Monday, May 9, 2016

Chicago: A Tale of Two Cities.

That was the most Search Engine Optimized title I could come up with.

Seriously, I didn't intend to write a post in answer to Saturday's front page article in the New York Times, "In Deeply Divided Chicago, Most Agree: City Is Off Course." But after reading a piece in The Week this morning, "Chicago in crisis," I felt compelled to respond.

I'm no "homer" -- far from it (I'll leave that to my sister) -- but whenever my wife and I hear about Chicago's "troubles" we just look at each other and shrug. After decamping to suburban Glenview in 1992 to raise our two sons, we moved back to the city almost two years ago and both agree that the city has never been nicer. (Yes, you read that right.) In our first summer here we couldn't believe it: "Did you ever think," I asked my wife, "that we'd be riding our bikes past the United Center?"

Now, admittedly, we're white, upper-middle class (I suppose) and live in a neighborhood that's close to the Loop. (According to my phone, the Sears Willis Tower is only a mile and a half walk from our house.) So, as the title of this post suggests, if you're white or live on the North Side your experience will be quite a bit different from those who live on the West and South Sides. I get that. But still...

The two pieces essentially boil down Chicago's ills to corruption, failing schools, crime/gun violence/police brutality/racism, and the city's finances and economy.

Let's take those one at a time. (Since this is a blog post we'll cover just one per day, okay?)

Starting with corruption, I have to say I'm shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that Chicago's government is corrupt. According to The Week:

Chicago routinely ranks among the nation's most politically corrupt cities, with a Democratic machine controlling City Hall for 90 years.

And I would say, only 90 years? News flash: Chicago (and the state of Illinois) has always been corrupt and always will be. We just work around it, like they do with the winters in Minneapolis. I read once that the very first election in the state of Illinois -- before statehood, even! -- had more votes cast than voters. It's just our culture. Deal with it. And you know what? We do. Chicago didn't become the third largest city in America because it had the cleanest government. It got there in spite of our endemic corruption. Somehow the "City that Works" works despite all the shenanigans down at City Hall dating back to William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson (at top) who, according to his Wikipedia page:

...ranks among the most unethical mayors in American history.

Thompson was first elected in 1915, over a hundred years ago. He died in office, in 1944. Since then it could be argued that Chicago has actually gotten cleaner. In any event, corruption hasn't held us back and probably won't going forward. It's naive to think otherwise.

Next: the state of Chicago's schools.

1 comment:

Ed Crotty said...

Big Bill Thompson was a Republican.