• Editorial
  • Why is this alderman throwing a monkey wrench into the works?

    At a time when City Hall should be fighting for every manufacturing job it can possibly create or import, one alderman wants to use the city's shrinking resources to make life harder for those employers.

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    Among the priorities Mayor Lori Lightfoot has set for Chicago are to create good-paying jobs, particularly in the neighborhoods, and to stall the flight of residents to the suburbs and beyond—two interlocking goals that a city facing economic stagnation is quite right to pursue.

    The challenge is significant—and urgent. The Chicago area's population declined for the fourth year in a row in 2018, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates. Meanwhile, Chicago's labor force has grown more slowly in recent years than in four metro peers: Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

    And, most worryingly, job growth in metro Chicago suddenly has come to a dead halt, raising questions about how Illinois as a whole can thrive if its economic engine is idling. An Illinois Department of Employment Security study that tracks private-sector jobs covered by unemployment insurance—a gauge considered highly reliable—shows the total number of jobs in the six-county metro area in the year ended March 31 grew just 1,361, to 3,598,232. That's not even a tenth of a percent, and far and away is the lowest annual rise since the city and state began recovering from the Great 79彩票注册网址 a decade ago.

    79彩票注册网址Add to that the ongoing concern about and the lack of investment beyond downtown, and the need for smart economic prescriptions seems clear. Lightfoot stepped up to the microphone in December to deliver her vision to the Economic Club of Chicago, laying out her long-term plan to jolt new life into segments of the Chicago economy that have been lagging and to rebuild the city's population.

    Lightfoot's plan places special emphasis on industrials, manufacturers and food processors, referring to these sectors as "foundational" to the overall economy. Among the industries her plan targets as "growth clusters" are transportation and logistics and advanced manufacturing

    79彩票注册网址These are industries that can and do provide the kinds of jobs everyday Chicagoans—even those with only a high school education—can and should be prepared to fill. And these are jobs that can and do provide the sorts of wages and benefits that can and should sustain a decent lifestyle. The sort Chicago needs more of.

    All of which makes a move by Ald. George Cardenas, 12th, fairly frustrating.

    79彩票注册网址As chairman of the City Council's Committee on Environmental Protection & Energy, Cardenas on Jan. 15 introduced a resolution calling on the Chicago Department of Public Health to conduct a comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of planned manufacturing districts, or PMDs, on residents in surrounding communities.

    To be clear, PMDs are areas of the city zoned for manufacturing use. The designation was created more than 30 years ago to preserve manufacturing jobs as globalization shriveled the industry. There are now 15 PMDs around the city. And while they haven't been as successful as any economist would like in reversing the decline of manufacturing employment in Chicago, PMDs are one of the few tools at the mayor's disposal to hold onto what manufacturing base we have and potentially draw more.

    Cardenas' concern is pollution—something no one wants. But at a time when City Hall should be fighting for every job it can possibly create or import, Cardenas wants to use the city's shrinking resources to order a study of population data surrounding every PMD, the number of complaints received related to those PMDs, descriptions of the type of industrial and manufacturing companies operating within each PMD, and a breakdown of the number of industrial and manufacturing companies located within each PMD.

    Complicating the already difficult task of fostering manufacturing employment in areas like Cardenas' neighborhood on the Southwest Side doesn't seem like a smart focus of City Hall's time and energy now.

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