Monday, June 14, 2010

Mayor Daley runs up big debts building his global city; what about the rest of Chicago?

This video above and the article from which I shall excerpt is well worth your time:
To see how Chicago has changed under Mayor Richard M. Daley, walk through the Near South Side.

What two decades ago was an urban desert, best known for its Skid Row, now is a place of glittering condo towers, bustling stores and restaurants. The population — including Rich and Maggie Daley — has tripled since 1990 while income has more than quadrupled.

Just four miles south, in Washington Park, where Mr. Daley hoped to host the 2016 Olympics, population is down, jobs and stores are scarce, and incomes are a tiny fraction of those in the South Loop.

In 1989, the year Mr. Daley was first elected mayor, Chicago was widely considered the buckle on the Rust Belt
In 1989, the year Mr. Daley was first elected mayor, Chicago was widely considered the buckle on the Rust Belt. Getty Images photo
As Mr. Daley, 68, prepares a presumed run for an unprecedented seventh term, economic data examined by Crain's show his success over the past 21 years in remaking Chicago's business center and nearby neighborhoods into a "global city," where incomes and education levels are high and amenities are world-class.

But big parts of Chicago have been left behind. And the city is stuck with the debts Mr. Daley has piled up on infrastructure-rebuilding and gentrification, including the cost of projects such as the Olympics bid, Millennium Park, theater districts, median planters — not to mention underfinanced city pensions and the tax-increment financing subsidies doled out to downtown developers.

"If this was a business, I'd frankly question how long you can keep doing this before the (bond) markets freeze you out," says former Cook County CFO Woods Bowman, now at DePaul University.

Bonded debt and long-term leases have risen much faster than the city's property-tax base under Mr. Daley and now amount to about $5,600 for each Chicagoan. Then there's billions in unfunded pension liabilities — another $5,000 per Chicagoan — and one of the deepest municipal budget holes in the country.

That budget gap, called "unsustainable" by Chicago's Civic Federation, will hamstring Mr. Daley if he wins another term. The question is whether he is the right person to lead the city out of a fiscal morass created in large part by his drive to make Chicago a mecca for wealthy professionals and international corporations.
Do you think Mayor Daley's initiatives have benefited other neighborhoods around the city?

Via Newsalert!

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