Attracting legal talent to the Chicago suburbs

Apparently Kane County wasn’t paying assistant state’s attorneys enough to keep them around until recently:

“This is a significant (economic) downturn historically, but at the same time we have to be aware the failure to pay a competitive wage will lead to our talented and experienced assistant state’s attorneys going to other counties. I want the best and brightest to work here in Kane County. That has a direct impact on public safety,” [Kane County State’s Attorney Joe] McMahon said.

It does seem that Kane County was out of sync with the rest of western Chciagoland:

McMahon said the current starting salary for a Kane County assistant state’s attorney is $40,000.

He is proposing to raise that to $53,000.

In surrounding counties, McMahon said, starting salaries are $51,600 in McHenry; $54,100 in DuPage; $53,700 in Lake; and $51,600 in Will.

Brian may have some additional insights on this, but it strikes me that most of this previous disparity in salaries could be explained by different costs of living in each county.  Still, if Kane wasn’t able to keep experienced prosecutors around, these proposed salary increases might be money well spent.

Population loss of 200,000 in Chicago from 2000 to 2010

Chicago has often been held up as an example of a Midwestern/Rust Belt city that managed to thrive in the 1990s and actually gain population. But new Census numbers show that the 2000s weren’t as kind to Chicago as the city’s population fell about 200,000. Here are a few of the key numbers and thoughts from the front-page article in the Chicago Tribune.

1. One of the key conclusions is that suburbanization continued during this past decade:

“I think these data from here and elsewhere in the country reflect that the United States has become a suburban nation,” said Scott W. Allard, a University of Chicago associate professor of social service administration.

This quote seems somewhat silly to me: the United States has been a suburban nation for decades now. It is not just a feature of the 2000s or the 1990s; a larger number of Americans have lived in suburbs (compared to cities or rural areas) for several decades.

2. The population growth of Chicago in the 1990s was helped by Latino immigration:

In the 2000 census, Latino immigration fueled a modest 4 percent population increase in Chicago, marking the city’s first decade of growth since the 1940s.

This time around Chicago’s Latino population was up just a little more than 3 percent. The white population was down a bit, while black numbers dropped nearly 17 percent.

Latinos and Asians accounted for the metropolitan area’s biggest population increases during the 2000s. In both cases, the biggest gains for those groups were in collar counties, not in the city or suburban Cook County.

So in the 2000s, the Latino population still increased but the Black population, in particular, declined in Chicago.

3. Minorities are living in places throughout the Chicago area:

“The biggest (change) is finding more minority people in different places in the metropolitan area where you didn’t used to find them,” said Jim Lewis, a demographer and senior program officer at Chicago Community Trust. “That and the loss of black population in the region and the state.”

The census information isn’t yet complete enough to track where blacks who left the city went, Lewis said. The figures indicate some have moved to suburbs, but a slight decline statewide suggests some African-Americans have been moving out of the region entirely, Lewis said.

This is also not surprising. This is a growing trend throughout the United States in recent decades: minorities and new immigrants are moving to the suburbs in increasing numbers.

4. The whole Chicago region did grow but the numbers were down compared to 1990s growth:

Carried by the collar counties, the population of the six-county Chicago region grew almost 3 percent during the decade, to 8.3 million. That’s down significantly from the region’s 11 percent growth in the 2000 census.

5. DuPage County is no longer a hotbed of growth as it was from 1950-1990. This likely due to the fact that there is little open land remaining for new subdivisions. The growth has moved on to locations further out from the city:

DuPage County, long the region’s epitome of booming suburbia, barely grew at all. The county lost about 45,000 white residents, which was offset by more African-American and Asian residents.

“You could say that Kane County is the DuPage County of yesterday,” said Rob Paral, a Chicago demographer. “The things we’re saying about Kane County today is what we said about DuPage County 20 years ago.”…

For the second decade, Aurora and Joliet experienced dramatic growth. Aurora (197,899) passed Rockford (152,871) to become the state’s second-biggest town, while Joliet moved up three places to No. 4, with 147,433 residents, nearly 40 percent more than in 2000.

So now we should sit back and wait to hear how various people, including politicians, talk about this new data. Overall, it mirrors a lot of national trends: people, including minorities and immigrants, continuing to move to the suburbs. This has some important implications: Illinois is losing a US House seat and Chicago could lose some status. What are the new figures for Houston, the city that trailed Chicago in the rankings for the largest US cities?  Does this mean Chicago is in trouble? Will Chicago enact a plan to draw people back to the city in the next decade?

County forest preserves benefit from economic downturn as they purchase cheaper land

The reduction in land values has not been bad for everyone: the Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago area forest preserves have bought up more land than anticipated in the past few years. Among the findings:

Flush with $185 million from a 2008 bond sale, the [Lake County] district went on a buying spree, gobbling up some 3,400 acres of land. The second-largest forest preserve system in the state at 29,300 acres, the 53-year old district has grown by nearly 12 percent since the onset of the recession.

“We spent down the money quicker than we had anticipated, mainly because there were so many good buying opportunities for us in 2009 and 2010, especially,” Hahn said…

Founded in 1971, the McHenry County Conservation District has essentially doubled over the last decade to just less than 25,000 acres…

Though the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s biggest growth spurt was in the 1970s, the 25,000-acre district managed to add some 2,400 acres over the last decade…

Racing the clock against development in one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, the Forest Preserve District of Will County has added about 8,300 acres since 1999, increasing its holdings by about two-thirds to nearly 21,000 acres…

The timing has been more fortuitous in Kane County, where the Forest Preserve District has added nearly 12,000 acres since 1999, increasing its holdings by 170 percent.

The only county forest preserve that didn’t add a significant amount of land was Cook County which likely has little available land. There hasn’t been too much news about these acquisitions in the Chicago area, even as these land purchases have been funded by bond sales approved by the public.

Overall, this has presented these districts with an opportunity to purchase land they might not have been able to purchase in better times. Particularly in some of the booming counties, such as Will or McHenry, this opportunity may have been the last one before suburban growth took up too much land.

This does lead to another question: how much land should Forest Preserves aim to have? I know there are recommendations about how much parkland or open space there should be for a set amount of people. Is most of this newly acquired land going to be open space/natural settings or more developed parks and recreation areas? Would there be a point where the Forest Preserves will stop purchasing or will they keep acquiring land forever?