10.8.20

THE THIRD WORLD COMES FOR THE MAGNIFICENT MILE.

A year ago, Lori Lightfoot became mayor of Chicago, and I made a pessimistic prediction.  "Chicago is still fifteen square miles of privilege surrounded by the Third World, and with the improving weather will come the wilding." Last year, the wilding was manageable, and people could pay attention to the failure of the Bulls or Blackhawks to qualify for the playoffs, the Cub collapse, and the continued suckitude of the Bears.  Then we learned about the bat gobbler flu, and the politically convenient excuses to break house arrests led to a new level of wilding.  That got downtown alderman Brian Hopkins worried.
A Chicago icon, the Magnificent Mile’s 13 blocks are known across the world. It’s a draw for tourists and a serious boost to the city’s bottom line. What would the city look like without all of this? Hopkins says we could find out.

“Some of the suburban retailers are starting to see some upticks in their activity,” he said. “On Michigan Avenue? We are not seeing that at all.”

There are existing vacancies, some stores still boarded up, others dealing with plummeting sales, what Hopkins calls a spike in theft, and safety concerns keeping people away.

“We’re losing tax revenue, and we are losing sales tax on a daily basis,” he said. “If this trend continues, we won’t have a viable downtown. And it’s not going to be that long. We’re talking a few years. Privately they’re telling me they can’t sustain this. They can’t continue at the level they’re at right now, and if it keeps up, we are going to see a rash of business closures in the downtown area.”

Hopkins was in a meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and business owners in the area who were expressing their concerns, when the shooting happened Tuesday afternoon. Rapper FBG Duck was shot and killed. Two others were seriously injured.
I heard that story Saturday morning, and filed it away as a possible "Chicago can go the way of Detroit" post.  By way of background, I did some shopping at the monster J. L. Hudson department store in downtown Detroit, shortly before it closed.  That stretch of Woodward Avenue was once a busy shopping district, with lots of specialty stores providing the ancillary stuff, but by 1979 you could see the decline.
“Nordstrom and Bloomingdales and Ferragamo, and all large Marquee stores that are on the avenue here attract people from all over the world and all over the U.S. and all over Chicago,” said Mike Riordan of the River North Residents Association. “It’s one thing to lose control one weekend, but then it’s another thing for this stuff to keep on going. It opened the floodgates to a bunch of brazenness and lawlessness that we’ve never seen here before.”

In the latest crime statistics from the district the area is in, which were updated August 2, murder is up in 2020 compared to 2020. Burglary, motor vehicle theft and shootings are also up. Other crimes like theft and aggravated battery are down.

“We’re hitting a warning right now,” said Hopkins. “This is a warning. It’s an opportunity for us to turn it around. We tried to impress upon that to the mayor and to the police superintendent. We’ll see if they respond.”
Then Sunday night happened.
In a coordinated response to a police shooting in Englewood on Sunday, scores of stores were looted in the city overnight, leaving widespread destruction and injuring about a dozen officers, Police Supt. David Brown said.

Shortly after a suspect with a long criminal history shot at police and officers returned fire, several social media posts encouraged looting in the city, Brown said. The suspect was wounded but is expected to survive, Brown said. That shooting led to a tense standoff with residents.

Brown said 400 officers were dispatched to the Loop as caravans of cars began driving into the city. CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported looters arrived with boxes of rocks and bricks to break into stores. However, police could not keep up with the speed and size of the crowds. Effective tonight access to downtown will be restricted from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice. The details of that plan are still being worked out, but residents can expect it to be modeled after the violence that erupted in late May.
As of this hour, Chicago radio is reporting the residents of several neighborhoods coming out to help with the cleanup. But how many of them are making uncoordinated efforts to find new quarters and put their houses on the market, or give their landlords notice?
“We are waking up in shock this morning,” a visibly angry Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, adding the criminal activity was brazen. “It was abject criminal behavior, period. This was straight up felony criminal conduct.

“This was an assault on our city.”

The looting and vandalism was spread all over the Loop, along the Magnificent Mile, River North and up to the Near North Side.
Yes, the mayor sounded shaken up in a morning press conference, more so than when she is threatening beach goers with all sorts of sanctions for ... playing outside.  It's not a good day for Alderman Hopkins's constituents, though.
It took police officers roughly four hours to get the downtown back under control, leading to finger pointing across the political spectrum and calls for the Illinois National Guard to once again help quell unrest in the country’s third-largest city.

Downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins, who said he was on Michigan Avenue from midnight to 4 a.m., described a scene in which officers were overwhelmed by looters and apparently did not have much of a plan for restoring order. He criticized Lightfoot for failing to develop an effective strategy following recent looting incidents in May and June.

“The real question today is, where was the strategy? What was the decision making at the highest levels?” Hopkins said. “That means the police superintendent and the mayor, who’s a very hands-on mayor when it comes to these kinds of decisions.”

City officials said the seeds for the violent crime spree were sown on social media Sunday afternoon following an officer involved shooting in the Englewood neighborhood. Officers shot and wounded a 20-year-old man Sunday after he fired shots at them while being chased, authorities said.

The man was taken to University of Chicago Medical Center and is expected to survive, Brown said.
Whether the fifteen square miles of privilege running from Wrigleyville to the museum campus will survive is another matter.
Mayor Lightfoot seems to see the light. Allowing America's third-biggest city to turn into another Minneapolis or Portland, a running joke for mayoral ineffectuality, and a perfect target for looters themselves to pay a visit home to, is no way to run a city. She must be hearing from the locals. She must be responding to ridicule on Twitter. Because in these remarks, transcribed a bit below, there's no talk about blaming President Trump, no excuses for looters, and none of her customary rubbish about gun control solving the whole thing.
There's nothing like the loss of those tourist dollars, and the sales taxes from the remaining department stores and American Girl and all the rest, to concentrate the mind. Not to mention that being mayor of a Chicago residually inhabited by the destitute isn't a prize post.

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