Boston, Chicago Honored for Innovation

Article excerpt

Chicago's arts-based youth employment program and Boston's crusade against youth gang-related violence are among ten exemplary government programs cited in the 1997 Innovations in American Government competition sponsored by the Ford Foundation and administered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.

Each of the ten winning agencies received $100,000 in recognition of their creative approaches to solving challenging public problems.

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs' Gallery 37 program offers youth aged 14 to 21 on-the-job training in the visual, literary and performing arts. Supervised by professional artists, program apprentices produce quality artwork that is installed in public spaces or sold privately while developing meaningful mentoring relationships.

Since its founding in 1991, Gallery 37 has created 7,000 youth jobs and expanded into 27 neighborhoods and 30 public high schools. Partnerships with 29 city agencies and 39 local universities and community organizations afford youth an opportunity to develop skills that will serve them in future employment.

Operation Cease Fire has eliminated teen deaths by hand-guns and knives in Boston since its inception two years ago. The program is breaking the cycle of gang violence by reaching out to youth while cracking down on them.

Gang members meet regularly with police and community leaders to discuss alternatives to gang life and the stiff penalties for failing to comply with the program. Prosecutors and probation officers educate youths with criminal records about the legal consequences of continued violence as well as coordinate their punishment.

"This recognition from the Innovations program is a singular honor to all the dedicated people--from police officers to citizens, to clergy and members of other criminal justice institutions--who are working so had to save young lives in Boston," said Police Commissioner Paul Evans.

The other winning programs are: Kentucky's Recreating Public Education for Results, which overhauled the state's educational system; Arkansas' Connect-Care, which is slashing costs and improving health care for Medicaid recipients; North Carolina's Structured Sentencing, which ensures consistent sentencing and longer prison terms for violent offenders; Pennsylvania's Land Recycling, which saves farmland from development by helping businesses clean up and re-use abandoned contaminated industrial sites; Georgia's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten, which provides free preschool to all four-year-olds, and Pathways to Teaching, which trains minority school employees such as bus drivers and cafeteria supervisors to become teachers; the U. …