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American Dream Betrayed

Foreclosure City: Our Tsunami

"Englewood is rapidly being abandoned, many of its blocks now little more than weed-choked and trash-littered urban prairies," the Tribune reports.

"A neighborhood that had long been on the brink was pushed over the edge by the foreclosure crisis, leading to a descent that threatens the rest of the city by draining resources and shrinking tax rolls.

"What is left in Englewood and West Englewood draws comparison to the worst of Detroit. As residents fled and investors pulled out, the number of abandoned buildings and vacant lots on many streets outnumbers occupied buildings."

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So we've become Detroit after all. I guess nobody noticed because of all those hypnotic flowers Richard M. Daley planted.

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Rahm Emanuel's solution? Move the goal posts.

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"Not that many years ago, things were looking brighter. As housing prices rose, investors were attracted by solid bungalows and brick apartment buildings. A new campus for Kennedy-King College was seen as a potential anchor. But things took a wrong turn when the economy went bad."

Excuse me, but the economy didn't "go bad." We're not just in the downward part of a business cycle. This has really gotten lost in our reporting - particularly about city, state and federal deficits. The Great Recession wasn't caused by "living beyond our means" or wasteful government spending, it was caused by a greedy failure on the part of Wall Street and its enablers so large that Alan Greenspan renounced his life-long philosophy that guided his decisions as America's top banker.

(If you are too impatient to watch the full 6:36 - and I don't blame you - jump ahead to 6:17 for the key, even stunning statement here that seems to have been quickly forgotten.)

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See also PBS's The Warning.

It will make you want to march on Washington.

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Now take a look at the handiwork of Greenspan and his buddies - including Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

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The culprits, of course, are all back to doing great today. Not so much everyone else.

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"The population of Englewood and West Englewood dropped by nearly a quarter, a loss of nearly 20,000 people, over the last decade. Some 3,500 properties sit empty, the highest concentration of vacant homes in the city . . .

"Many of problems in Greater Englewood trouble a number of neighborhoods already on the brink, like Roseland to the south, where 8,100 residents left in the decade, or Austin on the West Side, which lost 19,000 residents . . .

"The magnitude of what the city faces can be glimpsed on the 6100 block of Peoria Street. Out of 23 properties occupied 10 years ago, 18 are now either boarded up or reduced to vacant lots. A building that covered eight lots was destroyed by fire, said John and Jackie Moody, who live next to an empty house surrounded by a pasture of weeds five feet high."

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The Chicago Abandoned Lot Project hasn't been updated for three years, which is a pity. The crisis was just getting going.

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I'm reminded of a comment I posted to Rich Miller's Capitol Fax Blog after Miller (and others) expressed disbelief about the latest census figures showing the city lost about 200,000 people - 180,000 of them black - in the last 10 years:

"As a 20-year resident of Chicago, I can say that in the last decade it has become very expensive to live here, and as downtown has been glossed up, certain neighborhoods have gentrified while others have emptied out. Vast stretches of the South and West Sides are wastelands. It wouldn't have come as such a shock if the media had been paying attention and not distracted by the glitz."

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I'm also reminded of an appearance I made last September on Fox Chicago Sunday to discuss the legacy of Richard M. Daley. James Warren of the Chicago News Cooperative appeared first with host Mike Flannery and together they marveled at the number of trees Daley planted during his reign. When I came on I suggested a better metric might be how many people were indicted during his reign.

But the real shocker to me was off-camera: I noted to Flannery that the gleaming downtown was one thing but that many neighborhoods on the South and West Sides in particular hadn't advanced at all during the Daley's era. Flannery brushed me off saying no city had solved poverty and looked at me like I was crazy to even judge the former mayor by how well he did by the least fortunate of us instead of the most.

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"[A]lthough Greater Englewood is ground zero for the foreclosure crisis, the growing number of empty homes over the last several years throughout Chicago has in many ways ravaged property on a scale not seen since the Chicago Fire of 1871," the Tribune reports.

"The city's ongoing foreclosure crisis 'is our tsunami,' said Jim Capraro, senior fellow at the citywide Institute for Comprehensive Community Development. 'It's so widespread, and there is no relief in sight yet for foreclosures.'"

Our tsunami except this disaster was man-made.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on June 24, 2011


MUSIC - The Ballad Of Bruce Rauner.
TV - Paul Lynde vs. Halloween.
POLITICS - Beachwood Radio: The Sun-Times Is A Hot Mess.
SPORTS - Kool-Aid: You Just Kick The Ball.

BOOKS - The Onion vs. Gone Girl.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: Sixteen Movies Ago.


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