This site exists primarily to document my Civic Media 
work in the fields of education (media-based school reform), media-based community policing and politics and government, most of it in Chicago. It archives over 200 Civic Media documents going back to the late 1980's. While its primary focus is on (youth) violence in Chicago, it also documents citizen-participatory, problem-solving dialogues proposed In recent years, these nuggets have focused on an inquiry into the origins and solutions the epidemic of urban violence for which Chicago has become the poster child.


Bottom line - and speaking impartially - Americans have lost the ability to communicate. At local, state and national levels. That's the problem. 

Our top-down, money-driven, election-centered political discourse system is polarizing political discourse, alienating citizens and rendering governments dysfunctional.


To fix itself, America can create an issue-centered alternative to its election-centered political discourse system: rule-governed, citizen-participatory
political discourse that gives all members of a community (public officials included) an informed voice in solving problems, maximizing opportunities and restoring functionality to government at local, state and national levels.

2017 Fixing Washington

As an example, consider health care. Congress has left the American people voiceless in the so-called "heathcare debate". And it only gets worse. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek puts it: "By refusing to address the fundamental problems with the health care system, Congress is ignoring the tough question of how to fix it" (7/31/17). Polarized members of Congress are forced to vote on healthcare bills they haven't even read. This post-election piece 

2017 Fixing Illinois

After two years without a budget, Illinois finally has one. But its financial crisis continues. Two autocratic leaders, Governor Rauner and House Speaker Madigan, are widely faulted for this crisis. But also responsible is the absence of a political media - problem-solving public forums - designed to make the Governor and the Speaker Madigan responsive and accountable to the people of Illinois. This 2015 CCM piece shows how these forums could have resolved Illinois' crisis years ago.

2017 Fixing Chicago

Today Chicago is 
embroiled in multiple crises: a financial crisis, an education crisis and the youth violence epidemic that has cost it three generations of young people. These are losses on a wartime scale, and to many, the violence epidemic seems insoluble. Certainly no citywide solutions are coming from city leaders. Worse yet, Chicago lacks the public communications mechanisms that would enable its leaders and its people to find and implement viable solutions. Still, most Chicagoans continue to believe that violence can and must be solved. 

At Chicago Civic Media we are here to help communities solve problems. Our solution-generating processes are scalable: at local, state and national levels their participatory decision-making processes enable citizens and governments to discover, advance and implement best solutions to systemic problems like violence. In Chicago, they do so by giving all Chicagoans (public officials included) an informed voice in the ongoing (year round) search for solutions. These voter-driven, citizen-participatory processes are rule-governed in ways that earn the respect and trust of citizens. 

They work by tapping deep into the previously untapped power of Chicago's two most powerful forces for change and renewal: 
  • Citizens. The wisdom, experience and love of neighborhood and city of Chicago's 2.7 million residents (especially its young people, who are the primary perpetrators and victims of Chicago's gang and drug-driven violence). 
  • Media. The print and electronic media that comprise Chicago's all-powerful public communications system. 
To solve violence, the challenge before Chicago is to combine these two resources in ways that will transform the city from its present state as a global poster child for violence to a global leader in reducing and eliminating it. Below are three powerful formats developed at CCM, each one grounded in a specific medium. All three are at the same time designed to draw from and enhance the problem-solving capabilities of Chicago's multimedia public communications system.
  • Television. ChicagoFIXIT is introduced in this blog post in the context of the Trump presidency. Replicable in any city, ChicagoFIXIT is version, localized to Chicago, of America's Choice, CCM's 2006 proposal to use the full winner-selecting power of voter-driven reality TV to create an issue-centered, voter-driven decision-making process whose citizen-supported solutions that are non-binding and advisory to governments at local, state and national levels.
  • Internet. ChicagoWRKS.com is CCM's 2009 proposal to the Knight Foundation for a hyperlocal, online, interactive news generating and processing platform capable of enabling residents and public officials in each of Chicago's 76 neighborhood areas to "morph the news from reported negative story to productive, newsworthy outcome." 
  • Newspaper. Created in response to a widespread problem observed by public health professionals, Full Story reduces public ignorance of existing violence reduction resources by supplementing crime story reports of violence with Full Story information about existing resources in the afflicted neighborhood (drawn from the Full Story database) for readers to use to reduce violence at home and in their neighborhoods.
We look to the day when - perhaps only ten years from now - when citizens of Chicago, Illinois and America will take the same pride in these three communities that sports fans today take in their professional sports teams. In government, it's all a matter of belonging to a dynamic civic community whose leaders play by the rules and listen to the people. Simple as that. If all this sounds far fetched, just take a look at how hard sports icons like George Halas and Bill Veeck had to work a hundred years ago in order to secure the media attention they needed in order to grow a loyal fan base!  

August 2017    

Welcome! But be forewarned. Navigating this site may feel a little like rummaging through your grandparents' attic when you were a kid. You'll find a lot of junk before you stumble on something useful, something you want. Alternatively, navigating it could feel like looking for the needle in the haystack, though I'm hoping that persistent searchers will see the site as a haystack full of needles. Then again, you could experience the site as an Easter Egg hunt with goodies just around the corner awaiting your color-sharpened eyes. 

For me, site is two things. First, it's an online autobiography of sorts, tracing the outlines of a meandering career and compiled for my son Joe as record of his dad and his dad's family. (For others, that's the "junk".) Second, I see it as a goldmine of nuggets - multimedia models of citizen-participatory, problem-solving political discourse - which, when operational, would be fully capable of reversing a destructive, historic and media-driven trend: the triple collapse of American political discourse at local, state and national levels that began with the advent of network TV and televised election-time attack ads in the 1960's. 

This triple collapse of political discourse at local, state and nationals, orchestrated by the so-called political donor class that underwrites these attack ads, has polarized the American electorate into artificial extremes of left and right. In so doing, it has gained a stranglehold on American politics and government. At risk today, as a result of this polarization, is the ability of governments at all levels to serve the public interest. 

In response to this state of affairs, the Civic Media nuggets offered at this site are market-driven mechanisms designed to depolarize politics and to enable communities large and small to restore functionality to government. They do this by means of inclusive, issue-centered, problem-solving political discourse that makes all members of the community, including public officials responsive and accountable to each in defining and solving the problems that threaten the community's future. The Issue-centered political discourse that takes shape from these nuggets is intended to serve as an alternative to America's existing money-driven, election-centered political discourse system. It complements this system; it both competes and cooperates with it. The resulting dual political discourse system envisioned here, election-centered and issue-centered, strikes me as the best and perhaps the only hope for American the future of political discourse and democracy itself.


I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.
                                                      -  Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jarvis, 1821

I'm a liberal in the sense that in a pinch, I put more faith in the people than in the leaders (of both parties) who are guiding America today. These leaders have created a top-down, money-driven political discourse system that have denied the American people an informed voice in the political decisions that affect their lives.   
Today liberals and conservatives are hopelessly polarized. The obvious remedy for this split is depolarizing political discourse: discourse a perfectly doable task, you'd think. But no one's working on it. No political leaders, no members of the media, no academics (that I know of) are even exploring the possibility of connecting ALL Americans (including their political leaders) in ways that will built trust and get the nation moving forward at local, state and national levels.  

  • Analytically, it provides materials for a history of violence in Chicago centered on Chicago's acknowledged failure to diagnose (let alone put an end to) its six decades of that urban violence that have plagued virtually all American cities since the simultaneous rise in the 1960's of network TV and the so-called drug culture. This history takes into account the (usually harmful) impact of mass (commercial) media and newsmedia, both print and electronic, on the cities they profess to serve. 
  • Constructively, it offers media-based models of political (civic) discourse designed to enable the citizens and leaders of Chicago to define and solve any and all aspects of its systemic violence problem: gun violence, gang violence, drug violence, racial violence, police violence, even domestic violence. Key to these models is the principal of giving all Chicagoans, 
     its young people its at-risk youth, an informed and ongoing voice in defining and solving the youth violence problem that threatens the city's future. In 1992 Mayor Richard M Daley actually floated the idea to a group of 50 Chicago student leaders
  • Historically, it sets violence in a larger political, economic and cultural context as seen in three linked phenomena, all of which originated in the 1960's:
    1. The rise of the national, network TV and the culture of violence it has created among Americans of all ages and backgrounds 
    2. The gradual polarization of political discourse into alienated, disconnected and increasingly violent extremes 
    3. The rise of the violent, heavily armed drug-dealing street gangs and the resulting underground drug economy that now sustains both poor, nonwhite urban neighborhoods and poor white rural communities as well.
  • Historically, it correlates this trend towards violence in another, educational trend. Because I've not seen this educational context described in print, they only way I can introduce it is from my own personal experience of it as an career educator coming from an academic family (my dad taught English at Yale for 42 years). My experience of it is described in a 2004personal memoir that opens with an account of my dad's teaching at Yale, describes my own initial teaching experience at a New Haven public school and then traces the roots of the decline of American public education since the 1960's back to the abandonment by America's torchbearing universities of their traditional role as guarantors of the health of the nation's public schools. This desertion, with its enormous consequences, occurred the mid-twentieth century when America's elite universities began to reinvent themselves as global research institutions dedicated to the advancement of commerce and technology. 
Other universities followed their example. This shift of emphases caused American universities to abandon their roles as shepherds of America's public schools. Educators abandoned education, so to speak, including the education of perhaps half of the children who literally constitute America's future. Soon America's universities across the board were raising tuitions astronomically in order to compete with each other for the best professors and students, to underwrite their research priorities and to modernize their infrastructures so they could attract students who could afford their high tuitions. The rise in college tuitions not only created the nation's trillion dollar student debt problem but contributed to the ever-widening wealth gap between rich and poor that today arguably makes America more a plutocracy or oligarchy than a democracy

And the disruptive focus on commerce and technology - on machine learning and artificial intelligence - now poses a threat not only to public education but to the universities themselves. 

OK, so let's get back Chicago and its failure to diagnose, let alone solve, its violence problem in past six decades. Bottom line, it's owing to Chicago's inability (or outright refusal) to see and respond appropriately to what's been staring Chicagoans in the face ever since the 1960's: the omnipresent role of the city's media, visible day in and day out on our TV screens and in our newspapers, in sensationalizing violence and neglecting efforts to solve it. We've advocated a holistic approach to violence reduction centered on three ways of treating violence:
  • As public safety problem (police and criminal justice). For their part, the city's media have treated violence as a crime story with "if it bleeds, it leads" headlines intended to sell newspapers and boost TV ratings.
  • As public health problem (medical, economic, educational and racial). Although the City of Chicago has in recent years directed major resources to this approach, the city's dominant TV stations have yet to see this allocation of resources as newsworthy. 
  • As as public communications, or media problem. Although it's widely acknowledged that we live in a media-driven society in which media have equal power to harm or help the public interest, Chicago (and other cities) have yet consider the extent to which their media can be part of the solution to violence as opposed to part of the problem. And commercial media, for their part, have yet to consider the profit potential of uses of their resources to make citizens and governments responsive and accountable to each other the ongoing to search for solutions to system problems, like violence, that threaten the future of communities of all sizes.       

In response to the above considerations, Chicago Civic Media since the late 1980's has designed and pilot tested dozens of problem-solving, citizen-participatory multimedia programs and formats on the premise that solution to violence in Chicago (and elsewhere) requires a trustworthy, citywide Civic Media that connects City Hall and Chicagoans of all backgrounds in rule-governed ways that make Chicago a safe for all residents.

Who pays for Civic Media? This includes funding from any commercial medium that will profit by effectively tapping its own existing audience. It will most profit those media that effectively tap the presently untapped Market of the Whole of all members the community who want an informed voice in the government decisions that affect their lives.

Who governs Civic Media? No one. No one, that is, governs Civic Media programming. Civic Media is in essence a set of rules of discourse designed to facilitate and regulate public discourse that is inclusive, issue-centered and solution-oriented. Programming designed by any medium can be Civic Media programming when it abides by these rules. So who creates the rules? I have designed a set of Civic Media rules that is modelled on the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. To have credibility, these rules would need the approval of media, representatives of both political parties and citizens' groups.