Chicago rapper/songwriter Che "Rhymefest" Smith said Monday that he supports President-elect Donald Trump’s call for federal aid to fight violent crime in Chicago as long as it results in additional resources for certain neighborhoods.
“If the president-elect is talking about federal intervention in terms of resources, then we welcome that,” Smith said in an interview with CNN. “Illinois is number one for African-American unemployment. When we look at violence, especially in Chicago, you can circle on a map the small areas where violence in happening.”
“If we can circle small areas, that means we can take what works in Chicago, by and large, and apply that to these areas that have been divested from,” Smith added.
In an August interview with CNN, the rapper invited Trump to Chicago as a response to the president-elect’s divisive rhetoric about the city.
“Chicago is in a fragile state,” Smith said at the time. “However, it’s not what Donald Trump is saying it is."
Smith, who lost to indicted Ald. Willie Cochran in a 2011 runoff election, said Monday that “it’s not the president’s job to stop violence in Chicago,” referencing President Barack Obama. He claimed that responsibility falls to the Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel’s office responded to Trump’s tweet Monday, signaling a working relationship between the mayor and the president-elect. Emanuel met with Trump last month in New York City, delivering a letter from mayors across the country calling for protections for young immigrants.
"As the president-elect knows from his conversation with the mayor, we agree the federal government has a strong role to play in public safety by funding summer jobs and prevention programming for at-risk youth, by holding the criminals who break our gun laws accountable for their crimes, by passing meaningful gun laws, and by building on the partnerships our police have with federal law enforcement," Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins said in a statement.
“We are heartened he is taking this issue seriously and look forward to working with the new administration on these important efforts,” Collins added.
During Monday’s interview, Smith went on to criticize Emanuel for not releasing $420 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for affordable housing in Chicago.
“This thing that’s happening in Chicago didn’t just happen out of a vacuum, it has a history,” Smith said. “The affordable housing, the projects, if you want to call them that, were torn down, you know, decades ago in Chicago, and the people who lived in those places were just pushed around to various areas of the city with vouchers and were never given an opportunity to get on their feet,” Smith said.
“I wouldn’t necessarily blame President Barack Obama because that’s not within his jurisdiction, but I would ask Mayor Rahm Emanuel why hasn’t these communities of major violence been invested in at the level that the money has been coming in,” he added.
Emanuel's office claimed Smith was referencing dated numbers Tuesday. According to the mayor's office, the Chicago Housing Authority had $154 million in reserve funds at the start of last year.
"We actually have been aggressively spending on the reserves for development," Emanuel spokesperson Kiera Ellis told Ward Room. "We've added over 8,000 new units in the last two years."