Airport noise, city-employee pensions, sagging bond ratings, closed schools, red light camera tickets, and the city catering to connected downtown developers and tourists while forgetting the neighborhoods.
These are just a few of the issues bungalow man and high-rise people should analyze along with recent election results before voting in the upcoming runoff race for Chicago’s Mayor.
The runoff outcome very well could be tied to the future of neighborhood real estate values, and big downtown development.
Let’s start by studying that 2015 election results map. In 2011, more than 50 percent of the voters in most of the North, Northwest and South Side neighborhoods voted for Rahm Emanuel.
However, there has been an amazing turnaround, also known as Rahm-slippage, in this year’s election. On sections of North Side and Far Northwest Side, Mayor Emanuel’s percentage of the vote slipped to a range of 45 percent to 49.9 percent, according to statistics compiled by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
Ironically, the North and Northwest Side bungalow belt also is heavily populated by Chicago police, firefighters and school teachers—the groups feeling the Rahm pension squeeze.
The mayor posted a solid turnout of 73.2 percent in the 42nd Ward—home of many wealthy developers and residents. Rahm managed to hold on to 50 percent of the vote only in a string of lakefront high-rise condo neighborhoods.
On the South Side and West Side—where more than 50 schools were closed—the voter-erosion was worse, washing away to a range of less than 40 percent in many neighborhoods.
The following bungalow-man issues abound in Chicago’s neighborhoods:
• Airport noise. Tens of thousands of North and Northwest Side homeowners are suffering acute noise pollution because of the new flight paths over O’Hare International Airport, which began in October of 2013.
With the roar of jet engines and the odor of jet fuel exhaust hanging in the trees, residents complain about a decline in the quality of life in elite neighborhoods from North Park, Sauganash and Forest Glen to Norwood Park, Harwood Heights and Dunning.
Can you imagine all those retired cops, firefighters and teachers relaxing in their once-peaceful bungalows—now blasted with jet airplane noise—while contemplating their insolvent pensions?
Experts say the airport noise issue cost Mayor Emanuel thousands of votes, and nearly put long-term 39th Ward Ald. Margaret Laurino in a runoff.
• Red-light cameras. Tens of thousands of automobile drivers have been snared by Chicago’s automated yellow traffic lights. The fines have pumped more than $7.7 million into city coffers. When an investigation revealed that the camera vendor was rigging the yellow-light times to a quick 2.9 seconds, a large number of angry voters made a mental note for Election Day.
• School issues. Cash-strapped Mayor Emanuel closed 50 neighborhood schools, mostly in African-American areas on the South Side and West Side, forcing children to travel through unsafe neighborhoods to attend classes at other schools.
To make matters worse, Chicago Public Schools face a $1.1 billion deficit for the next school year. The school system owes $688 million in pension payments in fiscal 2016.
• Sinking bond rating. Chicago’s plummeting bond rating took another hit just two notches above junk status after the election when Moody’s Investor Service dropped the city’s rating for a fifth time. As a result of the downgrade, the city is on the hook to pay $58 million under agreements covering existing debt, according to the Civic Federation.
• Shadow budget. While justifying pension cuts and the largest school closure in city history, critics say Emanuel has earmarked $300 million in the city’s 150 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts for corporate subsidy programs, according to a new report by Good Jobs First, a taxpayer watchdog group.
Dubbed the “shadow budget,” the TIF expenditures targeted $75 million for DePaul University’s new basketball arena near McCormick Place—a tourist magnet—and $55 million for a new Marriott Hotel in the South Loop.
Meanwhile, vast tracts of vacant land, such as the 37-acre former Michael Reese Hospital site in the Oakland neighborhood on the Near South Side, have been abandoned for years.
Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. For more information, visit www.escapingcondojail.com.