Wed Sep 8th, 2010 at 04:28:58 PM EST
Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley announced yesterday that he is stepping down after 21 years in power. He's been the mayor of a large American city for such a long time that inevitably he'll be blamed and credited for stuff American mayors have little control over. That he has done a poor job for most of the city's people was, of course, to be expected, as they are poor and poorly represented. That Chicago's yuppies secretly and not so secretly love him is also not unexpected. The city that they know has changed in ways they like, and the city they don't know or ever go to is not their Chicago, it doesn't exist for them.
Does this all sound familiar? Well, yeah, it's America, a violent country in its second guilded age, acted out in one city's economic demography. Here then is Daley's finest achievement, a low-crime and 'nice' zone, from downtown ('the loop') north about 8 miles. A huge and mostly 'economically cleansed' district of gentrification, sports bars, police presence, stylish restaurants and fashionable 'alternative' lifestyles:
CHICAGO poverty and the 'yuppie zone' built during Daley's reign.
However, though this was Daley's achievement, it is one achieved nearly uniformly by all the other large American cities. Gentrification after all is the path of least political resistance: you increase property values for the well-placed and upper middle people vote, damn it! And where do the poor people kicked out of public housing (that was in 'the zone') go? The streets, the suburbs, well let's just say that's largely ignored (read about it in our Sun-Times and Tribune, NOT).
Poverty pushed into the Chicago suburbs: 38.9% of poor lived in the suburbs in 2000. 48.1% of poor lived in the suburbs in 2008.
And in Chicago itself, in our two huge non-yuppie zones, the city's south and west, the song remains the same, though the following is a photo from 1985:
Chicago poverty 1985: "Rosemary Gordon lives with her three children in this basement with no windows and cement floors..."
In particular, violence, poverty, diverting money to vanity and yuppie zone projects, and Daley's charter and magnet schools sucking off the best students and most politically engaged and connected parents, have made many Chicago public schools no-hope zones:
Chicago, gun violence and 'another black person tossed away'
But let's be real; in general, should we blame Daley for Chicago's brutally abused south and west sides? Nahh! No, blame it a little on you, but mostly on the money and corporations that control the nation's political system, media, and economics and legal professions. Because it is their policies and priorities that have created, over the last 30 years, pervasive poverty and this nightmarish distribution of income:
"By Saez's measurements, income inequality in the US is now greater than it has ever been over the last century."
What a legacy.