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Development, Daley-Style


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To the editors:

"There were many unemployed in Chicago when Mayor Harold Washington and a former state's attorney named Richard M. Daley flatly rejected a casino," David Moberg recalls, thinking back a few years ("Daley's Crapshoot," November 20). So then "Why build one now?" Moberg wonders. "Is the mayor motivated by joblessness now in a way he wasn't before? Or is he more motivated by the fate of the underused, overbuilt Loop hotels and by the work needs of the downtown lawyers and real estate developers who have been his major backers and who have been idled by the end of the 80s building boom?"

The answer to Moberg's query isn't even arguable. The puppet regime that occupies the office of the mayor in City Hall rushed to embrace the Circus Circus-Hilton Hotels-Caesars World casino proposal on the very day that it was first unveiled last March because the proposal meets every one of its criteria for successful "economic development." (In the Orwellian sense of the term, that is. The sense favored by the regional business class--which holds all the strings to the Daley administration, and has been tugging at them since Day One.)


The proposal promises to develop the economies of the privileged interests that own and control what city planners refer to as the "lakefront cultural/convention corridor"--or the Super Loop, Central Area, etc. An area closed off from the worsening conditions of the Third World beyond by the Stevenson, Dan Ryan, and Kennedy expressways and the already congested northern Loop, this is the one part of the city where regional capital has invested most heavily. Therefore, it is the only part of the city that matters--at least to the puppet regime in City Hall.

A lakefront casino gambling mega-development won't enhance the lives of the great mass of people who aren't already cut in on the Central Area's commercial, real estate, and convention and tourism booty. Since democratizing the benefits of economic development is regarded as a bad thing within U.S. society (of course ideology suggests the opposite), an elite-servicing casino project, located in the Central Area, is exactly what one should have expected from the class that controls the office of the mayor. Ditto for the $150 million Navy Pier renovation. The $1 billion McCormick Place expansion. The $800 million Central Area Circulator. But also for their concomitant: the worsening conditions beyond. (Even whorehouses don't seem to be out of the question, if there's enough money to be made off them.)

Last, lakefront casino gambling would create a regressive tax on the region's less affluent members. With federal, state, and even local public-sector capital having been depleted by decades of nonproductive investments (What do you think Navy Pier, McCormick Places I, II and III, and the Central Area Circulator are?), and with the groups that profited from these giveaways being geniuses when it comes to avoiding taxes, city government is left with but one option: stick it to the mass of citizens who lack the political power to say, "Buzz off, Richie." (And given what tax-evading magic U.S. representative Dan Rostenkowski showed he could conjure up at the behest of the Pritzker family, I'm sure old Rosty could cook up a tax break or two for the mega-casino's owners, should Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union president Edward Hanley take him out to wine and dine him.)

David Peterson

Evergreen Park

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