Item the first: S&P just cut Illinois' bond rating to one level above junk. Thanks, Governor Rauner.
Item the second: According to Brian Beutler, at least, President Trump could be in serious trouble after James Comey testifies before Congress next week. Will Trump care? Will he even notice?
Item the third: May was cold and dreary in Illinois. Today it's 24°C and sunny, which is neither cold nor dreary.
Item the fourth: Cranky Flier believes that we absolutely should open up the U.S. to foreign airlines, so they can lose money just like American companies.
Item the fifth: People on Chicago's west side oppose extending the 606 Trail because it would increase property values.
I am now going to take a walk because it's emphatically June outside.
The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday released new estimates showing that Chicago's population declined slightly last year. The deeper numbers are more troubling:
According to Alden Loury, director of research and evaluation at the Metropolitan Planning Council, while the degree of black flight from the city has slowed some this decade, it's still averaging about 12,000 a year, based on data from the American Community Survey, also issued by the Census Bureau. Blacks leaving Cook County tended to move either to northwest Indiana or farther out in the metro area, or to Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas-Fort Worth, Indianapolis or Milwaukee, in that order of popularity of destinations.
The same data show the population of whites, Latinos and people of Asian heritage growing, he said.
Loury's conclusion: "The numbers show Chicago has an issue. . . .Areas around the Loop and the central area are doing well, but overall, the city as a whole is not doing well."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner blame each other for the declines.
Citylab, analyzing a Times Op-Ed by Jed Kolko, adds color:
A more finely grained geographic analysis shows that the closer you get to the city center in most metros, the stronger has been the performance. While it’s true that the more outlying parts of some cities are losing population, their cores are becoming increasingly vibrant. As we’ve noted, that notion of critical mass at the neighborhood level is one of the defining characteristics of urban growth.
[And] there’s a baseline issue here. City growth has decelerated from the past year or two. But city growth this decade looks far different than it did a decade ago. While Kolko’s FiveThirtyEight.com post just shows the change in city and suburb growth rates over the past few years (and emphasizes the one-year change between 2015 and 2016), his longer blog post on his own website shows the change in population by type of county since 2001. Taking this longer view, it’s apparent that growth rates in suburbs have declined sharply since the last decade, while growth rates in urban counties were up.
We're still not candidates for The Atlantic's latest (really cool) photo collection of "A World Without People," thankfully.
Crain's has a 3-part series this week on why Chicago has so much gun violence:
So far in 2017, more than 1,200 people have been shot and 220 killed in Chicago. Shockingly, 30 of those deaths were children 18 or younger. As Memorial Day approaches—historically one of the city's most violent weekends—Crain's examines a facet of the issue that isn't often discussed: the psychological reason so many young men in Chicago are pulling the trigger.
The sobering statistics suggest that the rate of violence in Chicago this year could run apace with the dramatic levels registered in 2016, which saw more than 750 homicides and 3,600 shootings—the highest in 20 years.
The inability to quell the violence is alarming. So is the fact that these numbers exceed the joint total of those documented for New York City and Los Angeles, cities with a combined population nearly four times that of Chicago.
But Chicago's homicide rate cannot be explained simply by demographic characteristics, impoverishment, the ready availability of illegal handguns or alienation from the police in minority neighborhoods. All play a role, but the major factors promoting violence are likely to lie elsewhere.
Based on many years of interactions with young men who were in jail, on probation supervision or in treatment, we believe that "elsewhere" mostly rests at the intersection of Chicago youths' psychological vulnerability and the environments and circumstances that encourage the expression of violent tendencies. This conclusion stems from our varied careers and professional activities, which include regular contact with detainees in the Cook County Jail who are receiving behavioral health care services, as well as the directorship of a youth clinic that served the Near North Side and Cabrini-Green.
The whole series is worth a read.
The Tribune reported late yesterday that the John Hancock Center is for sale:
Chicago-based developer Hearn Co. plans to put the North Michigan Avenue tower's office space and parking garage up for sale, possibly by late summer, company President and CEO Stephen Hearn said.
Hearn said he believes the real estate is worth more than $330 million, or more than double what his firm paid in 2013.
Hearn has been in talks with companies interested in putting their name on the skyscraper since the structure's namesake no longer pays for that right. "We've had interest in it, but have not made a deal yet," Hearn said.
That process could be resumed by a new owner.
Hearn declined to say how much he believes naming rights are worth, but people familiar with the property estimate it could generate $1 million to $2 million annually.
When it opened in 1969, it was the second-tallest building in the world. Today it has the best view of any building in Chicago.
I'm sad that an urban area with 8 million people can no longer support two regional, daily newspapers. This makes me very uncomfortable:
Tronc, the parent company of the Tribune, has entered into a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire Wrapports Holdings, which owns the Sun-Times as well other assets such as the Chicago Reader alternative weekly, the Aggrego digital content business and the syndicated column The Straight Dope.
The announcement follows months of discussions between Wrapports and Tronc and after both organizations worked closely with the Department of Justice's antitrust division.
The tentative deal means Chicago would remain one of the last two-newspaper cities in the country, though those papers would operate under a single corporate owner. Terms of the potential deal were not disclosed.
We still have DNA Info (for now), and competing national newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post have reporters here. (So does the Economist, for that matter.) But one corporation owning all the print newspapers in an area the size of Chicago? Scary.
Despite his initial skepticism, Crain's Greg Hinz sees the value:
Ponder for a moment what $200 million can accomplish, even in government, and even at a time when money isn't worth what it used to be.
Two hundred million dollars would pretty much fill the hole in the Chicago Public Schools budget, the one that had officials threatening to end school three weeks early. Two hundred million dollars would completely pay for the budget of the city Department of Streets & Sanitation for a year (with $50 million left over), or provide not one but two years of subsidies to keep Cook County's hospital and health clinics up and running.
So is the Chicago Transit Authority doing the right thing by spending $203 million, to be exact, to rebuild just one el stop, the hoary Wilson Avenue station on the Red Line in Uptown? Are taxpayers really getting a good deal?
"It's not a station—it's a station with a bridge," replies Chris Bushell, the CTA's chief technology officer. And the century-old bridge, which runs a half-mile, not only had to be replaced from the ground up, it had to be kept in operation while hundreds of Red and Purple Line trains trundled by with more than 75 million people a year.
The project should be finished this fall, just as another huge infrastructure project gets underway on the other side of Uptown.
If you're in the Chicago area, today is your last chance to see the Apollo Chorus "American Masters" concert.
We're performing Jeff Beal's "Salvage Men," with Beal himself in attendance (and playing flugelhorn on his "Poor in Sprit" later in the concert). Tickets are still available, $35 at the door ($15 for students), this afternoon at 3pm at Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston.
Oh, I hope this art installation flies:
In a planned one-day protest, four golden pig balloons will take anchor in the Chicago River, lined up to cover President Donald Trump's last name on his building's southeast facade.
The giant swine come by way of Chicago-based design company New World Design Ltd., and will arrive by barge. New World is still negotiating how and when the pigs will arrive, but architect and firm principal Jeffrey Roberts says he is confident the project will come to fruition. With the city's approval, which is still pending, the massive pigs will pop up for a day in late August or early September.
I'm looking forward to the day when the letters adorning that garish skyscraper come off permanently.
Forty four years ago today, workers in Chicago completed the Sears Tower:
The original plan was to build two separate buildings. That was changed to a single structure, 1,454 feet high. As board chairman Gordon Metcalf explained, “Being the largest retailer in the world, we thought we should have the largest headquarters in the world.”
Construction began in 1970. The foundations were dug, and the steel frame began to rise slowly over Wacker Drive. On the way up, the Sears Tower passed the former record holder, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
The Sears Tower kept is title until 1996. Today all the sky-piercing structures are going up in Asia.
Meanwhile, in 1992, Sears again moved its headquarters, this time to Hoffman Estates. The tall building on Wacker Drive is now known as the Willis Tower.
And in the meantime, Eddie Lampert has poisoned the company to death.
Things to read today:
And finally, the Chicago Tribune has an article on our concert this weekend, and composer Jeff Beal performing in it:
"I suppose it might have been DNA asserting itself," said Beal, who will be in Chicago May 5 and Evanston May 7 when the celebrated Apollo Chorus includes his "The Salvage Men" and "Poor in Spirit" as part of their 145th-season-ending spring concert, "American Masters," in Chicago and Evanston. "It's true that [my grandmother] passed on her love of improvisation, but there's also something almost eerily similar about what she did, watching a screen and creating her own musical accompaniment, and what I do in my day job."
[H]e had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. Though he took seven years to process the news before beginning to write "The Salvage Men" in 2014.
Serendipitously, that was about the time that Apollo Chorus music director Stephen Alltop, who studied with Beal at Eastman, got back in touch to praise Beal's work on" House of Cards" and suggest the possibility of doing a concert together. Which explains why Beal and his new choral works are appearing in Chicago directly after their debuts in London and Los Angeles. Beal also will perform solo trumpet over the comparatively simple text of his "Poor in Spirit," — it consists entirely of one repeated phrase from the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit" — much as he often plays trumpet over the score of "House of Cards."
Tickets are available through the Apollo Chorus website. It's going to be an amazing concert.