City Journal Winter 2016

Current Issue:

Winter 2016
Table of Contents
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

Readers’ Comments

Aaron M. Renn
The Second-Rate City? « Back to Story

View Comments (207)

Add New Comment:

To send your message, please enter the words you see in the distorted image below, in order and separated by a space, and click "Submit." If you cannot read the words below, please click here to receive a new challenge.

Comments will appear online. Please do not submit comments containing advertising or obscene language. Comments containing certain content, such as URLs, may not appear online until they have been reviewed by a moderator.

Showing 207 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
Some problems beyond control: We have a criminal justice system that releases criminals too soon and on legal technicalities. A dismantled mental health system. A welfare system that manufacturers poor people. A public education system that exists for the unions. A president trying to take guns away from law abiding citizens. Laws that criminalize otherwise legal behavior. And we expect the police to clean up the mess. We are going to hell in this country.
The only thing that keeps Chicago going is Lake Michigan. Nobody can survive without frsh water.
I grew up in Chicago and still have family there. My advice to them is to get OUT !
You left out "Unexpectedly"
Michael Bargo Jr. May 23, 2015 at 9:04 AM
Wake up! It only grew in the 1990s through illegal immigration. Hispanics have a high school dropout rate twice that of blacks, and their teenage single motherhood rate is now slightly above that of blacks. They are only supported by state and Federal programs, they are not self sustaining, they didn't have to speak english or have an education to move here. Chicago was the first big sanctuary city, and now 44% of the CPS students are Hispanic. They were brought here to protect union teacher jobs, that's all. Chicago's decline and bankruptcy are inevitable.
I think there is a solution to the unemployment and the housing problem; using the actual infraestructure; similar to what I did in Harlem and south bronx NY , 20 years ago....
I dont think that I've ever seen a better assesment of the problems of my hometown. Though he didn't touch on the cities BIGGEST problem, weather.
The problems with Chicago can be fixed. However, No one wants to fix them. Everyone denies and ignore they even exist. Chicago needs alternatives to Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and NYC. By creating industry specific districts around the city to expand in Tech, Film, Fashion, and Publishing.

I disagree with you saying Chicago's Arts and Architecture isn't enough. It's enough. Chicago just doesn't do much to promote itself as the Home based to which you can perfect your Art and Architecture designs.
As you mentioned Mr. Renn, Chicago needs a cultural change. That is explicitly evident when you read some of the comments posted in response to this story. While you presented a story with statistics and other data (even if you disagree with their interpretation) the responses from those who, presumably are local residents and boosters, just gloss over them with anecdotes, unsubstantiated claims, and an uncritical and unqualified "love" for this city. Part of the cultural problem in Chicago is that you have too many people who do not have enough critical distance and are unable to accept or even acknowledge the current state of this city, its interminable decline, and the projected development of its current problems.

All this talk by local boosters of a sparkling lakefront, glassy skyscrapers, live bands and sport options, famous African Americans, blah, blah, blah, does nothing to impact the crime, municipal debt, low per capita GDP, declining population, and all the other statistics you mentioned. But the reactionary response you get from most locals when you point out these things, many of which these same locals are fully ignorant, is the norm. It is almost as if they have all been reading visitors and convention bureau literature and just regurgitating the material to a prospective visitor.

Granted this article was originally written during the recession, but Chicago's problems (as demonstrated by all the statistics) predate the recession and the city continues to underperform (again, as demonstrated by all the statistics) during the recovery. The ability to change this city and reverse its decline can only occur when there is the will to do so. It starts when the collective delusion of the locals is replaced by a more realistic articulation and acceptance of current conditions. There is no such will and I do not see it developing anytime soon. In 10 years I project Chicago will have declined even further. The only thing that will have remained consistent is the unqualified and uncritical support of this city by its delusional boosters.
I moved my company out of illinois and thousands of businesses are doing the same
And just so nobody gets any off-basis information about Chicago, the Chicago metropolitan area has the fourth largest GDP in the world: #1 Tokyo, #2 New York, #3 Los Angeles, #4 Chicago, #5 London, #6 Paris. Chicago ranks above both London and Paris. And the Chicago metro ranks above many worldwide metros that have a higher population than Chicago's 9.5 million metro population.
Chicago is not a dying city. People are generally ignorant of Chicago. The city has put the nation's only black president into office. Love him or not, that's a huge achievement. New York or Los Angeles couldn't pull that off. It has a far superior Downtown area, and cultural amenities abound. The arts are highly represented, and out door art is a staple of the city. It has great infrastructure, with a large elevated/subway network, and overlapping suburban commuter trains. It has easy access to the watefront and beaches, and a plethora of events held every summer. And house/dance music that has taken over the world? Invented right there in Chicago in the 1980s. The rest of the world didn't catch on and start enjoying this until the 1990s. Strong sports loyalty (the Bulls owned the 1990s), the world's only black female billionaire not of royalty (Oprah) made her money right in the city of Chicago, nowhere else. Like her or not, that's where the success was. And the city is very beautiful, and surprising clean for a city with millions of people. And now the city is building the magnificent Bloomingdale Trail. Chicago has some issues to work on, but so did New York throughout the 1970s and 80s. New York lost nearly million people in one census count -from 1970 to 1980. So things can turn around. Chicago has all the puzzle pieces, it's just in the mist of putting the puzzle together.
I love Chicago. But one problem is alderman have to much clout to kill residential projects. Chicago highrises are mainly in the central city, with a number of high rises going up North along the lake, and a few on the South Side. But it seems whenever developers propose building a taller building outside the city center, nimbys come out in full force. The alderman in the ward it's propsed in, gets so nervous at potentially losing his/her seat at the next election, that they back the nimbys and kill the project, or put the developer through so much red tape that the developer says forget it. Why is it there have been no high rises built between Diversey and Howard on the North Side, and 26th St and 95th St on the South Side. The North Side is especially attractive to developers on nearly all streets; and streets on the South Side, like Cottage Grove, Stoney Island, 35th St, Pershing, 47th St, and Garfield can definitely handled taller buildings, even if the buildings were only 10 - 15 stories tall. And developers have proposed taller buildings in many areas of the city outside the central area, but get shot down by alderman who are not thinking about the good of the city as a whole, but thinking about their city council position. Since this will never change by alderman, it's imnportant for the city to remove this power from the aldermen or greatly decrease it. That way nimbys cannot hold aldermen at fault if a high density building is erected in the ward. Developers should not be made to jump through insurmountable hoops on why a high density building should be erected; instead residents of the area should have to give valid reasons on why a high density building should not be put up; and just stating crowding or no place to park isn't acceptable. Most high rise buildings have their own parking anyway. If New York can fit 8.2 million people in 300 square miles, then Chicago can fit 4 million in 225 square miles. The city is hemmed in by suburbs. So since it can't grow outward and have 465 square miles of land like Los Angeles, it has no option but to grow upward -and aldermen kill this ONLY option. It's baffling how alderman can kill high density projects all around the city, then everyone is in full shock when the census comes out every ten years and the city has remained stagnent or lost population. Haven't they realize it's because they won't let it grow?
I have been living in Ormomd Bch Fl. for 25+ years. I do how ever see no change from my working years there. After reading this article. Corruption is the middle name of the city
With so much to do and so little time, where to start?
How about starting at the core of the problem?
Castrate the union bosses - many union members would applaud. They are ruled by fear.

I know, great idea; not a chance!
Chicago is dying. The city is directed on a beeline to the grave. Crime. Taxes. Perennial drought. A shrinking Lake Michigan and a shriveling Chicago River. To correct the previous commenter's statement, finance is now actually consolidating in New York City; while Chicago is losing in that respect as well. Also, being a seaport city appears to be more relevant now than ever to maintain world city status, world trade, and to attract young, vibrant energy and capital.
I don't know, this article feels like a drive-by. All these issues were present when the city grew in the 1990s, and the city grew appreciably. I worked as a census verifier for the 2000 census and I can tell you it was very hard to find all the Hispanic residents. I can say for a fact people are missed. In one house I found an additional 13 people that had been missed and in another about 6. All told, I found about an additional 75 people in my travels, most Hispanic. With the sharp rise in the Hispanic population, I suspect that many more Chicagoans were missed in the last census.

The writer fails to even mention Chicago's central role in the financial world, which has stolen much of the financial business from New York, in the futures markets. Hardly small potatoes.

The anti "global city" thing seems like a personal hobbyhorse for the writer. That is not hurting Chicago. And it's why so many suburban kids move back to the city when they are young, and is what keeps people there. Silly analysis.

But I do agree that attending to the nuts and bolts of making business easily possible, and city and state finances healthy is very important. The recent gutting of a huge South Side warehouse that used to contain a going furniture that I once dealt with personally is a case in point. It had been defunct for 8 years, with nothing in the warehouse.

All that does have to be reformed.

Chicago will do fine IF IF IF the economy strongly recovers. The financial collapse in America and especially in the Midwest. is responsible for the major part of the city's problems. And that was due to deregulation. So the key is smart business policies that work, not always what business organizations say they want.

This is a long read but tells the Chicago story.
my friend Joe Lake forwarded this my way as i have felt for some time to be a lone voice through the looking glass called Chicago . . . Illinois as well. Kudos your way for accurate reporting and sage insight as to lokely outcomes.
Also, it's refreshing to see that this issue is being discussed.
Stunningly insightful piece. Thanks dude. I enjoyed the read. I've only recently became Chicago's "condition" even though I've lived here or around here for most of my life. I agree with you with regards to Chicago not setting its sights to be become a global city yet. At this time the city would benefit greatly by providing a better quality of life.
i live in chicago's rogers park.
the only thing i really dislike and see that is not right, is the extreme poverty in certain pockets of chicago. something needs to be done with this perpetual, grinding, poverty. The people in those communities no matter what color, need help. They need a boost in their confidence and self esteem. the hopelessness and despair has been present for decades, and seems never end. with all the wealth in this country, and here in the chicago area, why have these people not been helped more?
Its starts when kids are young. The people in those communities, do not necessarily need money but need a boost in their self esteem, confidence and education.
“Chicago also needs something even harder to achieve: wholesale cultural change. It needs to end its obsession with being solely a global city, look for ways to reinvigorate its role as capital of the Midwest, and provide opportunities for its neglected middle and working classes, not just the elites.”

Excellent well-researched and thought provoking article. A breath of fresh air from the usual city-bashing rants

Applies equally to broader America. If only the good ol’ USA spent more $ at home instead of squandering $ overseas on a military-industrial-complex… Warren Buffet’s “Squanderville vs. Thriftville” article comes to mind…
“Chicago also needs something even harder to achieve: wholesale cultural change. It needs to end its obsession with being solely a global city, look for ways to reinvigorate its role as capital of the Midwest, and provide opportunities for its neglected middle and working classes, not just the elites.”

Excellent well-researched and thought provoking article. A breath of fresh air from the usual city-bashing rants

Applies equally to broader America. If only the good ol’ USA spent more $ at home instead of squandering $ overseas on a military-industrial-complex… Warren Buffet’s “Squanderville vs. Thriftville” article comes to mind…
I just came across this article and won't repeat what others have written.

However, I'd ignore the population statistics Renn opens with and worry instead about the crushing public debt, crime/corruption, and red tape. Oh, and the way the city is developing an excessive focus on the downtown at the expense of many of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The fact that a few hundred thousand black Chicagoans left the city's South and West Side neighborhoods in the 2000s really doesn't mean much, no offense to them. As Renn himself notes, unemployment is high and traditional blue collar industries are really suffering. The people leaving are largely at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and the ones who don't readily have opportunities waiting for them in Chicago. Frankly, and no offense to them, they will not quickly be missed. Meanwhile the city is filling in at the center. It has a much, much denser CBD than most other American cities and a much larger urban population, which is the product of a sustained period of development that really has created a very livable city for a very large number of people.

The real problems are on the governmental side. (Assuming the South and West Side gangs don't get us first.) You can only play kick the can with your debt for so long before the bill comes due. And if you're not competitive with other metro areas you will eventually fall behind simply by comparison -- as the McCormick Place restructuring illustrates. (That's something Renn should have focused on -- the fact that our convention center was rapidly losing business thanks to ridiculously costly union and government regulations that Chicago's competitors did not have.)

On a personal level, as someone who need TWO YEARS to get a permit to rebuild his roof deck, I can vouch for the fact that Chicago's regulatory agencies operate like the worst third-world banana republic you can imagine. The stories Renn provides about permit application fiascoes do not surprise me in the slightest. And the fundamental problem with those situations is that they breed the very corruption and cynicism we should be trying to avoid. Frankly, having gone through the permit application nightmare once, I will think twice about keeping everything above the table the next time. And that's Chicago's tragedy in miniature.
You failed to touch on the crime and gang epidemic which is an embarrassment and blemish on the city's claim to fame. Compare stats with NYC for example.
Hey Jack-

Of course that isn't the only reason Chicago has suffered over the last decade. There are several-dozen reasons.

However, I think your reason is a HUGE factor. I don't have a lot of faith but we'll see if Rahm can correct this problem?
Excellent assesment. You were king not to mention crime. It can go unmentioned because it is tied in with economics. Poverty breeds crime wherever it estists in the world.
If not for the city there would be no suburbs. A thought that suburbanites should keep in mind. "So goes the city, so goes the burbs".
why is Chicago in Decline? because it no longer attracts the best and brightest.

here's a personal anecdote: I went to a top engineering school in central Illinois. Nearly all my fellow classmates like me grew up in Chicagoland and studied engineering. After graduation, almost all of us continued to get more advanced degrees, either in Engineer, Business, or law. Yet, 10 years after our graduation, none of us stayed behind in Chicago. We're either in the East Coast or on the West Coast.

I think many of us wanted to stay in Chicago, but there just wasn't very competitive job offering in the Midwest.

This, I believe, is why Chicago is dying and the west coast is thriving. It's is simply not able to keep its educated youth from staying and building the city.
Good article. I would suggest, though, that you should have also expanded upon the "europization" of the city that you briefly mentioned. One of the main things that has sustained Chicago, while cities like Detroit and Cleveland crumbled, was that the city always had a healthy middle class on the city's edges.

The far Southwest and Northwest sides were esentially "suburbs" within the cities that did not experience the same level of violence that other parts of the city were accustomed with. This middle class base had existed throughout the terrible 1970's and 1980's. However, now we see these same people (whose families have lived in these neighborhoods for generations), finally abandoning the city as poverty is pushed from the city's center to it's fringes.

What is the pay off of accomodating young transients in your urban core at the expense of losing middle class families on your edges? The results of this probably won't be recognized for decades to come.
"Chicago is also being “Europeanized,” with poorer minorities leaving the center of the city and forced to its inner suburbs: 175,000 of those 200,000 lost people were black."

you say this like its a bad thing... Shockingly, the nicer neighborhoods have increased in quality while the ghettos remain the same.

Brian Morrissey June 19, 2012 at 5:17 PM
Chicago needs to recapitalizing/leveraging our rail hub (the largest in the world) for efficient and cheaper transportation opportunities for businesses producing here and selling here. High speed rail or not, fix the damn tracks - there is room for massive expansion as air travel shrinks and rail expands; Chicago is positioned in exactly the right place.

And don't forget or neglect The 15 years Chicago will be the Saudi Arabia of fresh water. Texas, Nevada, Arizona are already beginning to grovel...
Brian Morrissey June 19, 2012 at 4:53 PM
Kind of ridiculous that you neglect to mention Emanuel's continued propagation of the TIF racket while asserting that he needs to reinvest in the lower and middle classes.
Truer words have never been spoken. And I've lived in Chicago for 37 of my 41 years.
Good article, but it overlooks the property and casualty insurance industry which is a huge economic engine for the city and region.
It's a well-researched article with good insights. I don't agree with some of the broad interpretations though. The opposite of aldermanic privilege is rationalizing zoning and other regulations so they're objective, not based on favors a...nd clout. But then the article bashes over-regulation in its next breath. It points to our being the capital of the Midwest as a limiting factor; it points to some of Chicago's attempts to be a global city as overly enthusiastic, but then says we should embrace our role as the Midwest capital and nothing more. This is the city of no small plans, and yes, Chicago overshoots and doesn't live up to its high aspirations, but it won't stop aspiring. While I agree that the culture of clout and sycophants does hurt Chicago, we're also the home of community organizing and some serious rabble-rousing. You can't say Chicagoans haven't found power through that--maybe not "elite" power, but who needs that anyway?
Since Rahm promised when he ran for Mayor to hire police with the TIF budget, and thus far has not done anything but shuffle people around and present an illusion to the general public, they need to suspend the TIF budget and give it back to where it came from: the schools.

Long term, fixing Chicago's crime ties back to fixing the schools. Teacher involvement, parent teacher involvement when possible, after school activities. Instead of funding the schools, what is about to happen? They're about to strike because they can't get the money they deserve.

The money in TIF is stolen from schools. It's a good idea in boom times, but when things are already dysfunctional you need to take the money and keep it funding what we have now, not try to add to it.
Anyone who has been a protester knows that Emanuel won't be setting a new tone that allows a more robust conversation. Emanuel forced through the "Sit Down and Shut Up" anti-protest law, and followed textbook social repression techniques during NATO. Plus, the Chicago Reader did a study of his daily calendar and found that he only meets with millionaires, whereas prior mayors would meet with community groups, nonprofits, and churches. Emanuel doesn't meet with these groups at all. Consensus is that Emanuel is far worse than Daley in suppressing any opposing views (or even learning what they are) and enforcing his will.
The Global City Of Chicago Ranks Number 6 In The World Based On The Composite Of Five Recently Released Rankings Of The World's Cities.

Sad but true. I've been watching Chicago and Cook County's decline for over 25 years. The reason is simple: Power is concentrated in one political party for nearly 75 years. The Democratic machine is beholden to public employee unions to get out the vote to keep its power. The entire city and county is corrupt and trying to fix it is impossible because the "fox is guarding the hen house." I love Chicago, but its current situation is unsustainable. So when my wife's and my retirement came two years ago, we cashed in our chips, pulled up stakes and moved to Southern Oregon. We both wished we had done it ten years ago.
Good Luck, Chicago, and sooooo loooong!
It is what it is June 17, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Your comment is that of a white person who has very little exposure outside of where you were raised and also who raised you. It's also a typical rural Midwest belief.

Not all blacks are criminals and in fact many blacks positively contribute a great deal to society including the city of Chicago and the Loop.

Maybe you should re-phrase your statement and dissect your demographic more specifically. Painting all blacks with a broad stroke is an idiotic and ignorant statement at best. Yes, I cannot deny that most of the crimes are being committed by young black youth's mostly coming in from other neighborhoods but a majority of blacks living downtown are professionally employed, educated and law abiding citizens.
"Chicago is also being “Europeanized,” with poorer minorities leaving the center of the city and forced to its inner suburbs: 175,000 of those 200,000 lost people were black."

That is BAD? That's good for Chicago and bad for the suburbs. Fewer blacks mean less crime. It's called gentric cleansing.
I read through the entire cluster of comments posted to this opinion piece and I must say: Why are so many rabid anti-Chicago comments posted to this opinion piece? What provoked these disdainful rants and diatribes? What possess someone to feel the need to post such angry remarks? Many of the comments could simply be described as dumb and not well conceived. Are the bizarre comments found here representative of those usually posted to this writer's opinion pieces? Or, are the comments found here, a freakish collection from a one-time assemblage of forlorn minds?
Much of what Renn said is very true. However, he must give the city credit for being one of America's most forward moving cities. The bad thing is we're one of America's least forward "thinking" cities. Lack of a quality education plays a big role in Chicago's mind-set but thankfully more college educated transplants are moving into the city and changing that mind-set of the city and are DEMANDING more accountability from elected officials. We're still decades behind other forward thinking and progressive cities such as Ann Arbor, NYC and San Francisco. ONLY because education has ALWAYS been tied into those communities since their beginning. Chicago MUST become a better educated city in order to root out its self-destructing ills such as corruption, gang violence, extreme segregation and ultimately giving citizens leverage in the city government decisions. I always say "Chicago will be a great city when corruption or politics is NOT the first thought that comes to a Chicagoans mind when thinking of our city." When we can go through everyday life and have trust in our elected officials and focus on family time, extra-curricular activities, the arts, looking forward to a walk in the park and not being nickel and dimed by our slave masters. That will be the day when the city has made it. If you have ever lived in a successful city, you know that one NEVER goes a day thinking of "how is the city going to screw me today." Only in Chicago and a couple of others.

I think most indigenous Chicagoans also suffer from low self-esteem. Chicago is the ONLY city I've ever visited when an interviewer will ask a celebrity what do you like about our city? Most transplants don't care what others think. We aren't concerned with wanting to be accepted or liked. The reason Chicago is advancing is because transplants have realized an unpolished gem in Chicago, a gem that Chicagoans have taken for granted for decades. Many Chicagoans are not happy with the changes taking place around the city and in some cases I understand why. Daley and Emanuel both, are (were) retro-fitting the city for the new transplants coming in from Michigan, Ohio and the rest of the world. To satisfy these college education young professionals that are transforming the stagnant neighborhoods that the indigenous Chicagoans have pissed on for years. The city has become disneyfied and suburbanized in many ways. But if you look at neighborhoods from the far north all the way to the West Loop/ South Loop, many of these neighborhoods have become more livable than ever before.

So even though I agree with much of what Renn said, the good thing is the city's problems can be corrected in a decades time. I think the real problem that we should be concerned about is the state of the State. We need a governor like Rick Snyder(MI) to make the tough decisions that we face. Quinn is still kicking the can.
About 70% of the comments here are born of ignorance. It should be obvious to anyone that about 70% of the comments have been made by biased right wing ideologues. The antagonistic perspectives displayed in the comments are uninformed and slanted and therefore irrelavant to anyone other than a like-mined, ignorant and biased ideologue.
Rotting City, Northsider? I could easily name 30 (more if pressed) distinct neighborhoods in the city of Chicago that put most neighborhoods (and suburbs) elsewhere to absolute shame. Indeed, Chicago has lost population, but look behind those numbers. Those losses have been in the highest-crime riddled areas of the south and west sides. Indeed, it's infrastructure and school system need overhauls, but which major American city's does not at this point?

With respect to Millennium Park, are you serious? It's an incredible transformation of abandoned rail-yards on the city's doorstep to a green space, event space and virtual amusement park that draws MILLIONS of visitors and locals each year. It's an image that graces tourism and convention brochures and has served as a magnet for residential and commercial development around the park, e.g. "Millennium Park This" and "Millennium Park That". Any claim otherwise is simply a lame attempt at revisionism to try to justify the bitter rantings of Aaron Renn.
Ah...the grass is always greener somewhere else.
Of course he has his points but this is as one sided as it gets from someone with a personal axe to grind. The fact that he glosses over (at best) the effects of the Great Recession on every American city from Atlanta to LA says it all. Aside from lacking a good comparative basis this is just typical New York (ex-Chicagoan) bashing of Chicago.
I think the city will be around long after the author.
I always found Millennium Park to be one of the more sterile and ugly urban parks. It isn't really a conventional "park" (i.e. place of rest and relaxation within nature). It's more of a "World's Fair" type place for the tourists from Iowa.

I lived in River North for a number of years, and can't say I ever visited, except when family came to town. Millennium Park was never really embraced by locals.

But the bigger issue is Millennium Park as a symbol of big-ticket, taxpayer-subsidized "look at me, we're world-class, no really!" type development. As the South and West Sides burn, Daley and Rahm funnel taxpayer dollars to downtown Bread and Circuses for the tourists and transients.

The result? A taxpayer-subsidized core surrounded by a rotting city. The only healthy neighborhoods are those where postcollegiates live for five years before returning to Chicagoland suburbs or Michigan to settle down.
Former New Yorker June 15, 2012 at 6:29 PM
Mr. Renn: just a few additional thoughts...I find your singular foci on certain things to be quite troubling. Your article criticizes Chicago for its "diversity" of industries, but abjectly fails to mention those cities that have focused on singular industries that drove them off of the proverbial cliff. Also, you are hung up on Loop "job losses", while failing to: 1) compare those to losses in other cities' central business districts in a down economy; 2) Look at Chicago "downtown" jobs outside of the Loop proper; and 3) apparently purposefully ignore those corporate headquarters and jobs that have moved into Chicago within the last year or so alone.

I have to say that, as a fellow conservative, the liberal tendencies of Chicago, its mayor and its city council perturb me to no end. I can only imagine how much even better Chicago could be if those shackles were lifted. However, your article simply comes off as a premise looking to justify itself, rather than an honest study looking to reach logical and informed conclusions.

I say this as native Detroiter and a former New Yorker, who also happened to toil in government in DC. I'm also dang proud to now live in Chicago because I am continually fascinated by its strengths, as well as its challenges and potential. I hope that you can someday also. BTW, welcome to Chicago.

Former New Yorker June 15, 2012 at 6:06 PM
As a fellow conservative, I believe that I can safely say that Mr. Renn sounds like a contrarian merely trying to get noticed. If he has really even set foot in Chicago, it would be painfully obvious to him how markedly better Chicago is as a place to work and live compared with many of the other cities he's noted. What also fascinates me is Mr. Renn's astonishing ignorance of other cities that have focused on one single industry that drove them off the proverbial cliff. Detroit/automotive surely comes to mind. If diversity in this context is Chicago's "weakness" then I'll take that trait any day over the other maladies plaguing most other cities.
Steven H. June 15, 2012 at 12:01 AM

"Other factors: the loss of many corporate headquarters in 1998-99, without a serious effort to lure any new ones in. They brought in Boeing, but didn't do anything to improve the overall business environment. The Millennium park debacle / white elephant / eyesore was a gut punch to the non-profit sector. Last, Chicago is hostile to small business. Make it easy to start a business in town. That will help things greatly."

This is just too out there not to laugh, lol. Several corporate headquarters have moved to this city and the surrounding area in the last decade so you clearly have no clue what you're talking about. And Millennium Park is a debacle? an eyesore/white elephant? Please stop because you are making a fool of yourself. Millennium Park is one of the most successful urban parks in the country if not the world. Every city was and are still trying to replicate it. It has brought in huge investment in the east loop with several condo buildings and hotels being built around it. The park has probably already paid for itself with all the tax dollars that it has generated for the city.

I understand though, why would anyone want to tell the truth on a "Bash Chicago" blog?

It's funny how many pro Chicago articles were written a few years ago until Obama became President. All those articles trumpeting Chicago as the city of the future, the city on the move, blah, blah, blah, all turned to Chicago, the dying city once Obama took office. You right-wing, Obama haiting and Chicago bashers will end up eating your words and Chicago will get the last laugh.
If Illinois wants to survive and improve, they had better follow Wisconsin’s lead and eliminate collective bargaining, allow people to leave the unions and make public employees pay more for pensions and health care. There is no other choice it will happen one way or another mathematically guaranteed.
New mayor? Rahm has been mayor for over a year now. That's hardly a new mayor. I knew Chicago was in trouble when they banned foie gras. The green roof initiative also revealed a departure from Midwestern realism. I understand that just outside Cook County there is an abundance of stores for shoppers to take advantage of lower sales tax.

The pattern is always the same. Grandiose schemes followed by higher taxes and regulations lead to a fleeing population of the productive.
That is "little phifedoms".
Francis (Frank) Johnstone June 15, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Outstanding article with indepth analysis of what is (has) happening to a previously GREAT CITY. As a "native chicagoan"(growing up in the Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods) whose grandparents and great grandparents are laid to rest in the outskirts of Chicago (Hillside)I am sure they are turning over in their graves. They were part of the "unconnected" Irish who came to Chicago and made a life for themselves the old fashioned way by working for whatever they got. I am part of their "legacy". I have watched with ammazement the Aldermen gain power and and wealth "managing?" their own liggle phifedoms. I congratulate you for telling it like it is. Your article should be published in Crains Chicago Business for the many that may have missed it.
I don't understand....if the city doesn't have enough money, why not just raise taxes some more? That always leads to increased tax revenues, a growing economy, and and increase in population.
Chicago is hardly becoming Europeanized. The poverty rate in the city of Chicago is one of the highest among large cities and is more than twice the rate in suburban communities. Go a couple miles west or south of the Loop and you will find yourself in very depressed areas that are hardly "Parislike."
Not so surprising that Obama hails from the most corrupt city in America.
I don't disagree with the comments, but I would argue that Chicago's relative failure is about more than "liberalism" "big govt" or "union cronies".

Yes, Chicago is in decline (arguably deep decline, and perhaps fatal decline), but there has to be more to it than just "liberalism".

Places like NYC and SF are, if anything, more liberal, and they're much more successful, with high incomes, strong job growth, low crime, growing population, and a burgening startup and entrepreunial culture.

So what makes Chicago different? Why is Chiacgo more like Detroit and Cleveland than NYC and SF? Is it because the Midwest has structural issues that limit growth, and the coasts are more desirable places? Or is there something else going on?
Other factors: the loss of many corporate headquarters in 1998-99, without a serious effort to lure any new ones in. They brought in Boeing, but didn't do anything to improve the overall business environment. The Millennium park debacle / white elephant / eyesore was a gut punch to the non-profit sector. Last, Chicago is hostile to small business. Make it easy to start a business in town. That will help things greatly.
The crooks are in charge of the till. Public sector union bosses are negotiating with slimy politicians and getting sweetheart deals (Cadillac pensions) for their cronies.... meanwhile the politicians get votes and support from the unions. Both sides win and the tax payer loses and has to pick up the tab. Nauseating.
And we should not wonder why our current president has tried to run the entire country like it is Chicago - it's the only style he knows. The country is suffering the same decline, but, obviously, in larger, more generic categories. You may be able to take the politician out of Chicago, but Chicago remains within the politician.
Detroit redux. Natural consequence of decades of liberal control. Still, the unions refuse to face up to their major role in the mess; Illinois is doomed because they have no courageous leader like Scott Walker to bring them back from the cliff's edge. They just keep marching, lockstep into oblivion.

A second Obama administration would move the rest of the United States even closer to what Chicago has become. No thank you.
Detroit redux. Natural consequence of decades of liberal control. Still, the unions refuse to face up to their major role in the mess; Illinois is doomed because they have no courageous leader like Scott Walker to bring them back from the cliff's edge. They just keep marching, lockstep into oblivion.

Typical example of a system run for and by the 'crats, so the real workers are leaving town.
A liberal's paradise
Excellent analysis - you are right on with the "Global City" boosterism. One other area that would have been important to include in the article is the horrible violence and poverty on the South and West sides of the city.
Hey Aaron. How are things. It's been a while since we last spoke. I enjoyed reading your piece but have info to share that make might you a bit more optimistic.

Lance Pressl and the Chamber Foundation commissioned a tri-state region economic analysis through the OECD. I think you will find it quite helpful and relevant to your work.

Connect with me offline and I'll get you a copy and discuss further.

Thanks, John
I just saw that this article was on 'Real Clear Politics' along with another article entitled "Two Chicagos." Most people when reading this will know exactly what that means without even reading the article - one area black, or black and Latino, and the rest of Chicago. The black area, as in many other major cities, full of crime, bad schools, single parent families and no jobs since businesses don't come to areas with high crime.

How is it possible that 50 years after the civil rights movement won equality before the law there is still 'two Chicagos?"

And, to even mention the above makes many people uncomfortable since those who don't live in the 'other' area have been conditioned by Democratic media to stay silent. But, if you read Heather MacDonald's articles on Chicago, you get an understanding of just how bad the one Chicago is. And it isn't just Chicago, it's Detroit, Los Angeles, St. Louis and many many other places - in my state alone it's Newark, Paterson, Passaic, Trenton, Plainfield, Bridgeton, Elizabeth and other places.

And it isn't like Chicago forgoes spending money in the areas of high crime, little educational achievement etc. in the 'other Chicago' - in fact enormous amounts of money are spent there but money makes little difference.

In fact, one can't help but notice that the Democratic press doesn't even bother talking about the need for more money and jobs in the 'other' areas - after 25 or so years of national prosperity made zero difference in the 'other cities' even the Democratic press can't say with a straight face that the problem is money.

So, the question is - what would help Chicago's 'other city'?

There IS an answer, and it's simple - all that need be done is for the people to rid themselves of the Democratic bloodsuckers who have had over a half a century - or far more - of absolute power in the 'other Chicago' and used that time and all the money spent to first enrich themselves and second to destroy the families of those who live there, resulting in dependence, misery, crime and violence at unheard of levels, and zero will to be educated.

Democrats know that children that grow up in close families, with parents staying together, and hopefully aunts, uncles and cousins around the corner, don't commit crime at rates in the 'other Chicago', nor fail to get an education, and such families aren't dependent on government - and for them that's a very bad thing, since people brought up in these circumstances don't vote 100% Democratic. So, intact families are an anathema to Democrats - plus being pro-family is a Republican thing.

So, for Democrats in Chicago - both Chicagos, government dependence is a goal since it leads to strong Democratic majorities.

Because in the 'other Chicago' failure - what most people would call failure - at governing doesn't have any consequences other than to convince people to vote for Democrats, which ironically enough is the worst thing that they could do - since the 'other Chicago' is a one party system, and it is treated like a fiefdom by those who rule. Not just in Chicago but in every other 'other city' - the Martin Luther King Roads of misery laid down by an organization - the Democratic party - that is quite comfortable with high crime, shattered families, dependence on government and all the rest. This is the PREFERRED condition since it leads to ouster of political opposition and close to 100% of the vote.

And since the rest of the country has been conditioned by Democratic media to NEVER say a word about what is happening to our fellow citizens we ignore it, thinking it isn't our problem, thereby consigning millions of people to the tender mercies of the most corrupt organization on the planet. You can't read about the 'other Chicago' as described by Heather MacDonald and others without wondering when people will finally speak up about what's going on. After all, no one says anything since when anyone does we hear cries of 'racism!" - since those the Democrats have placed in charge of the 'other Chicago' and other places like it are led by leaders who know which buttons to push to enforce silence,and Democratic media gives these leaders a soap box so that they can continue their corrupt ways.

So, I'll ask are we all going to be quiet while this corrupt organization destroys a third generation?

The best way to teach the thugs running Chicago a lesson is to defeat Barack Obama in November.
An excellent article. Well-researched and pulls no punches, yet without seeking to beat everyone up in the process of illuminating the City's troubles.

Side note: Isn't it interesting that our current President chose Chicago as the place to settle and launch his career ?

(He didn't come from there, so why there after college? Hum.)
This is a remarkably accurate portrayal of Illinois and Chicagoland, the only fact needing a check is our last place stature in per capita state employees. That defies all logic.

Two observations may be worthwhile.

Illinois does not tax retirement income. If Springfield decides that doing so is the answer to alleviating its
financial strain, it will take all of 10 minutes to gather the 2020 census data for the state.

The "echo chamber of boosterism" is most embarrasingly evinced in the two Chicago dailies. With Mr. Obama in the White House, stories that cast a negative image on the city have grown infrequent, replaced by what can best be termed "rah rah journalism". Since his election, Chicago seemingly is no longer the most segregated major city, nor does it have a huge number of homeless, and so on. Even
the public schools, surprisingly unmentioned in this story, have apparently staged a turnaround.
Perhaps if the author realized that the policies of the ongoing Dem liberals in Ill., Chicago after decade after decade simply FAIL. They do not work but liberal lemmings on the dependency list and a fear of Pubs ,keeps electing socialist Dem dopes year after year. Rahm is no different. He will not do anything differently than H.Washington or BHO or any liberal mayor, guv or state legislative Dems in every urban area or Blue state. From Ca., to Mi, to Ill. to NY all liberal state, nothing but bankruptcy will occur and more spending, taxes, regs. Period. How Americans can vote for these dunces is beyond this 73 yr. old patriot, retired college teacher and pastor?
Great article but you left out one thing. What about the escalating murder rate?
LOL! Its just "The Chicago Way"! And now Obama has brought the Chicago way to our National Goverment and is taking us down the exact same path of massive senseless goverment, massive debt, terrible hostility to business. Obama is doing everything to our nation that his story tells us is destroying the city of Chicago. Go figure. Chicago won't change with its current political leadership. Your only hope is to suck it up if you live there, or get out. Nov will decide whether our nation continues down the same path as Chicago and Illinois, or not?
Rahm Emanuel is a pro in the Chicago style of politics. His protege now Chief Executive of Enterprise USA employing the lessons he learned well from Emanuel and his mentors,

Perhaps Chicago style politics is politics of the style of Zimbabwe/Mugabe, erstwhile Head with Libya/M.Gaddafi of the UN Human Rights Council. Maybe they know something about politics those not au fait with the internal machinery of their professions don't. Method in their madness?
why is this a surprise> you been Rahmed
This article fails to mention crime as a symptom of decay - thugs are empowered by Eric Holders racist enforcement of our laws.
Great article. Key line: "within the city of Chicago, there’s a stunning $63,525 in total local government liabilities per household." Maybe that's why W & M want to move there so much, they can feel right at home!

  The share of Americans who've been out of work a long time — now at 42% of the unemployed — is the highest since the Great Depression (source: Labor Department).
The proportion of the civilian working-age population actually working, at 58%, is the smallest since the Carter era (Labor Department).
Growth in nonfarm payroll jobs since the recovery began in June 2009 is the slowest of any comparable recovery since World War II (Hoover Institution).
The rate of new business startups — the engine of job growth — has plunged to an all-time low of 7.87% of all businesses (Census Bureau).
3 in 10 young adults can't find jobs and live with their parents, highest since the 1950s (Pew Research).
54% of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 are jobless or underemployed, the highest share in decades (Northeastern University).
Black teen unemployment, now at 37%, is near Depression-era highs (Labor Department).
Almost 1 in 6 Americans are now poor — the highest ratio in 30 years — and the total number of poor, at 49.1 million, is the largest on record (Census).
The share of Hispanics in poverty has topped that of blacks for the first time, 28.2% to 25.4% (Census).
The number of Americans on food stamps — 45 million recipients, or 1 in 7 residents — also is the highest on record (Congressional Budget Office).
Total government dependency — defined as the share of Americans receiving one or more federal benefit payments — is now at 47%, highest ever (Hoover).
The share of Americans paying no income tax, at 49.5%, is the highest ever (Heritage Foundation, IRS).
The national homeownership rate, now at 65.4%, is the lowest in 15 years (Census).
The 30-point gap between black and white Americans who own their own homes is the widest in two decades and one of the widest on record (Census).
Federal spending, now at 23.4% of GDP, is the highest since WWII (CBO).
Excluding defense and interest payments, spending is the highest in American history, at 17.6% of the economy (First Trust Economics).
The federal debt, at 69% of GDP, is the highest since just after WWII (CBO).
The U.S. budget deficit, now at 9.5% of the economy, is the highest since WWII (CBO).
U.S. Treasury debt has been downgraded for the first time in history, meaning the U.S. government no longer ranks among risk-free borrowers (S&P).
“I'M TOO BUSY“......Obama quote on Walker recall election! Translation.....GO TO HELL....Union!
I'm still waiting for you Demothugs to explain to me why 36% of Union members voted for Walker?
Why were the Demothugs exit polls so far bottom feeders?
“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America 's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America 's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”
~ Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006
Robert H.R. Labonte June 14, 2012 at 12:07 PM
A good article on how "me first" attitudes, systemic dysfunction, short sighted commitments and legacy issues can pile on to cripple the future prosperity of the whole community (be it at the neighborhood, district, ward, city, region, state, country and/or global scale) ultimately resulting in a poorer social and economic environment for the "me first" individual. Without wholesale change in attitudes at all levels and a real commitment to address the here and now challenges, the future will continue to suffer from a long and now accelerating decline.
"turn around the midwest"? Indy turned itself around without any help from Chicago.

By the way, Chicago IS a world class city and to deny that is "delusional". I'm speaking as an outsider here.

You can be a world class city and STILL be the capital of the midwest. Chicago is a world class city but it's also still an American city which you can't say about NY or LA anymore.

I think that's pretty cool myself.
Hint 1: The state constitution of Illinois can be changed.
Hint 2: The power of the state government of Illinois emanates from Cook County.
Hint 3: If the power of Cook County wants to solve the problem, they can and will before the sun sets on this day.

But, they haven't. They've given no indication of planning to. I haven't bought any $1 houses in Detroit simply because the property tax in Detroit is based on irrational assessments of property value. That same irrationality in assessments of clout value is afflicting Chicago.
I have an idea. let's take the politicians from Chicago and put them in charge of the entire country.....oh. Nevermind.
I think Chicago will be Detroit, Part 2 within 20 or so years. The core neighborhoods will remain semi-healthy, but the rest of the city will be a wasteland.

But, even downtown, it's scary how far we've fallen. Two bedroom luxury highrises, steps from Michigan Ave., can be had for under 200k. That's scary cheap in the best neighborhood in town.

Just wait till Rahm installs a city income tax!
Teachers there are demanding 30% increase in pay since they have to work 20 minutes longer each day and want back raises restored. THey approved a strike vote. Interesting to see what Rahm does? Give in: let them strike; fire them all? He'll do #1 and dig the hole deeper.
Mr. Renn didn't even mention the frightening and very real prospect (to retirees not receiving government pensions) of endlessly increasing property taxes.
If my own old-age well being is compromised by increasing taxes, I'm going to have to be outta here too.
How about guaranteed minimum wage with annual COL increases for fully vested city/county workers?

Chicago's fall has been decades in the making. When things finally collapse under the weight of poor leadership, corruption, decisions made to benefit only special interests (unions, insiders, party hacks), and demographics, the fall comes very swiftly. Much like the flawed notion of the "overnight success", this train wreck has been years in the making. Very sad. Even worse, there is still no strong political leadership at the city or state level to make the necessary changes. Get used to Chicago's new name and eventual fate - West Detroit.
Would that be Obama and Holder,s home boys. You know the packs of blacks beating up none Blacks. Where is Jackson, Sharpton and Obama when you need them protesting and calling for mobs?
Then there is that pesky urban CRIME problem that keeps people from visiting downtown after hours because the home boys are running amok!
What does the 26 cities over 250K and the greatest poverty level have in common?

All are heavy unionized and all have been controlled by Democrats for many many years!

Does this fact and the Blue States bordering on Bankruptcy penetrate the mental fog surrounding. the Liberal mind of most Democrat voters?

Of Course NOT!

Never have so many been oblivious to the obvious.

They still think the Democrat Politicians are concerned about their Welfare.

The same party and polities that reduced the black population into welfare bondage and the most dependable Democrat voters will work just as well for the rest of the population.

Just reduced them to poverty and Depending on Welfare and you have a Democrat voter for life!

President Zero and the Democrats are pursuing the same polities and spreading poverty for the rest of the Nation that have turned those cities and blue States like Calif., Illinois, New York etc. into basket cases and made them dependable votes for the Democrats!

The more the Democrats can spread Poverty, Welfare and the Entitlement mentality the more Democrat voters they make and the closer they get to a Third World Socialist Paradise controlled Lock, Stock and Barrel by the Democrat party!
Another article on the dysfunctional state of Chicago and Illinois without a single mention of Michael Madigan. He runs the state with an iron fist, controls the elections, and is DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for the de facto BANKRUPT Illinois. Mayor Emanuel doesn't take a potty break without Madigan's permission....and not one mention of this in the article. How does one man hijack an entire state of the union without anybody in the press (John Kass the single exception)noticing. Unbelievable.
Chicago and the State of Illinois are in a pickle. The states politicians have failed the citizens in a huge way. As Illinois crumbles, the politicians are placing band aids on severed arteries. They are doing nothing to fix the real problem.

The fiscally expedient solution would be for a dramatic overhaul of the state's pension system. Private businesses would go under if they were allowed to be so underfunded. Doesn't the government have laws about that?

The problem is that our state's politicians are too worried about what is politically expedient. Changes to the system will affect the union votes. It's amazing how the state will raise taxes and fees on everyone for the benefit of a select few.

The last state income tax increase was supposed to take care of the budget issues. At the time some leaders said that the majority of the increase would be taken up by pension obligations. That is what happened and we are still in the mess.

The taxes were increased 66% and it is supposed to be for only 5 years. The increase was voted on at the end of session so that lame duck members could vote for the bill and thus allow other members to say that they voted against the bill.

As the state's politicians run the state in to the ground they are held unaccountable. The citizens of the state blindly re-elect democrats back into power year after year.

The local papers, The Tribune and The Sun-Times have both been asleep at the wheel. You'd think in a city the size of Chicago, that you'd see multiple Pulitzer Prizes awarded to each paper. I guess it's not really news, but commentary
I think both staunch republicans and democrats have a lot to agree with here. The clout and "business as usual" type attitude needs to change or chicago is going to find itself the next cleveland, milwaukee or, at worst, detroit. As a follow up or if you're going to write more on this topic, I think it would be interesting to compare two similar sized midwest cities, one successful, and one unsuccessful over the last decade. So take a Milwaukee and Indianapolis and compare what's happened, why, and then bring it back to what Chicago can do. Obviously we can't make our downtown streets 10 lanes like are in Indianapolis, however there may be reforms, contract elimination or loosening up on clout which has allowed that city to thrive
NY is no better than Chicago. We have more than $75 billion in unfunded public pension and medical liabilities.

Once the financial industry fails again, which it will soon, NY is toast.
Outstanding piece of analysis. Thankyou very much
Once again, government is the problem, not the solution.
Good article but among the cultural items displayed Mr. Renn neglected to mention the degraded condition of the Chicago Public Schools and the increasing incidence of black mob violence in the prime downtown tourist and shopping areas. It is these two items that are responsible for a significant number of moves away from the city.
Is it really a surprise? Or is the entire state of Illinois in the same downward spiral?

I live in Texas and have driven through Missouri many times. The single biggest contrast between two borders has been the difference between St. Louis, MO and East St. Louis, IL.
Perfect example of Democrats, unions and racial radicals are destroying a city. If honest people cant walk the streets becuase of racial gangs, property values will collapse
Chicago is going to end up just like Detroit...another shining example of continual Democrat control.

And the brainiacs who live there keep voting for it.

What accounts for Ill problems are People like Obama. With him and the Democrats the USA will be soon be like Calif. and Ill.
The gang wildings along Michigan Ave. are yet another worrisome sign. I don't think Chicago can survive three more years of Rahm.

Is there anyone out there willing to save this town? Anyone who will stop with the downtown TIF subsidies and endless downtown bread-and-circus subsidies (Olympic bids, ferris wheels, tourist traps, etc.)

How about, instead of bribing developers to build more empty apartment buildings (courtesy of taxpayer dollars), investing in schools, youth, and crime prevention? How about trying to burnish the dying West and South Sides?
I can tell you why other cities lack respect for Chicagoans. It's the same reason a person doesn't repect a loose whore. Because she doesn't respect herself so why should anyone else. Listen Chicago, you people have a one party system. I knew this town wouldn't work for me when I realized I HAD to vote for either a democrat or republic. Why can't I have the choice to choose from either party? Why am I being restricted and streamlined in my right to vote. You people are stupid to live by a one party system rule. Right there alone, you're being controlled by corruption.

Next, you people continue to elect the same hand that slaps you in the face and steals your lunch money. Over and over again! You people don't stand up and challenge your political leaders because you're scared. You're a big city of spineless, whiney, voiceless putz'. No other city in the country would stand for the abuse that you weaklings put up with every day of your lives. Whatever YOUR master feeds you is what YOU have to eat. Shove it down your throat! You people don't even have a right to have an opinion. Last time I checked, your leaders were suppose to be working for the THE TAX PAYERS? Isn't that you? The pathetic state of Wisconsin even recalled their Governor. That took courage. It doesn't matter what party affiliation your took gusto for these people to rally the way they did. Detroit city threw ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in the goose tank. They stood up and FORCED him to step down. Chicago takes a bribe...

The reason people look down on Chicago is because you people are pathetic. No self-esteem, no confidence and NO BALLS! Your city was/is built on thievery of it's own citizens. One group of crooks controls MILLIONS of weaklings! LMAO!

When Chicago decides to wake up as an entire city and over throw your corrupt government, that will be the day when the rest of the country will give you respect. That will be the day when America says "WOW! That is one bad-ass city." But until you people actually "balls-up" and get an idenity, you're just a big city in the Midwest with no attitude...AT ALL!

From an outsider perspective who lives and works in Chicago. This is why Chicago gets no respect.
Anyone who call North Michigan Avenue the "Miracle Mile" obviously has had very limited exposure to this city. Dan, Why are you arguing with these people. Don't waste your time.
Since you called it the "Miracle Mile" rather than it's proper name, the "Magnificent Mile" I think it's safe to assume you have no experience in Chicago other than what you read in the papers. You are correct that there have been some isolated occurrences in the tourist areas, but again, they are so infrequent that they make the national news.
For Dan's information, roving gangs have beaten tourists and unwise Chicagoans on the north lakefront, on the Miracle Mile (where all the designer shops are) and in the main shopping area of Chicago (the Loop). So, while you may not get shot unless you visit the South or West Sides, you stand a great chance of being beaten by gangs of "youths" in the heart of the city.

Chicago has become a sewer.
Mikey, there are more African Americans in Chicago than white people, so it's hard to argue that it's the "whitest city".
GANGS OF CHICAGO June 13, 2012 at 11:44 AM
I've never been to a city where drug dealers and gang-bangers are allowed to sell drugs on MAJOR street corners in front of police officers until I came to Chicago. Even under the blue flashing light cameras.

This is a sure indication that the city is failing BIG!!!!!!
You don't see blacks and latino's spending time with whites in Chicago because they typically have very different educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. You will see groups of whites mixed with Asian and Indians constantly. By the way, this is true in every major city in the country.
One thing that always bothers me about the crime stats is that they don't clarify in which neighborhoods they occur. Virtually all the shootings are on the south side, miles from an area anyone on this message board would ever set foot. For you New Yorkers who don't know Chicago- if there was a violent gang war in the Bronx, would that make it unsafe to visit Times Square? Serious crime in the nice Chicago neighborhoods is rare enough that it's a big media story whenever it happens.
I agree with Steven85,

The city lacks culture and creativity. I don't doubt that it exist but living in the most corrupt city prevents creativity from flourishing.

Chicago is proud to label itself "America's most American city." That is code for AmeriKKKs whitest city.

It is boring, vanilla and yes, it lacks diversity (racial interaction). Chicagoans understand diversity to mean blacks have their hoods, whites have our hoods, Asians have their hoods all within the city limits. How many white people hang out with people of other races on the southside or westside or with middle-easters on the northside?

Not many... Chicago is polarized.
Anyone who says that Chicago is more like Detroit than New York has clearly never been to Chicago, Detroit or New York.
arronrennisbitter, your comments re. public housing residents are 100% false. You need to step out of the Chicago bubble.

Chicago isn't just losing blacks. They are losing whites faster than any other city in the country. Even Mexicans are leaving, if the Census is to believed.

And black flight from Chicago isn't from the neighborhoods that used to have public housing. It's from middle class, more suburban parts of the city.

So, in short, middle class blacks are leaving Chicago, and the poorest of the poor are staying. The former public housing residents all received Section 8 vouchers, which can only be used in the City of Chicago, so they're still here, but in neighborhoods like South Shore, Beverly, etc.

And, while you're correct that Chicago isn't exactly like Detroit, the point is that Chicago is much closer to a Detroit or Cleveland than a New York or San Francisco. Chicago, like Detroit, is in steep population and economic decline.
Chicago has been in fast decline since about 2005 or so. There was previously some momentum, but it's been squandered.

I lived there and couldn't wait to get out. I moved to NYC, and what an improvement! It's like Night and Day. NYC is cultured, growing, safe, great economy, more interesting people, etc. I'm glad to be out of that declining burg on the lake.

Chicago is on well its way to becoming a bigger version of Detroit.
arronrennisbitter June 13, 2012 at 12:34 AM
All the Chicago haters are either ignorant coastals who think being on the coasts automatically makes them important or envious backwater midwesterners such as the author of this pathetic article. Renn left the farms of Indiana to come to Chicago and was amazed to see a real city but once he couldn't get what he wanted out of city hall, he left and has been writing negative pieces on the city ever since. His articles are driven from his bruised ego and his bitterness towards Chicago b/c Indy is a 4th, 5th or perhaps even a 6th rate city that constantly gets overshaddowed by Chicago.

You know who else hates Chicago? Dumb, broke, uneducated, ghetto, welfare recipients who are pissed because the city tore down their free housing and sent them packing to the suburbs and places like Indy.

Btw, the Chicago and Detroit comparisons are pretty hilarious. If Chicago is like or closer to Detroit then America is like/closer closer to Haiti.

The demise of Chicago has been predicted over and over again and each and every time the city came back stronger. Not even the great Chicago fire could stop this city so I don't expect some ignorant, baseless comments from some evious rednecks and clueless individuals to do any harm either.

This is a good article, and absolutely on-point. There is this incessant Chicago navel-gazing, where the city truly believes it's a "little Midwest New York" rather than a "bigger Detroit".

Chicago is much more like Detroit than New York, and, until it realizes this fact, it won't be able to tackle the biggest challenges (population loss, economic decline, crime, racial strife, and irritating
This is a good article, and absolutely on-point. There is this incessant Chicago navel-gazing, where the city truly believes it's a "little Midwest New York" rather than a "bigger Detroit".

Chicago is much more like Detroit than New York, and, until it realizes this fact, it won't be able to tackle the biggest challenges (population loss, economic decline, crime, racial strife, and irritating provincialism).
There must be a significant element of truth to this article otherwise you wounldn't have this many people agreeing with the author. And a majority of the comments are from current, past and indigenous residents.

The bottom line IS Chicago has a lot going for it but imagine how great the city would be minus all of the systematic problems that exist? Chicago politicians restrain entrepreneurial growth by putting the city in a choke hold. Too much regulation and corruption. If the city would loosen up the noose and allow the city to grow creatively, this place would be amazing. The bottom line is the talent, the skilled, the wealthy and the creative are too smart to live in a city that puts restraints on your intelligence. The smart people are NOT going to continue to live in a city that picks your pockets at every given opportunity. The succssful will ALWAYS leave Chicago when given the opportunity.
Outstanding piece. And all true. One more reason why I never look back to my former hometown.
Chicago is the only American city that lowers its crime rate by exporting Chicagoans to Washington, D.C.
His spending cuts come on the backs of the middle class and no one is going to stay if he cuts all the public service jobs and crime is a nightmare.
You left out the biggest hole in the bucket: the Tax Increment Financing gimmick. The city can create a TIF district where property tax collections by the city, county, and school system are capped, and all increases go into an unaccountable fund controlled by the mayor.

Supposedly a TIF district is a "blighted area" and the money is to be spent in the district to support redevelopment - by repairing streets and sidewalks, or assisting developers on otherwise unfeasible projects. In practice there are TIF districts in lush areas such as the West Loop, and TIF money is handed over to favored developers regardless of need.

The TIF system diverts about $500M a year from the property tax revenues of the city et al; this revenue is made up by increased collections elsewhere.
Great article, you hit it right on the nose. I've worked for the city for 20yrs, and saw first hand what the Daley administration was doing to the city.He truely only cared about himself and his cronies.Took alot of work away from good hard working people. His little Lieutants' would rant and rave just like he did if they didn't get their way. Not getting the Olympics was the best thing that happen to the city' and Daley knew he was done for.
Nice City.


At least three people were injured in mob attacks in downtown Chicago this weekend. One of the victims is speaking out about the incident.

The 23-year-old west suburban man was beaten by a group of teenagers after they took his wife's iPhone on a CTA Red Line train near State and Lake around 10:30 Saturday night.

30 minutes earlier in the 500 block of North State St police say another group of teens attacked and robbed a Michigan man, breaking his jaw.

A judge set bond at $75,000 for Mitchell Coradarrowe, 18, who was charged in that attack along with 7 juveniles.

Police are also investigating an attack that happened Sunday night in the 800 block of N Dewitt Pl. A 36-year-old man was walking home from work. Police say he was beaten by a group of 15 to 20 teenagers.
B. Samuel Davis June 12, 2012 at 4:07 PM
Really, do you expect a city - any city - run by Democrats to perform well? The unholy alliance of Democrats and public unions doom any taxing district subject to this alliance - those who can leave, those who can't get benefits.

What we are seeing in Chicago is the initial trembling of this house of cards before it all falls to the ground. If anyone wants to see what that looks like, then all one has to do is look to the northeast, to Detroit.

Detroit is, after all, the final evolutionary result of Democratic policies - absent a Giuiliani or Bloomberg i.e. not Democrat, it's what will happen to any place foolish enough to elect Democratic locust style governing.

One can only imagine how successful cities like Chicago could be if they were run without the need to pander to public unions, without institutionalized corruption, with a population not destroyed by Democratic policies that have shattered families, destroyed the will to be educated and criminalized the community. Places like Chicago could be much, much better than they are, the people much better off. This isn't some dream - Giuliani was able to do things in New York that no one had ever been able to do even with a Democratic council.

Unfortunately, absent tossing out the bums, which will never happen, Chicago is on a path to Detroitification. There is no where to go, but down.
For me it's about the neighborhood first, then the city.

I want to live in a neighborhood with convenient local shopping, safe biking, good schools, quick mass transit, and streets that are filled with people and not overrun by cars. We're a city of once-great neighborhoods that are ruined by car traffic from people who'd really rather live in the suburbs.

In addition to Millennium Park and the Museum Campus, we could become the one American city that has a few neighborhoods where it's possible to live very well without a car. In fact, neighborhoods designed for people rather than for cars are BETTER places to live, better places to do business, better places to raise a family. Those are the places that really draw the creative workforce that drives business growth. We can either give tax breaks to the companies or we can become the city where they must be in order to hire the talent they need to compete.

If we commit to a future of prioritizing transit over cars on just a handful of the streets most perfectly aligned for commuting, we can grow the population and the economy while reducing congestion and making the city more convenient to live in and easier to get around in every year. When cars dominate every single street, the city can't grow without becoming mired in congestion, and that congestion is one of the main reasons to avoid the city in the first place.

The city that wins in the century to come will be the one that aims for more people and fewer cars every year: more commerce and less congestion.
I was born and raised in Chicago. The only way to fix Chicago is to shut down the activities of the Daley and Madigan Crime Families who have been sucking the lifeblood out of Chicago and Illinois for as long as I can remember. Rahm Emmanuel is Dick Daley's creature and was anointed Mayor to keep the graft flowing.

I was downtown in Chicago most of this weekend. I didn't see violence, corruption, or "lack of identity". I did see awesome free live music, great restaurants, beautiful architecture, beaches, and even nice weather, all easily accessible by walking, biking, or public transit. I'm happier here than anywhere else I've ever lived. I'm sorry some apparently aren't, but no city is perfect for everyone.
Wow. I haven't heard half as many negative comments about Chicago in my 10 years of living here as I see on this comment page. I'm sorry Mr. Renn lost his job or couldn't sell his condo or whatever, but most of us still love it here and are doing fine. If you're not one of them, move to another city (where the economy also sucks) and try it there. Everybody wins.
A lot of valid points here. What resonates with me is that Chicago no longer has an identity, like New York or LA. What do we do here to bring in outside money? Chicago is starting to cannibalize itself with all the taxes and red-tape bureaucracy.

I agree with Aaron that Chicago needs to get back to being the capital of the Midwest first and then become a global city again. We need to attract the good people from the Midwest. Chicago also needs to stop playing the tough guy. Let people do commerce.

I hope that ALL of the negative commentators leave Chicago as soon as possible.

The city is far too good for them.
Thinking of leaving Chi June 12, 2012 at 9:46 AM
The reason Chicago gets no respect from the rest of the world (as well as it's own people) is because the city came up through the ranks the wrong way. Corruption, lying, cheating, stealing and racially divisive politics. Chicago was built on the backs of the hardworking people and they never gave anything back. I know more people who have been hurt by the city of Chicago than people who have not. Chicago speands more time trying to seek approval and acceptance from the outside world rather than doing things for the people who live in the city and the ones who make the city. That's crazy! If Chicagoans were happy and felt appreciated by the city then the rest of the world would want to be a part of that. But Chicagoans constantly complain about being screwed over (rightfully so) and are bitter because their own government treats them like ATM slaves. The city of Chicago will always think of a new way to nickel and dime it's people before trying to fiscally manage a budget. Mayor Emanuel had an opportunity to change the course of abuse and corruption but he only added to it by inventing more ways to money grab from the already cash strapped middle and lower class citizens. He's added speed traps and more red light caremas throughout the city, he hasn't unleashed the reigns on corruption and over regulation, he still wants control of everything single ordinace that is to be passed. No matter what ANYONE says, Chicago is NOT a small business friendly city.

I have friends and family who live out of state that have stopped visiting the city because they feel the corruption in the air. Not to mention the crime IN EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD.

Chicago can still be fixed but will it? Only time will tell. In the mean time, I've registered my small business in another state to avoid the Illinois political connection. I still live in the city because I can enjoy what it offers and NOT be associated with it in regards to business at all.

I don't blame anyone for leaving this place. I have plans myself to leave soon.
Chicago's culture of corruption and clout cannot be changed. These are permanent features of the population. Cultures in general cannot be changed unless there is a major turnover in the population or unless there is an extremely coercive new regime that violently imposes change.

Chicago also has the problem (which many American cities have) of a marauding black underclass. Black gangs nowadays often invade the Loop and attack white people. The underclass would also have to be brought under control, and that won't happen either.

Goodbye, Chicago.
I'm a Detroiter and I obviously see the vast differences between the two cities. Of course I'm biased and I LOVE Detroit to death. But I'm not blind.

My question is, why is Detroit the media darling of the Midwest? Why does the world love Detroit? Why does the world pull for Detroit? But the media hates Chicago?

Just curious what people think?
Chicago sucks. Chicago sucks BIGTIME!!
I sold my condo on the Gold Coast in 2006 and moved to Colorado. I saw the coming taxes, and lower level of services which started in the early 2000's and continue to this day... taxes are up 50% since then, and the same unit is worth about 70%.......... These Dems give you high cost, high taxes, and lousy services.... glad to be gone.
rogermortimer, I don't follow law firm hirings or anything that have to do with law so I don't have much to say on that subject. However, I just read a recent article, a couple weeks ago, in Crains Chicago Business about how law firms from around the country were setting up shop in Chicago. It seems there's always a law firm merging with a Chicago firm or opening a new office here so I would think they would need lawyers, no? The article bascically said the opposite of what you're saying.

Also, I wasn't born til the 80's's so I couldn't tell you if the schools were better in the 70's or not. However, I was here in the late 90's and 2000's and I honestly believe the schools in the city have been getting better as of late.

Overall, I think the city is better off today than it was several years ago. I feel the city is going in the right direction, maybe at a slower pace than most would like but it is moving in the right direction. Like I said in my previous post, the problems that the city faces weren't created overnight so they won't be solved overnight. The crime problem may seem to be getting out of control now but I predicted it because Daley never really did much to confront the crime issue. When you don't confront problems they get bigger and eventually spill over. There was an article that came out several months ago about how Chicago had the most gangs in the nation, I believe it was some 60 or 70 thousand gang members. My reaction was "how could anyone let this happen?" That's like sitting on a time bomb. After reading that article I just knew shit was going to get out of control because you can't have that many gangbangers living in one city peacefully without things erupting at some point. The bad economy only fueled that eruption.

Rahm has done more good for this city in his first year in office than Daley did during his entire last term. Rahm is actually trying different strategies to fight crime when all Daley did was come out and make a brief statement after a horrible crime occured then went back to minding his business. People were getting shot and murdered every weekend when Daley was in office but I don't recall him ever doing much except making a brief statement.

Well rogermortimer, it doesn't sound like you even live here so you probably don't know much of what's really going on besides what you read in crappy articles such as AAron's. You stay away all you want but I'm staying right here because despite its issues, Chicago, for me, still offers more, with all things considered, than any other city in this country.
Rodge - I don't like what I see. The crime is frightening. And the schools are considerably worse than in the 70's. This just dooms the prospect of a true middle class ever developing on the south and west sides (despite the few desirable pockets in both places). A few great athletes in poverty can escape to Brother Rice or Fenwick with de facto scholarships, but public schools matter. Yes, the population is declining on the south and west sides, but that invariably leads to empty and destructive urban spaces, just as you see in Detroit. It will be a huge drain on the city. There are only so many net contributors who will be willing to pay for the net consumers. And even if Renn is wrong about the lack of single dominant industry being harmful to the city, there is something amiss with the economy in the city, and one that will not come back with the ending of the recession. The changes wrought in 2008 are in many respects permanent, and they certainly will negatively impact many cities in addition to Chicago, but the inefficient layers of patronage style government, the vast swaths of horrid neighborhoods on the south and west sides, and the state's immense financial problems (which are in many respects of Chicago's making) make it really difficult for the city to remake itself. One anecdotal fact I have noticed about the city is that transactional work in the legal market has just fallen off a cliff - and so has hiring. Yes, this is a problem all over, but it has been really pronounced - there is likely no worse legal market now than Chicago. The absence of transactional work is pronounced and noticeable, and is a reflection of a weak economic engine. Look at the commercial real estate statistics too - down all over - worse in Chicago. It has to bother any student of this local economy.

I am not ready to write Emmanuel off. He is a bright guy, and he may realize, given that he has actual responsibility, what cannot continue must no longer continue. But he is beholden to a lot of interests who are not susceptible to change. And let's face it - he is a patronizing New Trier high school bred liberal - not exactly the kind of guy you expect to prosper in one of America's toughest cities.

I wish you are correct in your views. My roots in Chicago run deep. And I have a profession which could let me live virtually anywhere. But I sense a changed environment, and not for the better. I'll stay away.
Rodge says:

"Chicago isn't and will never be New York, Paris, London or Tokyo but it is and will always be in the next rank of global cities."

From a business point of view, Chicago is far better than London or Paris in regards to labour pool, permits, accommodations, etc

Mr. Renn appears to be failing miserably.
I'm generally boggled by this article...I think it projects the very real and massive governmental boondoggle that's taken place here onto every other aspect of life. I've lived in Chicago for twelve years, started my company here, and run it for 9 years very happily. Small business taxes and city regulation have never been an issue for us...we have easy access to a huge number of potential clients who work in and outside the city, and others are happy to come here. It's a great business environment. And it's a great place to live in general -- try buying a house in New York or LA anywhere close to downtown. Lost Decade? I'm just confused. This is a much more vibrant city than it was in the late '90s. The number of pleasant, commercially active neighborhoods is better than any other city I've seen.

This is not to disregard the craptastic government we've allowed to happen here -- it's a total embarassment and we'll be years fixing it. But as someone who has lived, worked, and run a business here for more than a decade, I'm just letting you know that much of this article just doesn't relate.
Thank you for the hat tip, Urban Politician, and I would add that rogermortimer's post was well reasoned.

Cities are much more than public sector unions and taxes, and I feel the comments are a bit too focused on these issues. Even if Mr. Renn did not intend to throw red meat into the middle of the pack, he achieved the effect nonetheless. The focus on these two controversial topics detracts from the complexities at work in global cities like Chicago as well as the day-to-day challenges facing small and mid-sized cities.

Municipal and regional governments have found themselves in financial duress for a number of reasons. Some problems have been undoubtedly caused by the issues addressed in the article–corruption, cronyism, etc. But other problems originate in questionable interest rate swap deals, demographic changes and whatnot. In the article Mr. Renn identified four contributing factors to the "steep decline" in Chicago during the last decade: 1) population loss 2) public-union clout 3) a failed global city strategy and 4) business climate.

My take from the article is that Chicago is a second-rate city because it doesn't have the juice to be a global city because it's losing population, the public unions have too much influence and a corrupt business climate. These are bold assertions, especially due to the fact Mr. Renn failed to compare Chicago to other global cities on these same metrics.

A fair analysis would compare the population growth rate in Chicago to other Western cities on the AT Kearney Global City Index. Or the participation rate of workers in either public or private sector unions. Or the rule of law in Chicago vs. Hong Kong and Moscow. Or the amount of regulations in Frankfurt, Seoul or Dubai. On the global stage, Chicago is anything but second-rate.
Hilarious, negative and misinformed article.
The fact that Chicago doesn't have a sigle "it" industry is its calling card. It is great at many things but not an expert at any one thing. It's the county's transportation hub, a global business and financial center, a manufacturing center, an education center, a cultural center, a convention center, a restaurant destination and a huge tourist destination. That's why Chicago is said to have the most balanced economy in the country, before the great recession. Yeah, the city experienced a rough decade due to the recession, corruption and a few other factors but dwelling on the past is not going to fix things and despite the rough patch, Chicago is still a global and world class city no matter how much you don't like to admit that fact. It's funny how much you praised the city's growth and prosperity in the 90's when the corruption was at its highest, the murder rate was at its highest but now that the city has hit some turbulence due mostly to the great recession you want to predict its demise and call it a Second-Rate City.

The fact of the matter is even though many don't realize it now, the city is better off today than it was in the 90's and once the recession is over Chicago will be back firing on all cylinders and I'm sure you'll continue to write you flawed and negative assessments of it.

Chicago is alreay the Capitol of the Midwest so what's wrong with also being a global city? No city should want to just be one thing and stay idle. When a city doesn't strive to reinvent itself like Chicago has done several times, it either dies or falls into backwater status and I'm sure anyone with common sense knows the cities that I'm talking about without having to mention their names. Also, it's funny how you claim that Chicago is in decline and isn't a world class or global city yet The Economist and other well respected publications continue to rank the city as one of the top global cities in the world. It even moved up in one recent ranking.

Also, yes there are neighborhoods on the west and south side that are probably beyond repair but that's not the whole south side and west side. Hyde park on the southside is going through a transformation with new investment and a little mini building boom. Woodlawn and a few other neighborhoods on the southside are also seeing investment with mixed-income developments. And while the horrible neighborhoods on the south and west side are losing population, downtown and the surrounding areas are gaining in population on a large scale. They are buildings underconstruction all over downtown. Several hotels (first location in the country for some)and residential projects are either under construction or will be soon, including one office tower. Every quarter, several restaurants and bars are openning throughout the city, yes, mostly downtown and on the northside. There are over a dozen restaurants scheduled to be opened in the next few months with about half a dozen in my neighborhood alone. State Street continues to attract retailers, with DSW warehouse opening last month, Taget opening a huge store next month and Burlington Coat Factory scheduled to open in a few months. North Clybourne continues to attract retailers while the Mag Mile and Oak Street continue to rack up luxury shops. There's a huge renovation of an old theater going on on Oak Street where a good portion of the space is already leased out to luxury brands including LouBoutin. Also, earlier this year Burberry knocked down their two storey store on the Mag Mile and are almost done building their new 5 storey Flagship. This is in addition to the other high end shops that continue to open on the Mag Mile, including Rolex, Omega and another luxury watch retailer. I look out my window and see several cranes and a gorgeous, vibrant city, with conquerable problems down below. Does this sound like a city in decline to you? I think not. Don't let the loss of 200,000 mostly poor, welfare receiving leaches fool you into thinking this city is in decline.

Rahm has done a pretty good job so far and I'm sure you either choose to ignore his accomplishments or are just too eager to spin the negative side of things. In a recent survey, most businesses, both large and small, said Rahm has made the city more business friendly. He has also brought way more than 8,000 jobs to the city and the downtown area. Not only has he been invloved in bringing new jobs but he has also brought in a few corporate HQ's to town since he's been mayor. Yes, some incentives were giving to a few companies but most didn't require any and basically every city in the country is throwing incentives at companies in these hard times, even the so called cheap cities down south. Rahm has cut the overhead fee that is charged to employers for each employee from $8 to $4 with the remaining $4 fee to eliminated soon. The Mayor has also cut into the red tape at city hall that keeps businesses from optaining certain permits. I mean he has done a lot so far and I have full confidence that he will have this city in order soon. People seem to forget that the city's problems didn't occur overnight and they shouldn't expect them to go away overnight either. I've always said Daley stayed one term too long because he did a lot of damage in his last term but despite all that, this city is the City of Big Shoulders and it will continue to prosper and take its place amongnst other global cities. Chicago isn't and will never be New York, Paris, London or Tokyo but it is and will always be in the next rank of global cities.

Funny how there's been such a bandwagon of negativity about Chicago recently. Gee, could some of it be political? I think the article title states the authors' real reason for writing this article. He doesn't like it. That serious problems exist without a doubt but I don't think Chicago's importance is in doubt. "Global" or not.
Also, as the Chicago metro area is much more than Cook county I really start to distrust this articles' axe grinding because the Chicago metro area did grow faster than LA or New York between 2000-2010. That's a dishonest fact to leave out. I'd really like to see long analytical articles about why New York and LA's metros aren't growing at nearly the national rate next time around.

Does Aaron M. Renn live in Chicago?

I hope not.


"Fixing Chicago will be a big, difficult project, but it’s necessary. The city’s sparkling core may continue to shine, and magazines may continue to applaud the global city on Lake Michigan—but without a major change in direction, Chicago can expect to see still more people and jobs fleeing for more hospitable locales."

If you think that LA or NYC are more hostpitable, you might want to start thinking about leaving the world of urban journalism.
Still leaving Illinois: An exodus of people and money



The problem

Illinois residents are fleeing the state. When people leave, they take their purchasing power, entrepreneurial activity and taxable income with them. For more than 15 years, residents have left Illinois at a rate of one person every 10 minutes.

Recent data from the Internal Revenue Service shows that, in 2009, Illinois netted a loss of people to 43 states, including each of its neighbors – Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky and Iowa. Over the course of the entire year, the state saw a net of 40,000 people leave Illinois for another state.

The data reflects a continuation of a trend of out-migration from Illinois that has lasted more than a decade. Between 1995 and 2009, the state lost on a net basis more than 806,000 people to out-migration.

When people leave, they take their income and their talent with them. In 2009 alone, Illinois lost residents who took with them a net of $1.5 billion in taxable income. From 1995 to 2009, Illinois lost out on a net of $26 billion in taxable income to out-migration.
Chicago falling on hard times? As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "That's a shame."
The Urban Politician June 11, 2012 at 6:29 PM
If you want a balanced perspective, you'll get a better one from John Parrish than Mr. Renn, read his comment below.

Unlike Mr. Renn, he takes the good with the bad. Mr. Renn focuses mostly on the bad (and yes, there are problems for sure), but in his effort to become some sort of global expert on cities, does not take the time to identify some of the better trends that are taking place right now in Chicago. That is what is most damaging to his analysis, and why it loses legitimacy to me.
The Urban Politician June 11, 2012 at 6:19 PM
On a percentage basis, metro Chicago grew faster than Metro NY or LA from 2000-2010, a fact that you conveniently left out in your cherry picking of data.

You have chosen to leave out a lot of good things happening in Chicago right now.

This is an sad and tired story from Mr. Renn that loses legitimacy with each telling. Looks to me like Mr. Renn just woke up one day and realized he was living on the wrong side of the country, hence moved to New York and now enjoys looking down his nose at his old place of residence.
So many errors, half-truths and false information in this article makes the whole thing garbage. Btw Renn, I know you're still bitter because you din't get that job in Chicago. Stay classy!
What a superb analysis of the woes of Chicago! It left me sad, feeling the blues you might say, knowing that there is no emancipated leadership to be seen on the horizon that has the integrity or the desire to save the city. But at least the Democrats can't blame the Republicans or the Tea Party for the windy city mess!
It is a truly despicable, appalling,
systemic and built-to-fail dynamic.
What's excluded from this detailed
report is: crime.

Was that issue left totally out of
your in-depth analysis?
World-class as in corruption, scandal, poverty? Hardly a surprise for us natives. The reason for the Europeanization of the suburbs us called Section 8.
This must have been linked to by Drudge or something because there's some frightfully assisnine comments unbeffitting an article this thoughtful.
Wow. Excellent reporting. Living in Chicago it's so depressingly rare to see a real critical eye turned towards the corruption and insider practices that far too many just seem to take for granted. You did a fair and thorough job of recounting our own shortcomings and raised some interesting points regarding Chicago's global position. Impressive.
Clinton Stockwell June 11, 2012 at 4:17 PM
Chicago to the world :"Rumors of my demise are rather premature."
Adolph Hitler exercised a "culture of clout" in Germany in the late 1930's and early 1940's and look where it finally took them in the mid 1940's. Cronyism is a very poor substitute for leadership.
teri schostok dudas June 11, 2012 at 3:27 PM
You bet my hometown is going down the tubes! Just this weekend, 6/9&10, more than 40 people were gunned down in the city, a dozen died as a result, people were victimized by street thugs and robbed on State St. & on the Gold Coast, plus the Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly voted to strike the district over their demand for a 30% payraise!!

Those are just the highlights. The inmates surely are in charge of the asylum.
I sometimes have to fly through Chicago, but that's it. I skip the place otherwise...won't go to my profession's medical conferences, etc. Chicago is run by a liberal criminal cartel. Why would I give any money to it. Same with New York.
the Tel # for the Alabama Economic Development Authority is 205 663 2900 . Join Mercedes , Hyundai and Honda in the South : The State That Works !!
Its interesting that one of the statistics mentioned in this article concerns the exodus of over 175,000 blacks from Chicago during the period under review.
I believe that it was back in the very late 1990's or early in the first two years of the current century that Wisconsin (yes, Wisconsin), flush with other people's money and the spendthrift ways of the progressive mentality, generously raised its monthly cash payout to welfare recipients to one of the highest amounts in the country. Illinois, among other states, did not follow Wisconsin's lead.
As the word of this generosity spread through Illinois' inner cities, there was a substantial migration of entire welfare families and neighborhoods to Milwaukee, Madison, and other Wisconsin cities.
The state of Wisconsin tried to limit its welfare payout to these new citizens, who had obviously moved to their newly adopted state not to find work, but to enjoy a healthy jump in their monthly welfare checks. Wisconsin adopted the policy that welfare recipients moving to Wisconsin from other states could receive welfare payments no larger than their allowance in their previous domicile for a period of one year. Of course welfare rights advocates took this to the courts, where they won, and established the principle, effectively the law now in all 50 states, one can move from state to state and have an immediate right to welfare if one were already a welfare recipient in the state from which they came.
I live in Texas. I moved here from Portland, OR, another favorite city of the liberal progressives who haven't got a clue what the overwhelming majority of humans value. Hint: it isn't mass transit. Despite every brick thrown at us from Obama, we continue to add jobs and people's lives continue to improve. Not tax subsidies. Just simple, conservative principles of no income tax, rational regulation, and a culture of work and self-reliance. Chicago just has way too many people on the take to straighten itself out. It's a shame. In the meantime, I'm happy living where I get to keep most of what I work for, live in a nice house, and my kids go to good schools. Chicago and Illinois you're too far behind us to even hear us shout, "Good bye."
And since it's impossible to sell your house, escape is not an option. Oh, how I hate liberals and the trainwrecks they make of everything they touch.
Chicago should try a conservative republican mayor, and see what happens!
Left ten years ago because of the corrupt politicians and I've next looked back. God bless Texas!
we are experiencing the same "loss" of the black population here in oakland, california. as the blacks move to the 'burbs, property values rise along with the improved quality of life in the city. i would not say that this is a "bad" thing, except for the 'burbs that are now experienceing a spike in crime.
Richard in Chicago June 11, 2012 at 2:06 PM
As a third-generation Chicagoan, I agree that the city passed the point of no return with the new century, changing from a place with historical character to the Daleyland theme park. Did you enjoy your visit to Chicago? Of course you did--the city is a Potemkin village for tourists and business travelers, not for the people who live and work here.
There is only one solution - a federal bailout. As I understand it, Rahm Emanuel has connections in Washington D.C.
It could be noted the ranking of the world's cities includes the entire metropolitan area(I didn't see that information in the article), not just the core city. Chicago is not only a global city it is an Alpha Global City, Chicago is ranked among the world's top-ten cities on each of five recently prepared rankings. Each of the five rankings of the worlds top cities employs somewhat different criteria/metrics to determine their rankings. Chicago is a world class city and of course there are issues to be resolved. One very positive factor for Chicago was a recent ranking which placed Chicago's freight and passenger rail system at number two in the world. The city's three commuter rail services, Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and South Shore Line comprise 700 miles of route, almost all of the 700 miles being two-way, double-rail. This is an asset of incalculable value. Chicago was hard hit by the financial crisis and Great Recession, however, all of Chicago's downtown census tracts are experiencing healthy population growth. Chicago's transformation to an even greater city continues from it's iconic downtown outward. Let's not forget that Chicago has a dazzling location on the shore of an inland sea, Lake Michigan. Also worth noting, Lake Michigan/Lake Huron form the largest body of fresh water in the world.

The Global City Of Chicago Ranks Number 6 In The World Based On The Composite Of Five Recently Released Rankings Of The World's Cities.

"Fixing Chicago will be a big, difficult project, but it’s necessary."

Like the provincial capital Bến Tre during the Vietnam War, it will become necessary to destroy Chicago in order to save it.

"While New York’s and L.A.’s populations clocked in at record highs in 2010, Chicago’s dropped to a level not seen since 1910. Chicago is also being “Europeanized,” with poorer minorities leaving the center of the city and forced to its inner suburbs: 175,000 of those 200,000 lost people were black."

Thank the community activism of State Senator Obama and his real estate developer cronies:
Chicago, ruined by the same tax and waste unionized, lying, thieving, Fascist Demonrats, that have ruined every American city, with Gold Plated Pay,Diamond Encrusted Pension Plans, and vacations that make OweBaMao Bin Lyings', 50 vacations seem paltry by comparison !Vote buying the American Way, has ruined America, as we all once knew it !!
Excellent informative article!
Chicago native, but left long ago.

In the Chicago of the 70's, we were constantly reminded that it was the city that works, or the city of broad shoulders. I think to a large extent this was accurate.

However, I kept wondering then when the other shoe was going to drop, so to speak, and Chicago would suffer. I left for an Ivy League graduate education (I actually felt like a bit of traitor, if you can believe it, but it seemed the right thing for me to do). It seemed clear to me that the food processing, meatpacking, rail and other businesses would move to cheaper (and in many cases non-union) locales. This has happened. Try and find a meatpacking plant of any size in any non-rural area today. They have all moved close to the source of livestock. The teamsters union controlled warehouse I worked moved to Memphis - no union. And so on. I also wondered whether the incredible amount of waste, inefficiency and corruption surrounding the City government and even worse, the Cook County government/patronage employment complex, would begin to exact its toll. And further, the south and west sides (with a few exceptions) are together today a larger variant of Detroit, with unspeakable amounts of crime, low educational levels, poor and dangerous schools and significant family dysfunction. Although somewhat harsh, there is no way around it - productivity in those communities is very low and will remain that way for some time to come. I used to compete in athletics against some of the south side schools in the 70's. While tough places, there was some sense of community which remained. I doubt that can be said now.

I don't think one can understate the negative impact of the huge swaths of dysfunction which are the west and south sides. There's only so much productive people will pay (either directly in the form of taxes or indirectly by absorbing the costs of the negative externalities from these neighborhoods, including crime) before a critical mass of productive participants begins to decline, and sometimes rapidly. I have always viewed Emmanuel as a bit of an effete prancer, king of the liberal chattering class. He is a bright guy, though, and I hold out some hope that the ten ton brick known as reality will descend upon City Hall and drive him to some really tough decisions. I am likely naive in holding out any such hope.
But...but....but Chicago is a Democratic "Worker's Paradise"!

The only solution is to RAISE TAXES!
Mr. Renn is incorrect in stating the Chicago lacks a signature industry. Chicago is the national transportation hub. It reamins the key nexus for road, rail, air and water transportation in the country. Its status is deterimined by geography and not by politics.
Not certain how losing 175,000 black people is a BAD thing for a city. For the poor fops in the "inner suburbs" that is absorbing that population? Oh, yeah, a freakin' disaster!
These are just some of the reasons my brother moved his business from Illinois to Indiana. When he moved, the 20 jobs went with him. He does more business now out of Ft. Wayne Indiana, then he ever did in Illinois. So Chicago and Illinois lost 20 jobs and all the taxes because they are corrupt idiots.
Got Walker?
"with poorer minorities leaving the center of the city and forced to its inner suburbs: 175,000 of those 200,000 lost people were black."

That should Chicago property values. Not so much for the burbs. Adios!
Are you kidding? "Swift decline"?
Democrats have run Chicago forever and there is nothing "swift" about this "decline"
What no mention of the roving gangs and the daily shoot-outs?

I personally know of a factory that when they wanted to repair the chain-link fence that a truck driver had backed into, were told "Your driveway permit is expired." In the end it took them all day to renew the driveway permit and get a permit to fix the fence. And the city employees told them "Hey, that's pretty good, being able to get two permits in one day."
Public Employee Unions, outrageous corruption, police that view the law-biding public as the enemy, and black crime. The way Detroit died and put Chicago on the death bed.
Sounds like the major problem is the public sector benefit plans for the unions. Not suprising at all.
Who is mayor again?
I live in Columbus, Ohio - and it does NOT have one toll road within or near the city.

Driving to (and from) Chicago sucks... money out of my wallet.

Maybe the mayor could start by making the city "driver-friendly"?

We are an out-of-state company that files business tax returns for our activities in Illinois. We overpaid our taxes in 2009 and 2010. Illinois has not been able to issue a refund. How do you think we feel about expanding in Illinois?
It seems that the author forgot to mention the rampant violence in Chicago. Surely that is an important factor.
Fat chance. In today's America ten thousand guys will die fighting for twenty sexy positions before they ever start to think of a way for everyone to have respectable jobs!

It's funny to me how much energy you all spend writing about this when it so clearly emanates from the fact that we're a country of depraved, selfish, sex obsessed pagans!
Gregory of Yardale June 11, 2012 at 9:18 AM
"Chicago is the Blue Model City and prototype for the Blue Model USA....ain't that grand?"


Detroit begs to differ.
in addition - the tax rates in Chicago are very difficult. The price of virtually everything is significantly higher than in surrounding areas - from gas to liquor to restaurants and hotels. Avoid traveling there at all costs.
Secular liberal Democrats made the mess, and the chance that secular liberal Democrats will be able to clean it up is vanishingly small.

The only thing that Rahm Emanuel seems to offer beyond this is that he is Jewish, but he is also profane to a serious fault. Unless there is a strange mix with a hidden piety, as in the case of George Patton, this indicates to me that his connection to God is nothing that could guide the renewal of one life, let alone a city. And his connection with the Obamas is a millstone that, after November, is likely to plunge him to the bottom of Lake Michigan (figuratively, of course).

God help Chicago!
Thank you Mr. Renn, for a fascinating piece that departs from the usual boosterism and cheerleading associated with Chicago (although it's not unique in that respect).

From my point of view, the lack of a single calling-card industry in Chicago effects the boosters more than the regional economy. True, the cheerleaders don't have a Hollywood or Wall Street to brag about in PR campaigns, but Chicago should be thankful it's not a one-horse town. Overspecializing in a single industry builds in too much risk that a blow to the predominant business can cause long lasting pain. A diverse regional economy can weather short-term storms better than a Motor City, and perhaps in the future long-term structural changes will prove Chicago to be more resilient than even Silicon Valley.

The article does present a wealth of statistics, and while it's not my intent to snipe or make excuses for the city's institutional failures, I would like to point out a couple of issues with the main storyline.

First, the demographic figures and population loss in Chicago is widely reported, but nearly all reporting on the matter omits the impact of the CHA Plan for Transformation. 25,000 households were effected by the changes in public housing policy. I would argue the loss of population was, in part, self-inflicted by the decrease of public housing units.

And a final note: corruption can only be weeded out if you are actually looking for it. With Patrick Fitzgerald leaving office, I would imagine Chicago's ranking on the list of most corrupt cities will quickly drop in the years ahead.
From the article:

"Chicago was the only one that lost population; indeed, it suffered the second-highest total loss of any city, sandwiched between first-place Detroit"

We're #1! We're #1!
Very interesting piece - so City Beautiful is not the whole answer ...
Chicago is the Blue Model City and prototype for the Blue Model USA....ain't that grand?
Yes we can!
"Chicago is also being “Europeanized,” with poorer minorities leaving the center of the city and forced to its inner suburbs: 175,000 of those 200,000 lost people were black. The demographic disaster ..."

Bug or feature? Mayor Daley would frequently visit Paris, where blacks are mostly warehoused in the suburbs.
I concur with Aaron's thoughts here, except I do believe Chicago IS a global city, evidence its myriad ethnicities, for example. It's the forever trying to prove it, i.e. justification for NATO, Olympic bid, that puzzles me.

Footnote: Logan Square Kitchen is closing its doors at the end of the month.
“...unnecessary and burdensome regulation...”? There isn't any such thing as 'necessary and unburdensome regulation'; that is the purpose and goal of regulation, to create an intentionally skewed playing field, upon which the politicians' favorites have an overwhelming advantage. That is the root problem with all of our large and many of our medium-sized and small cities: too much government.