-By Warner Todd Huston
As his last year in office winds down, Mayor Richard Daley is hailed as one of the country’s most successful big city mayors. Yet the 2010 census reveals that the city lost 200,000 citizens, the city’s budget is millions in the red, and businesses are abandoning the city with alarming frequency. How this equates to success is anyone’s guess.
Steve Bartin who writes for newgeography.com, a website that tracks information about America’s demographic statistics, notes that there are only nine U.S. cities that have more than one million citizens and the 2010 census data shows that only Chicago lost population. Yet, as Bartin notes, stories across the Old Media can’t bestow enough kudos on Mayor Daley’s long tenure as Chicago’s mayor.
It isn’t just the loss of population that marks Daley as a failure, though. As the next mayor comes in to take over Chicago, Rahm Emanuel will face a mess of epic proportions. First of all the city’s 2011 budget shortfall is expected to be at least $654.7 million. That isn’t the only budget crunch the city faces, either. Chicago schools expect and additional $720 million deficit.
Last year Moody’s Investors Service cut Chicago’s credit rating down to Aa2 on the reports of the 2011 budget shortfall.
It gets even worse for the city’s residents. The city’s per citizen debt burden is now worse than that of whole states. Chicago residents are being strangled with $5,399 per resident, a cost that tops every state’s debt burden. For a benchmark, the highest per citizen state debt is Connecticut’s at $4,859 per resident.
Additionally the city has other major problems including the failed parking meter sale, infrastructure troubles, and a constant stream of indictments and convictions of its politicians – the latter of which has been going on for decades. Chicago’s corruption tax (the extra costs citizens endure due to endemic corruption) is one of the highest in the nation.
So, what is this nonsense that Richard Daley has been a great and successful mayor? I wish I knew.