Have Chicago's Problems Made It Unlivable?

A few days ago Mancow, the radio shock jock and reality TV star whose real name is Erich Muller, made headlines when he told the Chicago Tribune why he recently sold his Lincoln Park condo and moved to Wilmette. Citing some of Chicago’s better known problems:

I think they’ve done a good job of making the city unlivable for families. I’m so sick of feeding the broken government in Chicago…The schools are awful. I guess I could have had (my daughters) go to public schools, but I don’t want them to be stupid. I drove past Lincoln Park High School every day, and the kids are cursing and yelling and have their hands down each other’s pants. And then, I was spending $45,000 a year for the (private) British School of Chicago. It was killing me.

He went on to complain about the homeless people outside his home all the time and the fact that street parking has gone up from $.25/ hour to $13/ hour. I’m not sure when street parking was last $.25/ hour but certainly not in the last 14 years that I’ve been here. And it’s not $13/ hour now it’s $6.50 or $13 for 2 hours. But frankly, I prefer high street parking rates because low rates mean you can never find parking and cheap parking that I can’t find doesn’t do me any good. The real street parking problem is that all the spaces are filled all day with cars hanging handicap cards. What’s that all about? It’s the family and friends discount.
I thought it was interesting that a shock jock could be shocked by the behavior of high school students. But maybe his radio persona is different than his father persona.
Mancow’s complaints bring to mind Forbes’ list of America’s most miserable cities published earlier this year, where Chicago came in at number 4. Forbes ranked these cities on 9 equally weighted factors:

  1. Violent crimes per capita from the FBI’s 2011 Uniform Crime Report
  2. Average unemployment rate between 2010 and 2012
  3. RealtyTrac’s 2012 foreclosure rate for the city
  4. Income taxes
  5. Property tax rates based on median real estate taxes paid and median home values in 2011 per the U.S. Census
  6. The change in median home prices between 2009 and 2012
  7. Median commute times to work for 2011 based on U.S. Census data
  8. Weather – temperature, precipitation, and humidity
  9. Net migration

Fortunately for Chicago Forbes dropped political corruption from the criteria since last year. The factors that brought Chicago to the top of Forbes’ list were:

Chicago residents must endure long commutes (31 minutes on average), plummeting home prices (37% the past five years), brutal winters and high foreclosure rates (3.3% of homes in 2012 says RealtyTrac). Many residents are giving up on the Windy City with a net migration out of the city of 107,000 people the past five years, according to Moody’s Analytics.

The declining home prices is old news. The real estate market here has dramatically turned around in the last year and the foreclosure rate is declining, though it’s still high relative to the rest of the country. As for unemployment, that is also gradually improving as it is in the rest of the country.
For me these issues just begin to touch on Chicago’s problems, which plague a lot of the country’s large cities: congestion (and not just traffic), road conditions, cost of living, and city finances. But in the long run these things have a way of balancing out – unless a city gets into a death spiral like Detroit, which is #1 on Forbes’ list this year. If things get bad enough then people no longer want to live in a city and the cost of living declines as housing prices decline. But for the time being Chicago’s home prices are on the rise and apparently a lot of people want to live here despite our problems.
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