Daily Herald opinion: Bailey's 'hellhole' comments a divisive and detrimental attention grab
When Darren Bailey called Chicago a hellhole twice in a single day of campaigning last week, Chicagoans took to social media to show, in both words and photos, why they love the city -- and why the Republican gubernatorial candidate from downstate Xenia is wrong.
Residents showcased beautiful buildings, lush city gardens, impressive theaters. They shared images of busy streets and quiet neighborhoods. And they highlighted the many ways city dwellers, suburbanites and tourists alike delight in all that Chicago has to offer.
It was a fitting rebuke to a smear on Illinois' largest and best-known city.
Casting an ugly light on Chicago and playing on fear may resonate with some downstate voters, but it's no way to unify the state or promote the city to businesses eying a possible relocation to Illinois or tourists looking for a great fall getaway.
More than one-fifth of the state's residents -- the people Bailey is hoping to serve -- live in Chicago. Many more live a car or Metra ride away in the suburbs and happily consider themselves part of the extended Chicago family.
None of us, of course, are naive about the problems that plague the city -- both past and present. Its history is filled with darker chapters, many because of a well-earned reputation for political corruption.
There's also no question that crime and violence are out of control in Chicago -- in part because of weapons that Bailey and other politicians refuse to address with sensible gun laws.
Chicago faces complex and deeply concerning issues, but it is no hellhole.
And no one hoping to occupy the governor's office should depict it as such.
Insulting Chicago gets the cash-strapped Bailey a bit of free press in his race against wealthy incumbent J.B. Pritzker. But it feeds the divide between Chicago and the rest of Illinois.
Chicagoans are rightly proud of the city, and many in the suburbs share that pride.
Some of us grew up in the city. Others lived there before settling in suburbia to raise our children. Many commute there for work or friends or family.
And we flock to the city for fun -- to check out Chicago's museums, catch a ballgame, take in a play, enjoy a concert or dine in world-class restaurants.
In a recent Chicago Tribune piece, Bailey also acknowledged Chicago as a great city, but one in decline. Bailey and Pritzker should be focusing on concrete, viable solutions to the problems plaguing it.
Voters, regardless of ZIP code, deserve that.
The city of Chicago deserves that.