June 26, 2018–Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas today announced he was beginning an Answering Tour throughout the city to discuss with citizens how to work together on quality of life issues affecting their everyday lives.
“Until election day next February, we will be meeting with people in every corner of the city – North, South, West and along the lakefront. We will be meeting in their homes, businesses, houses of worship, schools and block clubs,” Vallas said. “We will conduct our campaign in all areas because the real ‘fast lane to the future’ doesn’t bypass Chicago’s neighborhoods.”
Citing a litany of troublesome statistics facing Chicago, Vallas promised to make widespread recovery of Chicago the single greatest focus of his administration.
“While the current mayor likes to crow about construction cranes downtown, the majority of Chicago’s 77 communities are struggling and suffering from gross neglect,” Vallas said. “Too many of our neighborhoods are struggling with surging violent crime, too many are struggling to improve local schools, too many are struggling with mental health and addiction issues, and all are struggling with the staggering increases in the cost of living here.”
A native of Chicago’s Roseland community, where his immigrant grandparents operated a local corner grocery store and the family lived in a two-flat, Vallas pledged to ramp up efforts to revitalize all of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
“While business is good on the Magnificent Mile, there is another Michigan Avenue in Chicago and that one runs through Roseland, which is characterized by boarded up storefronts,” Vallas said. “Those are the communities I will work to reach.
“With all the new taxes, fees and fines imposed under Emanuel, totaling over $2 billion and counting, with public safety now a major issue in almost all neighborhoods, with the schools in constant crisis, with neighborhood infrastructure deteriorating, with the water unsafe to drink, the projections are that our population loss will be accelerating, not abating.”
Among the chief indicators showing Chicago’s decline relative to much of the rest of the nation are:
Chicago is unique in the U.S. for being the only top 20 city that has consistently lost citizens over the last five years, and almost exclusively the exodus is poor and working-class families.
Anemic Job Growth
Chicago is seeing the slowest growth in employment among the nation’s 12 largest cities and Chicago is less than half the rate of the national rate of job growth rate overall. The unemployment rates in these areas have not dramatically improved since the great recession.
Stagnant Home Values
At the end of 2017, more than 135,000 Chicago-area home owners owed more on their mortgages than the property was worth, sadly leading the nation in underwater mortgages. Just as Chicago has more homicides than New York and Los Angeles combined, it also has that sad distinction on underwater mortgages.
“The aggregate value of homes in Chicago is still 17% below our pre-recession 2006 values and most of that loss in concentrated in lower-income communities,” Vallas said. “This statistic alone is costing Chicago nearly $60 billion in eroded tax base. This in turn means everyone is paying more on their property taxes than they should be.”
While Chicago’s neighborhoods struggle, Rahm Emanuel has focused on misplaced priorities such as the $175 million basketball stadium for DePaul University, which was built even though the school was offered free use of the United Center. Vallas also criticized the mayor for the illegal transfer of $50 million in tax increment financing funds from McCormick Place to Navy Pier.
“The tens of millions Rahm Emanuel has spent on unnecessary projects could have helped rebuild communities like Roseland or been dedicated to shoring up the City’s finances,” Vallas said.
Opportunities for ALL Chicagoans
Vallas said he would focus community discussions on four areas:
- Ensuring that ALL neighborhoods are safe, healthy and affordable.
- Strategies for attracting and growing businesses in ALL communities
- Preparing and training people to access jobs
- Bringing long-term financial stability and predictability to the City.
“The problems that Chicago and Chicagoans face are significant BUT solvable,” Vallas said. “My objective is simple. Implement a comprehensive economic development strategy for ALL Chicago that benefits ALL communities, not at the expense of thriving areas, but in addition to them. It’s about developing and implementing an economic development strategy that is driven by need and not by politics.”
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