Chicago, Chicago, my kind of second-rate city

Chicago was the cat’s meow in the ’90s. Millennium Park and all that. “The Milan of the Midwest,” said Wash Post. No more, says Aaron M. Renn in City Journal.

. . . [D]espite the chorus of praise, its becoming evident that the city took a serious turn for the worse during the first decade of the new century. The gleaming towers, swank restaurants, and smart shops remain, but Chicago is experiencing a steep decline quite different from that of many other large cities. It is a deeply troubled place, one increasingly falling behind its large urban brethren and presenting a host of challenges for new mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Two hundred thousand people left town. It was the only one of the 15 biggest U.S. cities to lose anyone in the 2010 census. Cook County also lost people, one of only two to do so of the nation’s 15 largest counties. The other one? Detroit’s Wayne County. The Loop lost 18.6% of its private sector jobs. The city’s “real per-capita GDP ranks eighth out of the countrys ten largest metros,” says Renn.

I don’t remember reading anything like this in Chi newspapers. Can you imagine reading this?

Its easy to see how fiascoes like the parking-meter lease happen where civic culture is rotten and new ideas cant get a hearing. Chicagos location already isolates it somewhat from outside views. Combine that with the culture of clout, and you get a city thats too often an echo chamber of boosterism lacking a candid assessment of the challenges it faces.

Echo chamber of boosterism, yes. It’s in the papers every day, defensive, wagon-circling, self-protective. Second-rate indeed.

Renn? He’s an urban analyst, consultant, and publisher of the urban policy website The Urbanophile. Frankly, if he were Joe the Bartender, it wouldn’t matter, the points are so telling.

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