By Mark Wachtler
January 13, 2014. Chicago. (ONN) A local author recently pointed out the vast differences between New York City and Chicago, specifically each city’s laws, taxes, politics and social norms. But the most surprising revelation, especially to a life-long resident of Chicago, is that East and West Coast residents look down on us Midwesterners as if we’re backward, tyrannical and corrupt.
From politics and taxes to Mayors and social norms, New York and Chicago couldn't be more different. Image courtesy of CityPass.com.
California, New York State and Illinois – all overwhelmingly Democratic blue states. But while the West Coast is loaded with creative geniuses living a healthier lifestyle than everyone else, the East Coast is loaded with the billionaires who are the only people intelligent enough to rule the world. Here in Illinois, we’re apparently stuck in our own vacuum of corruption, corruption and more corruption, missing out on the joys of American life.
Local Chicago journalist Russ Stewart has been a columnist for the Nadig News family of neighborhood papers for decades. Few have seen as much or are more in tune with Chicago’s politics and local officials than he is. And this week, he took a look at some of the lesser known differences between Chicago and New York politics.
For starters, Chicago is apparently such a miserable city that nobody wants to live here. Our residents are fleeing by the thousands. The Obama family is staying in Washington DC, never to return home. The Clintons are staying in New York City, never to return home. Rahm Emanual was forced against his will by a court of law to move back to Chicago in order to be the city’s Mayor. Even former Mayor Daley has spent his retirement living in China rather than spend time here at home. Why do Chicago’s most vocal cheerleaders seem to despise the city so much?
According to Stewart’s article, “Welcome to the new reality, as defined by the Manhattan intelligentsia and the Hollywood glitterati. Those who are truly ‘progressive’ and enlightened live on the coasts, while we in backwoods Chicago are no longer in the ‘City of Big Shoulders,’ but rather in some politically and culturally insignificant hamlet.”
President Hillary from Illinois?
Did you know that if Chicago weren’t such a politically closed-off city, Barack Obama wouldn’t have been elected President in 2008? When Hillary Clinton decided to run for US Senate, she had two legitimate choices – her childhood Rodham family home of Illinois or her married, adult home of Arkansas. The problem with Illinois is that to be elected to office, you have to wait in line until the Chicago Democratic Machine says it’s your turn. And Hillary’s turn wouldn’t have come until 2004, if ever.
Instead, Hillary ran for Senate in New York, leaving a little-known Chicago State Senator named Barack Obama to eventually take the opening four years later. From there, he launched his campaign for President. While that’s more of a ‘what if’ scenario, there are plenty of other surprising facts and statistics regarding New York City and Chicago.
As Stewart reminds us, a President from Illinois is more of an anomaly these days than the norm. Politicians from New York and California can raise tens of millions of dollars in the blink of an eye. Illinois politicians can’t. And while the two progressive coasts have icons like Hollywood, Broadway, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Times Square, Greenwich Village, Haight Asbury, and Nob Hill, Chicagoans can boast of being the murder capitol of the nation, with the worst corruption, the second highest taxes and the second worst traffic in the entire country. As Stewart suggests, Chicago is “languishing in the Mid-Coast Dark Ages.”
Surprising New York, Chicago differences
The longtime Chicago columnist goes on to list off some of the major differences between the two major American cities. “First, social issues are irrelevant in Chicago,” instead he says, “low taxes, low crime and city services are paramount.” By contrast, Stewart suggests that in New York, “political correctness is obligatory.”
Another difference between the two cities is that New York recently elected a slew of Republican Mayors, most recently in 2005. Chicago hasn’t elected a Republican Mayor since 1927. Part of the reason for that drastic discrepancy may be yet another political difference – New York has term limits while Chicago doesn’t. One result of the closed election system in Chicago is that New York has a slew of successful political parties to choose from including the Democrats, Republicans, Conservative Party, Liberal Party, Independence Party, and Reform Party. Chicago has only one party to choose from – the Democratic Party.
Another major difference between the two cities is the racial gap, which may be responsible for the overwhelming political correctness in New York. While Chicago is evenly split with 32% white and 33% black, New York is still overwhelmingly white. The break-out for the Big Apple is 44% white and 26% black. Each city has similar Hispanic populations at 27% and 29% respectively. Showing there are at least some similarities, up until two weeks ago both cities had Jewish Mayors.
Another difference is that New York can be controlled by a handful of powerbrokers because of the city’s low voter turnout. In 2013, just 24% of New Yorkers voted. In Chicago, 42% turned out to vote. One surprising difference is the type of ‘tax and spend’ progressives that are in charge. Chicago has a population of 2.6 million and a budget of $7.8 billion. New York has a population of 8.1 million and a budget of $70 billion.
While New York has three-times the population as Chicago, its residents pay nine-times the taxes. The average local tax burden in the Big Apple is $8,500 compared to only $3,000 in the Windy City. The result is an army of wealthy government employees. Consider that New York contains 301 square miles compared to Chicago’s 228. On a per square mile basis, New Yorkers are paying their civil servants $23 million per acre. Chicagoans are only paying their government $3.4 million per acre.
Government corruption and the policing of elected officials is another glaring discrepancy between the two cities. In New York, each of its five boroughs has a Sheriff and District Attorney. They compete to put the other boroughs corrupt elected officials in prison. In Chicago, there is only one Sheriff and one District Attorney. If they’re from the Chicago Democratic Machine, which they always are, forget about putting any corrupt politicians in jail, except for the ones that have run afoul of the Machine and now need to be punished.
Media, strippers and unions
Local news in the two cities is yet another undeniable difference and yet another contributor to Chicago’s extensive government corruption. As Russ Stewart writes, ‘The New York media have a piranha mentality, ever eager to expose malfeasance and stupidity.” By contrast, in Chicago the local media has always been part of the Chicago Machine’s corruption and more than happy to be deaf, dumb and blind, or as Stewart describes them, ‘bland by comparison.’
Russ Stewart’s final comparisons between the two cities may come as a surprise to most Chicagoans. He writes, ‘New York’s sanitation, transit and teachers unions make Chicago’s look like girl scouts. They shut down the city whenever they please, until they get what they want.’ Saving the best for last, the final difference is the porn and strippers. Stewart writes, ‘Porn and nudity on stage and in bars is the Big Apple norm. Secularism reigns. In Chicago, the Catholic Church keeps the city culturally conservative.’
For good or for bad, one can’t argue that there are vast differences between two cities that each claim to be made up of progressively liberal Democrats. Even today, the cities’ two mayors couldn’t be more opposite. Just-elected New York Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio has been called by some of his opponents a ‘communist’ and a ‘socialist’. Chicago’s Democratic Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has been called even worse names, ‘a Republican’ and a ‘one-percenter’.
Follow Russ Stewart’s weekly Chicago-based political column at RussStewart.com.
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