Earlier this week the Chicago City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's property tax increase, the largest in the history of this great city. While that sounds ominous, I continue to be in favor of the increase. As I have written previously, I don't like taxes any more than the next guy, and it's a real bummer to pay an increased property tax due to bad decisions made by politicians prior to when some, myself included, lived in Chicago. But, I love the City of Chicago, am proud of it, want it to remain the world class city it is, and want it to continue to prosper so people can enjoy all it has to offer. However, the problem is so deep that the tax increase is the only solution at this point; cuts in expenses won't suffice. So, I applaud the Mayor and the Aldermen who approved the increase for their willingness to take the political risk. Approving a tax increase is never popular. The fifteen Aldermen who voted against are wrong.
By the way, I don't think the City Council and the Mayor ought to take too much of a victory lap. There's much more work to be done. Like cutting unnecessary programs (think Taste of Chicago, the biggest waste of food since I hid my peas under the brisket) and raising revenue (how about the cops ticketing people who talk on their cell phones while driving, make turns in cross walks while pedestrians are crossing, and running red lights).
Many people who live in Chicago can ill afford the increase. According to published reports, renters will suffer at least as much owners, because residential property owners who lease their property will be raising rent substantially to cover the increase. The bottom line, while City Living in Chicago is still much more affordable than most major American cities, these increases are a major hit to everyone.
Meanwhile, now that we can surface from our denial, the World Series is going on in Kansas City and New York City. Now that a week or so has passed, we can look back on the Cubs' season and marvel at the success, and be thankful they made the playoffs and that the season was so much fun. But, this is about taxes and the implications, or more precisely, the effect things have on people's lives. While the Cubs were great, and it was awesome they were in the playoffs, the reality is it cost a lot of people a lot of money they got knocked out without making it to the National League Championship Series (NLCS), not to mention the World Series.
Think of all the restaurants, hotels, cab (and Uber) drivers, ballpark vendors, bars, shops, the list goes on and on, for people, some wealthy, most not, who lost revenue, the opportunity cost, by the Cubs being swept from the playoffs. Make no mistake, the Cubs ownership and management, after a few years of promises, delivered, and are deserving of a lot of credit for making their franchise competitive this year, and probably for a few years beyond this.
Now, I'm a fan of both baseball teams here in town. My first allegiance is probably the White Sox, my Dad having grown up in Hyde Park and the Father-Son Sunday doubleheaders we went to when I was a kid. And, I'm here to tell you, that sports teams, whether you like it or not, are, or should be, the basis for civic pride as much as any other metro institution, cultural or otherwise. Nothing brings a city together more than successful sports teams. All you have to do for proof of that is to look at the two winners this year, the Blackhawks and Cubs. The level of excitement, seeing the jerseys and caps for both teams around town, the camaraderie amongst people, the Stanley Cup appearances, is unmatched by any other event.
According to Alicia Jessop of Forbes, in the 2013 World Series, three games held at Busch Stadium created a positive economic impact in St. Louis of at least $7.9 million per game. Assuming Chicago, which is nearly ten times in population larger than St. Louis, would expect at least that size impact for World Series and playoff games, losing as the Cubs did in the playoffs made for an opportunity cost of at least $30 million to $50 million, depending on the number of games. Of course, the city winds up footing a bill for security and other concerns, but the economic impact refers to the commercial interests, large and small.
In other words, having a winning baseball team, a team that repeatedly is competitive and appears in the playoffs has a huge positive economic impact on the citizens of a city, meaning it is in everyone's best interest if both baseball teams perpetuate winning. If I was trying to make a case for rooting for both teams I would rest my case right here. But, that's not my point. My point is, the ownership of major sports franchises have a responsibility to the city they represent, not just to their ownership group, to be as respectable and successful as possible. Failure to achieve success, meaning making the playoffs year after year, has disastrous consequences for the businesses and working people of the city, while winning represents more than just a small blip on the radar screen.
For this reason, Jerry Reinsdorf, the managing partner of the ownership of the Chicago White Sox, must steward his team to championship possibilities as Chicago Cubs' ownership seems to have, or needs to consider selling the franchise for the good of the city. The City of Chicago, any city, cannot tolerate an underachieving sports franchise, especially baseball, in an age where taxes are increasing and the cost of living is rising.
In the last fifteen years the Sox have made two postseason appearances. Their last, seven seasons ago, was in 2008 when they lost to Tampa Bay in the ALDS, the first round. Prior to that in 2005, of course, the Sox were World Series champions. Ten years ago. The free pass has worn out. During the same fifteen years, the Cubs, as futile as their history has been, made four, twice as many, postseason appearances, including this season. It's time, fellows. This futility is costing the City of Chicago and its citizens, and in a city with this amount of pride and stature, it needs to be understood that stellar performance on the baseball field is an obligation and a responsibility, not just a stab at the national pastime.
I feel for those folks who lost hundreds and thousands of dollars because the Cubs lost this time around. But, they'll be back. And there will be more good times to be had. I hope the Sox get there, too. But, if they don't real soon, it'll be high time for this ownership group to get the heck out of Dodge.