Are the mob attacks on downtown tourists the revenge of the Second City’s second city?
Not every Chicago neighborhood has participated in the city’s transformation to a prosperous global metropolis. In fact, as the Loop has prospered, some parts of Chicago have grown poorer, as their steel mills, candy makers and TV manufacturers have moved to foreign countries. Consider this statistic from the 2010 Census. The per capita income at North and Western is over $100,000. Two miles west, at North and Pulaski, it’s around $20,000.
This spring, the poor side of town is invading the rich side of town. Teenagers are snatching iPods, iPads and other electronic gadgets found mainly in the hands of people who can afford to live or rent hotel rooms on the Magnificent Mile.
Mayor Richard M. Daley was accused of ignoring low-income neighborhoods in favor of downtown development. He abused the TIF program, which was meant to improve blighted areas, to help United Airlines build a new headquarters at Dearborn and Wacker. The result: downtown Chicago’s population increased nearly 50 percent, while Englewood’s population dropped 25 percent.
Rahm Emanuel was the candidate of the Chicago that’s prospered during the past 20 years. His strongest support came from lakefront residents with household incomes over $100,000. As one of President Bill Clinton’s lobbyists for the North American Free Trade Agreement, Emanuel also promoted a measure that’s been blamed for redistributing income from the working class to the professional class.
The mobs of teenage thugs are Emanuel’s first major crisis as mayor.
He’s doing the right thing by putting 150 more cops on the street. Public safety is any politician’s first responsibility. But he should also attack the source of the crime wave by attacking the inequality that has divided Chicago into a city with an upper class concentrated along the lakefront, and a lower class occupying the outlying neighborhoods. It used to be those two Chicagos had little contact with each other.
Now, much to the city’s grief, they finally are.
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