I am a Midwestern guy all the way through to be honest. I would say there is nothing like living in the Midwest even if I get tired of the coldness of the winter months. Illinois is a good state, but we have problems ranging from violence to debt to population loss, which are problems many other states are suffering from as well.
In Illinois, over the last few years, there has been a lot of talk by Republicans living in the Central and Southern parts of the state that the state would be better off if Chicago and all of Cook County was its own state. I personally cannot understand why anyone would think getting rid of the only major city in the state would be a good idea, but the idea has a decent following.
There are people living in Central and Southern Illinois who actually believe the Republican nonsense that they are paying to keep Chicago running. They actually believe the lie that Chicago is running on their tax dollars despite the fact that Chicago is likely the only city in the state adding billions of the dollars to the state’s revenue. And for the record, Chicago is not receiving more money than it is putting in.
The problem with many cities and small towns in the lower parts of Illinois is the small town politics. I have a friend who was born and raised in a small town in Illinois. He would always say the people in his town complained about there not being much in the town and many blame Cook County for the problem since they have the power in Springfield. Those so-called big city loving Cook County politicians do not care about the small, rural, Central and Southern parts of Illinois. They are only looking out for Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, which could be true for some Cook County politicians.
My friend who grew up in a small town in Illinois said the town’s problem was because it was run like many small towns in Illinois. At one point Walmart wanted to build a location and I believe a distribution center in his town, but the local politicians voted down the plan. One reason is because his town was run like many small towns where the local store owners and one or two families controlled everything. A Walmart location could have put their small stores out of business or reduced their customers. So they chose to stop Walmart and other stores from coming to town while at the same time blaming the Cook County politicians in Springfield for not helping their town bring jobs to the community.
One of the biggest problems with Illinois in my opinion is the fact that our state does not have a second major city. In the Midwest, Missouri has St. Louis and Kansas City; Wisconsin has Milwaukee and Madison; Ohio has Cleveland and Cincinnati. I bet the average person outside of Illinois could not name another Illinois city outside of Chicago. Those who could probably would likely name a city in the Chicago suburbs or Champaign where the Illinois Fighting Illini plays.
The Central and Southern parts of Illinois want to blame Cook County for their problems when they should be asking why people do not want to live there. Chicago is the city that drives the Chicagoland area. People are attracted to major cities because of the employment opportunities, entertainment, night and social life.
Central and Southern Illinois needs a major city that could bring in companies and tourism dollars. A major city in Central or Southern Illinois would help many of the surrounding suburbs while adding much-needed funds to the state’s budget, but more importantly, the major city would likely lead to an increase population and more representation in Springfield.
Now, when I say a major city, I am not saying the state of Illinois needs another top 10 or even top 20 populated city. We need a Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City or Madison. A city that is nationally known and can be the engine that drives its surrounding suburbs.
Our nearby neighbor, Milwaukee, is a city that is in the midst of a building boom. Many in Milwaukee will tell you that downtown Milwaukee today is much different from its downtown twenty or even ten years ago. Give credit to the local politicians in the city because they are finding a way to compete with other Midwest cities for conventions and national events. Hopefully, the city will focus some of that new growth in the low-income communities of the city, which is something many African American and other community leaders have lobbied for in recent months.
For those who would say Milwaukee has been a major city for decades and that is slightly true. I would say Milwaukee has been a lesser known Midwest city in the shadow of other Midwest cities like our city, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Louis and even Kansas City. Today, Milwaukee is not on an even ground with our city or even Minneapolis or Detroit, but the city is now competing with St. Louis, Kansas City and Indianapolis. Central and Southern Illinois could learn something from Milwaukee.
You can listen to Tron’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/tron-griffin