Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicago Stalemate?

"Chicago politics sank into a racial stalemate known as Council Wars, which pitted a block of white alderman against Washington and his supporters."

Evan Osnos, "The Daley Show: Dynastic rule in Obama's political birthplace," The New Yorker, March 8, 2010.

Not quite. Stalemate suggests that nothing got done, a state of paralysis consumed Chicago, and that Daley saved the day. Lot's got done, Washington won a majority in Council after a few years, and Daley built upon many of the initiatives started under Washington. Washington'encouraged grassroots school councils, a nascent resource recycling movement, and industrial retention in the neighborhoods. Chicago had the good fortune to have a booming downtown in the 1980s -- and made significant progress on infrastructure investments at O'Hare and for the Midway El. And, not much corruption.

This is not meant to take anything away from Daley and his accomplishments. Survival and persistence can be great things -- but they can also mask things that didn't quite work out -- floods, heat waves, corruption, etc. And the article fails to ask: Are all Chicagoans better off? I suspect the answer will be mixed--and that's pretty good. Chicago's population gain is a good sign-- but don't forget that Milwaukee gained population as well.

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