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After a Lost Decade, How Can Chicago Get Back on Track?

Aaron M. Renn looks at Chicago's struggles over the last decade - one that saw the city "increasingly falling behind its large urban brethren" - and asks whether its aspirations for becoming a global city are delusional.
June 11, 2012, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Following a decade that saw the city "experiencing a steep decline quite different from that of many other large cities," including rapid population decline and the highest percentage of job loses amongst the country's ten largest metro areas, Renn lays out the "host of challenges" for new mayor Rahm Emanuel.

According to Renn, the primary challenge may be one of unrealistic aspirations. "Many of Chicago's woes derive from the way it has thrown itself into being a 'global city' and the uncomfortable fact that its enthusiasm may be delusional."

"Chicago as a whole is less a global city than the unofficial capital of the Midwest, and its economy may still be more tied to that troubled region than it would like to admit. Like the Midwest generally, parts of Chicago suffer from a legacy of deindustrialization: blighted neighborhoods, few jobs, a lack of investment, and persistent poverty."

Renn concludes by suggesting how the city can begin to dig itself out of its current predicament: by focusing on areas such as tackling the city's fiscal crisis, improving the business climate, and changing the political culture.

"Fixing Chicago will be a big, difficult project, but it's necessary. The city's sparkling core may continue to shine, and magazines may continue to applaud the global city on Lake Michigan-but without a major change in direction, Chicago can expect to see still more people and jobs fleeing for more hospitable locales."

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Published on Friday, June 1, 2012 in City Journal
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