Chicago’s population peaked in 1950 at 3.62 million people. By 2016 that had declined to 2.705 million, a decrease of about 25%. Chicago’s population has decreased in each of the last three years. It is the only one of the U. S.’s major cities to have a net population decrease.
In 1950 Chicago had about 6 homicides per 100,000 population. In 2016 it had 30 per 100K, its largest homicide rate since 1994.
Let me suggest a different way of looking at public employee pensions: they’re a way of reducing present day operating expenses, especially when the jurisdiction does not salt away enough money to pay for the pensions to which it has committed and there’s no way for it to escape that commitment. When a city’s population and its economy are growing that may make a perverse sort of sense. When its population and economy are shrinking it’s macabre. Fewer people are being compelled to pay for the services enjoyed by more in the past, in some cases, as with Detroit or St. Louis, many more.
Now I’ll turn the podium over to Ryan Cooper at The Week:
Many cities have begun to experience some urban revival after the nadir of the 1970s. But many are still struggling under a heavy burden of services without the tax base they logically deserve. There are also some signs that younger people, under pressure from sky-high rents in the most desirable cities, are once again moving back to the suburbs and exurbs.
It’s long since time municipal boundaries were re-drawn around actual organic communities — perhaps in line with Metropolitan Statistical Areas defined by the government.
Perhaps if such a reorganization took place, suburban denizens might even see the value of universal high-quality public services for themselves, including public transportation throughout the whole metro area. But ultimately, it’s only fair that economic and population centers should be governed as whole instead of one portion being stuck with all the burdens and another raking in all the benefits.
Why stop there? By that logic shouldn’t states like Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan that have experienced absolute declines in population annex parts of Florida, North Carolina, Texas, or California?
Let me return to Chicago’s example. The economies of the “collar counties”, as we call them, don’t actually depend on Chicago’s. Naperville, Oakbrook, Northbrook, and Schaumburg may once have been bedroom communities but that ended 30 years ago. Not nearly as many people commute into Chicago for work as was the case when Richard J. Daley was mayor and O’Hare Airport is a revenue source rather than an expense for Chicago not to mention that it’s a part of Chicago by courtesy only—it’s connected to the city by a strip a block wide in places.
Allow me to suggest a different strategy. There are reasons that Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago have declined in population, they are not entirely geographical, and those should be addressed before we decide that annexation is the solution to declining cities’ problems.