The war over peace

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  February 5, 2010

"I am concerned somewhat about where the buck stops with different agencies managing different components," says Gross. "But you have ambitious people with good consciences here, and what seems to be a fresh confidence. In any case, this is a big step-up and a big risk for the foundation and for Paul Grogan. It's an act of courage — many leaders wouldn't spend their capital on this. There needs to be a concerted effort, though. Dealing with violence is like managing a business. You have to know who your competitor is, and who is fighting alongside you. For us, unfortunately, many times the only thing we know for sure is that the competitor is the killer."

TBF representatives declined several Phoenix interview requests; spokesman David Trueblood says they are processing evaluations of StreetSafe and will not entertain press in the meantime.

Since announcing the program, however, Lewis has received significant media attention. In addition to the NPR forum, he was also the subject of a December 2008 feature and subsequent editorial endorsement in the Boston Globe. Another Globe item this past July highlighted an early rift between the foundation and members of certain participating organizations — one of whom, Jorge Martinez from Project R.I.G.H.T. in Grove Hall, accused StreetSafe of withdrawing from community partnerships.

Still, the program has otherwise aired favorably (if not prematurely): a TBF-sponsored NECN report praised the effort as "a renewed commitment to an old problem"; a Boston magazine profile of Lewis labeled StreetSafe "the most revolutionary social-welfare outfit in the country"; syndicated Washington Post columnist Neal Pierce welcomed a second-coming of the "Miracle."

In a June interview with the Boston Business Journal, Lewis, who was at the time soliciting donations by touring potential benefactors on "Boston by Night" rides around combat zones, explained why he is fit to lead this renewed revolution. Having been instrumental in the last clean-up, Lewis advertised his passion, experience, and connections in the sort of statement that may explain why a number of sources resent the foundation's hubris (City Councilor Chuck Turner describes TBF as "arrogant to the point of insanity"). "I wake up every single day and say I will take this on," Lewis told the Journal. "I have a voice and I can speak for those folks. I don't leave my friends behind. And I don't have time for someone else to come up with a strategy for youth violence. Hell, if not me, then who?"

Chris Faraone can be reached at cfaraone@phx.com.

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