Could the rise of a city like Washington, D.C. upset the much-larger Windy City to achieve “Second City” status?
A media columnist in Chicago thinks the city risks losing its distinction as a media and cultural hotspot, and so do the people who’ve documented the District’s economic and population boom in the face of a recession.
“We want the world to think well of us all,” wrote Phil Rosenthal . “A greater problem, perhaps, is that too many people don’t think of us, well, at all.”
As the District’s population and image as an epicenter of political and cultural activity continues to grow, and as the area just keeps getting richer, Chicago has struggled for years to keep up its status as Second City; Rosenthal cites the loss of a bid for the 2016 Olympics, its nagging reputation as a top drinking city, and the increasing lack of attention from the international community as possible reasons why this struggle to maintain its status as a cultural gem won’t get any easier.
Though District’s wealth distribution is more unbalanced than almost any other place in the country (whites make $3.06 for every $1 earned by black residents), the city’s overall rosy economic outlook continues to fuel Washington’s revitalization and to draw newcomers into the fold.
Aaron M. Renn of New Geography weighed in, saying that D.C., “once a sort of commercial backwater, is now becoming much more a national capital of the type other countries have had.”
If you compare the two cities, the lure of gainful employment is hard to ignore: During the recession, Chicago’s unemployment rate peaked at 11.8 percent in January 2010 — it’s at 8.9 percent now — while the District’s never rose above 7 percent. D.C. now gains more residents from the Windy City than it does from Alexandria, according to The Post’s Carol Morello.
(Full disclosure: I worked for the Chicago Tribune’s tabloid paper, and I can say the Windy Citizen’s residents — new, longtime, temporary, whatever — love that town fiercely, and almost blindly. But, as Rosenthal points out, pride’s not enough. Money is.)
So, Second City status: Is D.C. there? Why or why not?