Home > Chicago, Rant > Chicago City Government: Tourism Over Communities

Chicago City Government: Tourism Over Communities

I feel just sick that out of all of the information going out on major future building projects, the local new media is failing to ask one question: should the city be spending  a total of $1.1 billion dollars on tourism while they are set to close over fifty public schools?  The break down on the pending closures falls into a pattern since Rahm was elected:

A city that has closed down close to 100 public schools since 2001, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced he is slashing an additional 54 schools, representing about 8 percent of the 681 public schools in Chicago, the third-largest school district in the country. The cuts would be the largest single mass public school closing in U.S. history and one that will disproportionately affect black and Hispanic students from predominantly low-income families.

Chicago Teachers’ Union Teachers Solidarity Campaign

I know the city needs revenue, and the city loves tourism dollars very much but should the city be spending in this way?  Why can’t Navy Pier fund its own expansion?  The multi-million dollar construction rebuilding the southern end of  the Red Line train system is an investment in infrastructure and was needed.  It also leads to that area where a new basketball arena is set to drop.

A tourist destination like Navy Pier and a Big Ten college basketball arena for DePaul University is more of a sweetheart deal for construction companies than a help to the local communities.  I do not see city government partnering with the communities that are going to be impacted; changes are just being foisted on them against the protests of local residents and some Aldermen.  The long term jobs after the construction concludes are what kind of jobs?  Mopping the floors, selling hot dogs, taking tickets at the gates?  A purported 3,700 permanent jobs that suck is not a huge improvement for any community.  If you asked people what they would want for their children, a job that sucks or an education, the latter wold win.  How else could this money be used?  Maybe some jobs is better than no jobs, but low end service jobs are usually short term.  A bunch of low end jobs amid urban poverty looks more to me like tapping a class of indentured servants rather than offering people a long term employment for moving up the financial ladder.  The employees are not going to get a cut of the real pie, like profit sharing or probably even health benefits as many will be part-time or seasonal following the summer or basketball seasons.

The real benefactors are the people and entities that are already wealthy.  I worry that there is a bigger objective here: a land grab.  This is applicable to the Southside area around the DePaul arena.  Crime and poverty worsen in the areas that are stripped of their public schools, people that want to get out can’t sell their homes and foreclosures roll heavy; then cash rich builders with wallets full of city money come in and snap up real estate for pennies on the dollar.  The poor, blue collar and lower middle class people get stripped and the real estate gets flipped.  A new Wrigleyville will arise after the bulldozers roll through, a pretty Realtor will guide people through the sparkling new properties for sale and she will never say “We took their schools, then we took their homes.  It’s just gentrification, really!”

Update 5/24/2013: The Chicago Reader just stepped up to the plate.  Thank you, Reader.

Update 5/28/2013:  I’m not alone in seeing a land grab.  The Washington Post published an article by Prof. Leslie T. Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education and a professor of education policy:

As the nation’s inner cities are dotted with coffee shop chains, boutique furniture stores, and the skyline changes from public housing to high-rise condominium buildings, listen to the refrain about school reform sung by some intimidated elected officials and submissive superintendents. That refrain is really about exporting the urban poor, reclaiming inner city land, and using schools to recalculate urban land value. This kind of school reform is not about children, it’s about the business elite gaining access to the nearly $600 billion that supports the nation’s public schools. It’s about money.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/28/ed-school-dean-urban-school-reform-is-really-about-land-development-not-kids/

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Categories: Chicago, Rant
  1. May 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Also, remember that 50% of the city mental health service facilities were closed in 2012 and the city took a chain saw to the library staff. The teachers strike or march on city hall again, stand with them.

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