Friday, June 17, 2016

'Reforming' the cities

Expensive condos go up where public housing used to stand in Chicago. 
In just two weeks, Illinois will start its second year without a state budget, threatening the opening of schools in the fall and pushing school systems to the brink. But it's impossible to understand the near collapse of urban public school systems like ours in Chicago, outside the context of the great transformation (whitenizing) of the cities.

The nation's biggest cities, once centers of industry and manufacturing, have increasingly become concentration points of great wealth and deep poverty. They are becoming places where most people can no longer afford to live resulting in the out-migrations of the poor, particularly of African-American families. This, even as the U.S. economy recovers from it's latest deep recession.

The dramatic shift in the the mode of production has resulted in increasing loss of well-paying jobs and union representation for millions of workers as well as an erosion of the tax base. Because politicians are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them, they are unwilling to increase taxes on the wealthiest. This unwillingness lies at the heart of cities' revenue problems. As a result, public schools have become beggars, looking, in the words of Gov. Rauner, for a "bailout".

A report released yesterday from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, shows that almost half of adults living in Chicago are spending more than they can afford on their homes or apartments, and have to deal with the burden by taking on second jobs, moving to less safe areas, or cutting back on food or the quality of their children's education.

The Tribune reports:
While the problem of finding affordable housing is most acute among people ages 18 to 34, African-Americans and households with incomes under $40,000, 49% of those in households with incomes over $75,000 said "it's challenging to find affordable housing in my area... Nationally, 76% of people noted more difficulty holding onto a middle-class lifestyle.
On top of this, Chicago's small property and business owners are being hit with massive tax increases to make up for the revenue shortfall. The average Chicago homeowner’s property tax bill will go up 13% this year, and it will keep going up for years.

That means even more foreclosures, more families leaving the city and more homeless students in Chicago schools.

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