Novara: As Chicago votes, the city's racial segregation problem must receive more attention

03/02/2015 12:46 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2015

A renewed focus has been cast on the future of the city of Chicago with a mayoral runoff election set for April 7. One of the most important issues facing the city, says Marisa Novara of the Metropolitan Planning Council, is how to address the city's increasingly severe racial segregation.

From Novara:

It will be no surprise to you when I say that Chicago is a segregated city. In fact, a 2012 study by the Manhattan Institute went so far as to say that Chicago is the United States' most racially segregated city. Last week, the Reader called Chicago's segregation "The most important issue no one's talking about in the mayoral race."

The emphasis is important. Just as it seems that editorial boards and candidates would rather talk about pensions and potholes, it seems that everyone else would too. Recently, WBEZ ran a weeklong series on gentrification. Two Harvard researchers created an app to study Chicago's gentrification all the way from Cambridge. Curbed Chicago has a page dedicated to "Gentrification Watch."

And yet, the biggest problem facing the biggest number of Chicagoans is definitely not gentrification. As my colleague Breann Gala recently noted in her post about the University of Illinois' Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement December 2014 report, "The Socioeconomic Change of Chicago's Community Areas (1970-2010)," the number of Chicago neighborhoods of low and very low socioeconomic status has grown from 29 community areas in 1970 to 45 community areas in 2010. During that same 40-year period, just nine neighborhoods have gentrified or are gentrifying. A 2014 study of the country's largest metros found that for every one neighborhood that's gentrified since 1970, 10 have remained poor and another 12 have slipped into poverty.

Read the rest of Novara's thoughts on gentrification, poverty and segregation at Reboot Illinois.

That issue and hundreds of others will demand attention whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel or challenger Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia takes mayoral victory in April. And despite his newly generated political momentum, a new poll shows that Garcia has an uphill battle ahead of him if he wants to win. The poll, taken by We Ask America for the Chicago Retail Merchants Association found that more Chicago voters supported Emanuel than Garcia. Find out the margin of difference between the two candidates at Reboot Illinois.