Friday, July 26, 2013

The comparison between Chicago & Detroit

This time the conservative blog Illinois Review makes the comparison between Detroit and Chicago. Let's start with one example of how Detroit went into bankruptcy:
But in the fall of 1978, the city of Detroit showed signs of recovery. Crime rates were dropping – by 19 percent in 1977 alone – and as the Detroit News observed, "People are beginning to return to the downtown … beginning to lose their wariness about venturing into the city."

Detroit’s health was still precarious though. The city's budget was tight, and Mayor Coleman Young needed a lean contract with the police and firefighter unions to make it work.

Young had a background in radical politics through the United Auto Workers union and in the civil rights movement, and he had been sharply critical of police tactics, so his relationship with the police union was already poor. Then the police union insisted on a cost-of-living adjustment that was especially costly in that era of high inflation. Young argued, correctly, that the city could not afford the raises. An arbitrator was appointed to settle the issue, and he sided with the police.

The ruling did serious damage to Detroit’s budget. Young eventually resorted to large-scale layoffs of police officers. Over the next two years the Detroit police force was cut by more than 25 percent. Crime rates jumped 15 percent in 1980. In 1981, the union agreed to a three-year wage freeze, but by then Detroit’s decline had taken on a momentum of its own.

It would be unfair to put all the blame on the police and fire unions. Racial discord, setbacks in the automobile industry, and the controversial policies of Mayor Coleman Young all played their part.

But it is very possible that if the union had lost its arbitration hearing in 1978, the city as a whole would be in far better shape today – and so would thousands of city workers.
So in the 1970s Detroit lost 300K people and chicago in the 2000s lost 200K people. There's 100K between both cities in different time periods. Chicago did indeed have a teacher's strike last year and if the teachers gained anything after the strike, they now have to grapple with layoffs at the Chicago Public School in addition to closure of at least 50 schools.

The author Paul Kersey - Director of Labor Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute - at least was correct to say this:
Has Chicago reached its tipping point? It is too early to say, but one thing is certain: Chicago must be allowed to live within its means, and that in turn means that it must be able to hold the line on employee costs while providing basic services such as quality education and public safety. The alternative is not some sort of workers’ paradise, but a ruined city where all – public workers included – are worse off.
As a Chicago resident it bothers me that people are ready to write off Chicago. Still will our leaders realize what needs to be done to keep Chicago from going the same route as Detroit has currently?

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