By John Ruberry
As I’ve written many times, Chicago is a city in decline. It is the only major American city losing population. Its pension debt, a reward–or should I say payoff?–to public-section unions in exchange for their support for Democratic politicians is an unsustainable millstone. This morning on a local television show, Flannery Fired Up, William Daley, the former Barack Obama White House chief of staff who is now a candidate for the mayor’s job that his brother and his father each held for over twenty years, called Chicago the economic engine for the rest of the state, as it has been since the completion of the Illinois-Michigan Canal in 1848.
But Illinois is also suffering from population loss.
With fewer people there is less demand for products and businesses. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there are store closures in Chicago. To be fair, even in prosperous and growing areas, retail shops close for every imaginable reason. Chicago’s population loss is most severe on the West Side and the South Side. It is in the latter area where Target is closing two stores, which the big box giant says are underperforming.
On Black Friday former Black Panther Bobby Rush, a longtime member of Congress in a district that covers much of the South Side, led a protest outside one of the South Side stores, calling on the Minneapolis-based corporation to reverse its decision to close the two outlets. Rush held another protest outside a Target store south of Chicago’s Loop earlier this month.
In the 1990s Chicago community leaders were begging for Target to set up shop in the inner city to counter the unfortunate “food desert” phenomenon. At first hesitant, Target opened a South Side store in the mostly-African American middle class Chatham neighborhood in 1998.
After the closings, Target will be down to 15 stores within Chicago’s City limits, but it plans to open two North Side stores in 2020, which Rush makes note of in his grievance. With left-wingers, North Side is a dog whistle term for “white” and South Side means “black.” Rush, an ethically-challenged leftist who has achieved little in his 25 years in the House of Representatives, surely knows that there is a large African American in Rogers Park on the Far North Side, where one of the new Targets will be. And there still will be three other South Side Targets, including one in Hyde Park, near the mansion where the Obamas once called home.
The history of Chicago politicians and big box stores is a checkered one. In his 22 years in office Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed just one bill–which the City Council sustained–and that legislation called on big box stores to pay higher wages than smaller retailers. Keeping Target’s rival, Walmart, a corporation with conservative leanings, out of Chicago, was the goal. Target leans left, which is why back in the day Chicago leaders were calling on them, not Walmart, to put down stakes there.
Let that sink in. Walmart is the world’s largest retailer and Chicago is giving it a cold shoulder. America’s third-largest city deserves its predicament. Still, Chicago has seven Walmarts, five of them are in predominately black neighborhoods.
After the big box wage legislation failed the next year was an election year in Chicago, and unions zeroed in on City Council members who didn’t support the bill.
Now if Rush and his minions weren’t such hardened left-wingers they’d be calling on Walmart to bring that number up to seven because there will soon be two massive vacant store fronts on the South Side.
But leftists can’t help themselves. They let ideology rule their minds, not common sense.
As for Walmart, or any other big box outlet like Home Depot, maybe they’ll bypass those locations because if they do open up stores at those old Target sites, and a few years later they have to close them, they’ll avoid the headache of dealing with protests led by Bobby Rush.
The two closing Targets each employ about 120 people.
John Ruberry regularly blogs from his home just north of Chicago at Marathon Pundit.