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Obama in Chicago today to address economy, violence

(MCT) — President Barack Obama comes to Chicago today to talk about helping struggling families and also touch on the wide-ranging approach he thinks the country should take to fighting gun violence.

The president’s remarks at Hyde Park Academy this afternoon will be devoted to the “ladders of opportunity” he thinks will help working families, like raising the federal minimum wage and investing in education, a senior administration official has said.

He’ll also talk directly about gun violence, aides say, in a visit that comes just days after the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a teenager killed in a shooting a mile from the Obamas’ South Side home. After attending the services for Pendleton, first lady Michelle Obama invited her parents to join her in the balcony for the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

But the president’s emphasis this week is on promoting job creation and economic recovery, aides say, in the belief that solutions to violence and other social problem hang in the balance.

He and Vice President Joe Biden have made the case in recent weeks that the solution to gun violence isn’t just about gun control, but also about improving access to educational opportunities, social programs and mental health services.

To clear these pathways to the middle class, Obama on Tuesday night proposed creating “promise zones” in 20 struggling communities, helping them develop plans and leverage federal resources to increase economic activity.

He also proposes a plan to support summer and year-round jobs for low-income youth and to put long-term unemployed and low-income adults back to work.

Clergy, activists, parents and others in Chicago have said they are eager to hear a plan of action from the president to curb violence.

Annette Nance-Holt, whose 16-year-old son Blair was killed in 2007, said that if the president can set up a task force in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school Dec. 14, he can do the same in Chicago.

Cathy Cohen, founder of the Black Youth Project, said she hopes to hear a plan on how to get illegal guns off the street and how to get young people working.

Clergy said they hope the president talks about broader factors contributing to the city's violence, such as a high unemployment rate and a lack of adequate funding for local schools.

Chicago's homicides in recent years have numbered far below their annual total of more than 900 in the early 1990s. But while Chicago topped 500 homicides last year, the total fell below 500 in New York City, which has about three times the population of Chicago.

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