Critics are questioning an ambitious Illinois-funded program to keep at-risk teenagers out of trouble, reports CNN. It pumped nearly $55 million into Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods and three of its suburbs to stem unrelenting gang violence. CNN says that not only did the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative pay teens to hand out fliers promoting inner peace, it also paid these at-risk teens to take field trips to museums, march in a parade with the governor, and attend a yoga class to learn how to handle stress.
State legislators have demanded an audit, which is under way. Supporters say the program kept kids off the streets of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods and helped expose inner city youth to a broader culture, as well as cultivate future leaders. Critics note that the city’s murder total has risen and question whether the program was an effort to buy votes ahead of a tight race for governor? Gov. Pat Quinn announced the program a month before the November 2010 gubernatorial election. Republicans say Quinn was trying to win votes in Chicago’s heavily Democratic South Side area.