Chicago embraces anyone willing to brave the winters, love the pizza, and put pickles on a hotdog. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, when you call Chicago your home, you are home.
hat makes a city a city? Is it the streets? The buildings? The cultural contributions? Is it their sports stadium? Or is it your favorite street vendor?
While all of those things add a certain unique flair, irreplaceable as the heart and soul of all cities but it’s not what makes a city. No, what makes a city is far more simple: the people. Us. We make a city. We are our city. And every year, our city gets a little smaller.
Between 2016 and 2017, Chicago was the only one of the top ten cities in America to see a loss in population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The numbers keep declining and we run the risk of losing the people who not only create the special touches that make Chicago like no other place in the world, but the fiscal fabric of our society. Without us, there is nothing left but corporate skyscrapers and luxury penthouses occupied by the wealthy elite… and where are we? Displaced refugees of a corporate invasion that leaves lack of services, higher taxes and no affordable housing in it’s wake. Year by year, more and more Chicagoans jump ship, forced to find somewhere new to call home and they take with them a culture that can never be replaced and a city speeding headlong into default.
Mayor Emmanuel and the Metropolitan Planning Council claimed to have the solution to this immensely significant, but rarely talked about, issue. Selling the city to the highest bidder and driving more of the populous out of the city, as they widened the trench that separates the working class and the wealthy in this on-going war for our city. The Mayor and MPC used self-serving, but incomplete statistics to convince you the economy was improving, when it reality it wasn’t. When unemployment numbers went down it was only a result of the minimum wage jobs offered the people of Chicago by incoming companies. These companies filled the corporate vacancies with out of state applicants. Added to this was the mass exodus out of the city by those who could no longer support themselves anymore.
The jobs numbers were a sculpted illusion, statistical doublespeak, that left out the realities of the population erosion of Chicago. The bumps in population applied only to a small number of wealthy, coming in to fill the high-cost jobs in the Loop, meanwhile more middle and low income people were forced out. With no one left in the city to take work, unemployment rates dropped—but it was not the savvy work of Mayor Emmanuel. It was a red herring projected only to appease us. With each of these smoke screens, Chicago becomes closer to losing it’s place as America’s 3rd largest city. Houston is poised to overtake us in the next few years. Minority populations are being pushed further and further into the south side and then out of the city all together.
The Mayor will tell you that many cities lost population over the past decade or so, and he would be right. What he would not tell you is that all those other cities have been able to recover, Chicago has not. Immigration which Chicago has always relied on to grow it’s population is at an all time low while birth rates are not even keeping up with the present population. All this adds up to a shrinking city that will not maintain it’s fiscal responsibilities in the near future unless we take back the diverse, inclusive, innovative city we all fell in love with.
We are Chicago—Let’s fight for what is ours.