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The coordinated looting that overwhelmed police and left huge swaths of downtown and the Near North Side ransacked threatens to turn Chicago into pre-renaissance Detroit. If it does, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will pay the price, whether or not she was powerless to stop it.
Businesses that survived the stay-at-home shutdown and sustained heavy losses during the looting in late May may be reluctant to rebuild for fear they won’t be protected. Even if they do, customers may not feel safe shopping or dining downtown.
Empty-nesters and young people drawn to the city by the nightlife and cultural attractions that made Chicago a magnet for corporate headquarters may abandon the city as well because they, too, no longer feel safe.
Population gains downtown and on the Near North and Near West Sides have helped offset the loss of Chicago’s Black middle class. If both groups continue to leave Chicago, the city will hemorrhage population and lose its tax base. That’s something Lightfoot can’t afford at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has blown a $700 million hole in her precariously balanced 2020 budget.
“There’s a limit to how many times retailers are willing to be kicked. … It will be difficult after retailers who have invested millions in reopening to have to do it again. There has to be a lot of confidence that they can be protected and, so far, that confidence is lacking,” said Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. “Retail is the largest generator of revenue … through the sales tax. As goes retail, so goes government finances.”
Jack Lavin, president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said Lightfoot must “get this situation under control as quickly as possible” or the “economic engine” of Illinois will suffer. So will the mayor’s plan to rebuild long-neglected South Side and West Side neighborhoods: “The best solution to equity issues is jobs. Your Central Business District creates jobs. Restaurants, retail, hotels, tourism, office space. If people don’t feel safe, your economic engine suffers,” Lavin said. “The more incidents we have like this, the more perception grows of the Central Business District being unsafe. We can’t afford any more hits like this.”
Downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins said his constituents are “terrified” after having their “sense of security stolen from them.” He said he wasn’t impressed with Lightfoot’s warning to looters that they’d bare the consequences of their actions: “It sounded identical to the tough talk that we heard from her on May 31. … What’s different today? What did they do to prevent this? … I don’t see it.”
Ald. Michael Scott Jr. harkened back to the 1968 riots in communities like North Lawndale that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “It gave businesses an excuse to say, ‘I’m not coming back,’ collect their insurance money and go somewhere else. There was a lot of flight from this community and it has not come back since then,” he said.
“I hope and I pray that is not the case that happens all around Chicago — downtown and in communities like Englewood and Auburn-Gresham and all the neighborhoods that are struggling — because, then, we become something like Detroit.”
More news you need
- A tornado touched down on the North Side of the city during yesterday afternoon’s storm, which uprooted trees, peeled off roof shingles and left tens of thousands without power. It could take several days to determine the strength of the twister, how long it remained on the ground and the direction it traveled, the National Weather Service says.
- A 55-year-old Arizona woman died after she was struck and dragged a half block by a hit-and-run driver Monday night on the Near North Side. The local alderman has tied the incident to continued looting in the area.
- Navy Pier Inc. said it expects to lose $20 million this year and plans to decide by month’s end whether to close the popular tourist attraction whose business has been devastated by the coronavirus. But Payal Patel, a spokeswoman for the private operator of the government-owned pier, said the company “is not going out of business.”
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot has cut a one-year deal with the Chicago Firefighters Union that includes $95 million in back pay, but would nearly double employee health care contributions. It also maintains treasured union perks and outdated staffing requirements that cost taxpayers millions.
- The Democratic National Convention kicks off Monday with speakers that include former first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Here’s the lineup, which runs through Thursday, Aug. 20.
A bright one
Riya Joshi has a way with words.
She came in second in a spelling bee in kindergarten after misspelling the word “rodeo.” She would go on to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, not once, but twice,as a grade-schooler. And in the Boggle and Scrabble games her family plays every Sunday, Joshi said her parents haven’t won a game in years.
“I’m addicted to competition,” said Joshi, 15, of Streeterville. “The thrill of being at the microphone and spelling a word gets me super excited.”
Now, Joshi is spreading her love of words through “Detective Wordy: Chicago Edition,” an original booklet of crosswords, word scrambles and word searches. For every copy she sells, Joshi prints three booklets and donates them to children’s hospitals, senior assisted living facilities and children’s support homes. She’s sold more than 150 copies and donated more than 560, all before starting her sophomore year at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School.
“I didn’t want to publish a book just for me and my sister. I wanted to do something more than that,” Joshi said. “Especially now, a lot of children are isolated in their rooms — same with seniors in assisted living. I sent the booklets to them because I thought they’d like that.”
Joshi wanted some of the puzzles to be educational, featuring historic Chicago landmarks and COVID-19 terms. Others, Joshi said, are purely for fun, such as a word search of obscure potato chip flavors, one of the first puzzles she made. “I love ketchup potato chips,” Joshi said with a laugh.
From the press box
The Blackhawks and Golden Knights drop the puck for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series tonight (9:30 p.m. CT, NBCSCH). Patrick Kane, who recorded just one goal against the Oilers, knows he’ll likely need to do more if the Hawks are going to take down Vegas.
Big Ten football won’t be played this year after the presidents of the universities voted today to move the season to the spring.
The Bears’ signing of Robert Quinn showed how badly they wanted a pass rusher who can finish plays. They’re determined to make sure he’ll have enough opportunities to do that, even if he’s no longer playing defensive end in a traditional 4-3 defense.
Your daily question☕
Once there’s a vaccine against COVID-19, will you get it? Tell us why, or why not.
Email us(please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Yesterday, we asked you to tell us how yesterday’s looting affected you.Here’s what some of you said…
“I was an hour late to work and a good amount of my coworkers called in. We work in the operating room as nurses and surgical techs. Running late to take care of patients. This is just ridiculous!”— Marjúry Hernández
“I’m still affected by the first looting! None of the stores in my area have recovered. I’ve been traveling to get essentials since June.”— Jerilynn Elyse
“My son works at Gucci. They took mostly everything in the store. Gonna be out of work for a while.”— Gerald Wilson
“My daughter lives in the city. They called a realtor. They feel it is no longer safe to live in the city.”— Sue Brookfield
Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed?Email us here.