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Chicago After Daley Mon Mar 28 2011

Dalegacy Measuring In Earnest

ChicagoNow has a post up about how we will measure Mayor Daley's success as mayor. I've been kicking around a broad analysis myself, but I feel more and more like there just isn't a good way to evaluate his legacy without defining "success" or "failure" in ways that prejudice the results. Thoughts?

The city's per citizen debt burden is now worse than that of whole states. Chicago residents are being strangled with $5,399 per resident, a cost that tops every state's debt burden. For a benchmark, the highest per citizen state debt is Connecticut's at $4,859 per resident.

Additionally the city has other major problems including the failed parking meter sale, infrastructure troubles, and a constant stream of indictments and convictions of its politicians - the latter of which has been going on for decades. Chicago's corruption tax (the extra costs citizens endure due to endemic corruption) is one of the highest in the nation. So, what is this nonsense that Richard Daley has been a great and successful mayor? I wish I knew.

Update, 3/30::Commenter Jordan begins to lay out some good criteria and a case:

Any discussion about legacy is inevitably fraught with embedded biases and normative statements as fact, but at the very least we can (and should) try to encompass the length of Daley's time as mayor, the vast breadth of criteria that should be used, the overall health of the city, especially compared to other cities, etc. Criticize the TIFs, the parking meters, the CTA, whatever, and trust me I've done my share, but when you look at the whole thing (which you should), ask yourself where you'd rather live. Austin has a better music scene, but how's the architecture, and how long will it take for you to run out of good restaurants and neighborhoods and art museums and historic tours and everything else? (Okay, Austin is apples & oranges, but really, any city comparable to Chicago in terms of size and breadth, and I include the smaller major cities, either lack the array of institutions and features that make Chicago great, or are far less affordable than Chicago. Can Daley take credit for all of that? Of course not, but what he's done is help to foster a balanced city whose unmatched assets and (relative) affordability continue to thrive, with little of the racial and political rancor we saw before him. And no doubt there are big city problems here, some of which we can lay at his feet, but tell me which big cities don't have problems with crime, police-community relations, corruption, etc. That's not to say Daley doesn't have to take his lumps for a good chunk of the problems, and I'm not asking anyone to give him a pass for any of it -- just try to do a reasonable job at assessing it all. And any attempt that concludes blithely that Daley was a "failed mayor of a failing city" is simply not a real assessment. It's infantile and you shouldn't have linked to it.

Join him in comments.

 
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Jordan / March 28, 2011 10:10 PM

Here's a thought: Go ahead and do a broad analysis, but if you want to invite real discussion, don't re-post a 2-paragraph rant that could have come from an infant. It seems to me the issue is a bit more complicated than that and requires a good deal of critical discussion over any number of topics and over more than two decades, including comparative analysis with similarly situated cities. So let's get to it, and let's look to something other than "Chicago Now" to start it up.

Ramsin / March 29, 2011 1:16 PM

Go ahead, start it up.

Ramsin / March 29, 2011 5:06 PM

I should add, didn't mean that snarkily--didn't post that excerpt because I agreed with it, but as an example of people measuring up Daley by various standards and the weird results that'd create. Really would rather hear from you dear readers as to how you would measure up the man's legacy.

Jordan / March 29, 2011 9:34 PM

Look, the guy was in office for 22 years, and despite all the whining about what an awful place Chicago is, it is one of the most desirable places to live for American city-dwellers. Think San Fran is better? Try affording it. New York? I love it too, but I love my affordable 2-BR condo better. Is there crime here? Yeah, like anywhere else. What's better, Philly, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee? No, no, no, no, no. Even that genius whose post you linked to loves Chicago. But Daley's an idiot, he had nothing to do with what we love about Chicago, right? Here's another thought: why is it that the only thing we seem to be more proud of than the city itself is our ability to whine about it? I don't get it. You want to link to a better discussion of Daley's legacy? Try this: http://www.chicagoreader.com/TheBlog/archives/2011/02/08/assessing-the-daley-legacy-from-1998-badly. It's the Reader bitching about another more positive piece, but the comments provide an interesting back and forth. Any discussion about legacy is inevitably fraught with embedded biases and normative statements as fact, but at the very least we can (and should) try to encompass the length of Daley's time as mayor, the vast breadth of criteria that should be used, the overall health of the city, especially compared to other cities, etc. Criticize the TIFs, the parking meters, the CTA, whatever, and trust me I've done my share, but when you look at the whole thing (which you should), ask yourself where you'd rather live. Austin has a better music scene, but how's the architecture, and how long will it take for you to run out of good restaurants and neighborhoods and art museums and historic tours and everything else? (Okay, Austin is apples & oranges, but really, any city comparable to Chicago in terms of size and breadth, and I include the smaller major cities, either lack the array of institutions and features that make Chicago great, or are far less affordable than Chicago. Can Daley take credit for all of that? Of course not, but what he's done is help to foster a balanced city whose unmatched assets and (relative) affordability continue to thrive, with little of the racial and political rancor we saw before him. And no doubt there are big city problems here, some of which we can lay at his feet, but tell me which big cities don't have problems with crime, police-community relations, corruption, etc. That's not to say Daley doesn't have to take his lumps for a good chunk of the problems, and I'm not asking anyone to give him a pass for any of it -- just try to do a reasonable job at assessing it all. And any attempt that concludes blithely that Daley was a "failed mayor of a failing city" is simply not a real assessment. It's infantile and you shouldn't have linked to it. Think about your analysis of the residency rulings, how thoughtful and incisive they were, and then tell me that the Chicago Now piece belongs on this site. Bullshit. You should expect more of your readers, and link to far better material. Go Sox!

Ramsin / March 30, 2011 12:37 PM

Thanks for reading Jordan--linking to that piece did serve one purpose at least, getting you motivated enough to write this long thoughtful comment. Be assured that we'll continue to link to these "Dalegacy" posts, as I imagine they'll accelerate in frequency around our city's blogosphere--but in the future, I'll be sure to put more context around the sillier ones.

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