burden is shifted to us by the hungry, ill and the homeless. Add a disappointing educational system and the staggering economic base supplanted with food stamps and unemployment compensation. Note the decline in church influences, breakdown of the family unit, and sagging morality.

The disgrace is not that all this continues to exist, but rather that so little effort has been made to rectify or eliminate our shortcomings. Even Jesus was resigned to the inevitability of depravation, saying, “Ye have the poor with you always.”

I don’t think that is an acceptable conclusion. It’s a concession, which programs failure and does little more than wish our miseries would go away.

There ought to be some initiative by state and local government—with the private sector—made on behalf of those who are “rescued” to try something different.

If we are going to continue spending the money, why is no one talking about a “work-for-pay program” and revisiting the model we tried in the 1930s called the Civilian Conservation Corps?

The objective was earning a paycheck rather than waiting for a handout. The work was conservation-type activities, a public service provided by the federal government and executed by the states, often in our parks through some road building, lots of tree planting, erosion control and building fire breaks.

Why can’t we create a corps reconfigured and recast to fit Indianapolis, engaging some of the homeless, maybe even shiftless, unfortunate and needy?

Instead of kids joining gangs and figuring out how to get into the dope business or wipe out some other gang and killing innocents in the crossfire, why aren’t they at work, for a modest wage, in our city parks to keep them mowed and trimmed? Why not provide a lawn-cutting service? How about a “clean up the White River” campaign? How about policing neighborhoods, doing leaf removal in the fall, building sidewalks and capital investments?

Why not summer programs on school grounds getting kids into chess, checkers, grooming, cooking, volleyball, Olympics, baseball or basketball? Bring in churches and begin a tutoring program.

Why not involve the healthy and idle doing what we’d like done?

OK, so it needs some structure and some experimentation. Fine! But what about the benefits yielded?

A couple of years in the program could give youngsters experience enough to become apprentices for part-time or full-time jobs. Think of the satisfaction a paycheck might bring and the benefits for Indy from the work.

There must be a way of engaging people who have nothing good going on in their lives and transforming at least some of them into productive citizens. We are spending the money now by feeding prisoners, handing out food stamps, paying social workers, crowding jails and courtrooms to institutionalize a failing culture.

Why not spend these dollars before the trouble begins, building lives with new purpose and potential?

The capacity exists here for another partnership with the mayor and council to see Indy’s next phase of working together to minimize poverty and idleness. A whole stratum of tragedy off the radar screen now eliminated.

Why isn’t our next claim to fame in that arena?•

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MacAllister is chairman of MacAllister Machinery Co. Inc. and a longtime leader in Indianapolis Republican politics. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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