When established in 1833, the Town of Chicago incorporated fewer than 200 people into its new borders. Within seven years—the city’s first decennial U.S. census—more than 4,000 people lived there; after another 10 almost 30,000 people did.
The city kept growing, both in size and population. In 1880, half a million people lived within its borders. In 1890, that number had doubled. At the turn of the century, 1.6 million people called themselves Chicagoans, and the city was the fifth largest in the world.
Something happened on the land we call Chicago that had happened nowhere else before. In the span of a lifetime, the city went from nascence to dominance—and since then, people have been trying to figure out what that new place is and what it can be.
CHICAGO–For decades, children here had one of the shortest elementary school days in the country. Students of all ages were in class fewer days than their peers not only nationally but also in much of the developed world.
Rahm Emanuel vowed in his successful 2011 mayoral campaign both to increase the amount of time Chicago’s students are in class and to give them a well-rounded education during their additional school hours. And by the fall of 2012, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama had lengthened the day and year for elementary and high schools alike. Despite a budget crisis, he came up with funds to begin delivering on the second half of his promise. Schools, he said, should not have to choose between offering math or music.
But less than a year later, the estimated amount of the Chicago Public Schools’ deficit, caused largely by a crisis in pension funding, had hit $1 billion. Today, the country’s third-largest school system is still giving its 400,000 students more time to learn, but it is no longer giving more money. In fact, it is operating with fewer teachers and support staff than it was before the longer day began.
Read more. [Image: Armando L. Sanchez / Hechinger Report]
I spent last week trooping through North Lawndale, on the West Side of Chicago, with the Atlantic’s video team. We spent much of Friday with some positive folks over at the Better Boy’s Foundation (BBF) in K-Town. Then we went outside to get some sense of the neighborhood. I’ve spent a lot of time in North Lawndale over the past year. It is one of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago. It is also achingly beautiful. Wide boulevards cut through the neighborhood, the old Sears building looms in the distance, and the great greystones mark many of the blocks. If you stand at the corner of Springfield and Ogden, as I have, right next to the Lawndale Christian Health Center across from Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, you can see the great wealth of Chicago, indeed the great wealth of America, looming over all those who long toiled to make it so.
Read more. [Image: Ta-Nehisi Coates]
Homicides in Chicago are way down.
What if you could predict your chances of being shot from your social network: who you know and how you know them? Turns out, maybe you can.
The Cornell Square Park shooting September 19, in which two men wounded 13 by firing indiscriminately into a public park, has added new urgency to the discussion about violent crime in Chicago. It’s no secret that some parts of the city are more dangerous than others. As Noah Berlatsky pointed out last week, race and socioeconomic class can feel like prime predictors of how safe you are in Chicago. Those living on the South Side, where the shooting took place, face some of the highest violent crime and murder rates in the nation without, counterintuitively, any nearby hospital trauma unit to deal with the effects. At the same time, it’s not as simple as some neighborhoods being “safe” and others being “unsafe.”
Read more. [Image: Milos Dizajn/Shutterstock; Jose Luis Gonzales/Reuters]
After hearing about the Chicago shooting last week in which 13 were injured in Cornell Square Park, including a three-year-old, I and writer Mikki Kendall, both Chicago residents, had very different reactions. It’s “not just the park incident,” Kendall told me by email. “20 people were shot this weekend. People are being shot almost daily. And I have a 14 year-old son who can’t go to the McDonald’s in Hyde Park at lunch because the school has noticed an uptick in crime at that location.”
I was depressed and horrified, too — but depressed and horrified in the way that you are when you hear about gun violence anywhere. Unlike Kendall, I wasn’t directly concerned about the safety of my family.
Based on our reactions, you’d think that Kendall lived much closer to the shooting than I do. But that’s not the case. In fact, we’re both in Hyde Park, about 4 miles away from where it occurred on the city’s South Side. I can walk to the McDonald’s she mentioned.
So why does Kendall feel personally targeted and I don’t? Well, Kendall is black and grew up here; I’m white, and didn’t.
In other words, welcome to Chicago, where segregation is almost a civic art form.
Read more. [Image: stopchicago.org]
On Tuesday night, a huge vacant warehouse on Chicago’s South Side went up in flames. Fire department officials said it was the biggest blaze the department has had to battle in years and one-third of all Chicago firefighters were on the scene at one point or another trying to put out the flames. Complicating the scene was the weather — temperatures were well below freezing and the spray from the fire hoses encased everything below in ice, including buildings, vehicles, and some firefighting gear. The warehouse was gutted, but the fire was contained. Fire crews remain on the scene as some smaller flare-ups continue to need attention.
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Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches are no longer homophoburgers or free-speech-you-can-eat or whatever the fast food meant during this summer’s culture wars. Fried chicken just went back to being delicious as the chain promised to stop “supporting organizations with political agendas,” which includes anti-gay groups—a move that’s gotten them back into a Chicago’s good graces. We learned the news by way of Chicago’s The Civil Right Agenda (TCRA) an LGBT-rights advocacy group, who report that Chick-fil-A has penned a letter saying, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.” That letter was addressed to Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno, who along with Boston mayor Thomas Menino, said they would block the chain for its anti-gay views. WinShape is the chain’s not-for-profit charitable arm that had previously donated to groups opposing gay marriage. TCRA adds, “In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
It will also be interesting to see if the Chicago strike is an anomaly, or if it has opened a door to more aggressive contract negotiations in other large urban school districts. To be sure, Chicago teachers aren’t the only ones frustrated by the many new demands being placed on educators to boost student achievement. The strike might also end up being a warning to policymakers that there is, indeed, a limit to how hard reform can be pushed - and how fast.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]