COMMENTARY | Chicago survived some major obstacles in 2012, but 2013 will also bring many challenges to local government and lawmakers. The resolution list is long, but there are a few issues confronting Chicago that need to be tackled head-on. Between crime, education, unemployment rates, and taxes and spending, Chicago government has its resolution ballot full for 2013. Here are the four major issues confronting Chicago this year:
Week after week, Chicago residents observe soaring crime rates. It fills newspapers, online blogs, and resident forums. It's at the top of people's minds when they go out at night or decide where to put their phone, money, and wallets. As a victim of crime in Chicago, I know the priority that must be placed on lowering crime rates so residents can feel more at ease in such a loveable city. Even President Obama has mentioned the necessity of fighting crime on a "street corner of Chicago" after the Sandy Hook tragedy took place in December. Now is the time for residents to stand up and make a difference. Through volunteer efforts and education, a difference can be made in 2013.
As a parent, I have researched the schools in Chicago, heard first-hand from parents discussing schools they would not allow their children to attend, and have read about the effects of the lack of a proper education in Chicago. Sure, there are great schools, but what about the schools that are free to attend? Or the schools that are in bad neighborhoods? These are the schools that need the most attention from Chicago government. More money needs to be allocated to these schools to provide the education and care that privileged kids are receiving. Educating those in crime-ridden communities will also lower crime rates in future years. When kids aren't given the tools to succeed because of their income level, it's no wonder they follow in their parents footsteps and head to the streets.
The Chicago rate of unemployment was 8.6 percent for October 2012. That number hasn't changed much over the recession, and although it has declined some since 2009, it is still above the national average of 7.9 percent at that time. There are many highly educated people out of work or working jobs below their education level. While the White House has unemployment on their agenda for the nation, Chicago government officials need to take charge and try to lower the numbers, as well. Consumer confidence needs to be raised, and new businesses need to be attracted.
Chicago pensions are massively underfunded by a figure closing in on $100 billion, and the New Year needs to bring pension reform. Like chairman of the House of Pensions Committee Elaine Nekritz stated, "Nothing has changed in 40 years." Problems evolve, and solutions need to be addressed instead of delaying tough choices. Pension reform will be a tough fight with the unions but a necessary one. The retirement age may also need to increase and benefit styles reexamined. Chicago is also known for pulling funds from the pension account to fund other budget shortfalls in the city. So instead of promising money that Chicago doesn't have, local government needs to step up and make some spending cuts.
Janoa Taylor is a Chicago journalist who analyzes local politics. She covers the latest news happening in the political scene and encourages residents to stay informed of current government decisions and voting opportunities.
- Politics & Government