Chicago Politics Research Proposal

Pages: 5 (1848 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Urban Studies

Chicago Politics: Change for the Better Has Taken Place

"The central city is by far the dominant municipal jurisdiction within the [Chicago] region, and for most local officials across Cook and the five 'collar counties' beyond, the direct benefits of Chicago globalism are difficult to discern" -- Larry Bennett, "Community Power Applied: Chicago's Engagement With 21st Century Globalization."

Viewpoints expressed recently reflect that notwithstanding some encouraging signs to the contrary, Chicago -- and by implication Illinois -- is still a place where political power plays and corruption rule the day. This skepticism has been fueled by scandals involving the governor and other individuals in the Chicago area. It seems that dramatic positives and highly publicized negatives are part of the political landscape in big cities, Chicago included.

Point one: [positive] the Cubs have the best record (2008) in the National League but [negative] get blown out in the playoffs. Point two: it was a glowingly [positive] sign that Chicago has emerged from the grips of old-style politics when Barack Obama, a Chicagoan (community organizer, university instructor), and his wife Michelle, a Chicagoan, became President and First Lady of the United States [positive]. But just as swiftly, the softer image of Chicago is sullied when the Illinois governor and some of his contemporaries stretched credulity to [negative] extremes when it became known that he attempted to "sell" the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Obama's ascension to the White House.

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Thesis Statement: Meantime, there is enough evidence to conclude -- notwithstanding some troublesome political hardball and cronyism still being played out in Chicago -- that the city is indeed less corrupt and more proactively vibrant in terms of building its economy to world class standards and embracing the global market through culture and economics, and that the world community has responded to these changes.

The Literature / Points Taken:

Research Proposal on Chicago Politics Assignment

Chicago Prospers in Economics and Global Stature: A scholarly article published in the Journal of Urban Affairs (Clark, et al., 2002) ("Amenities Drive Urban Growth") explains that (at least at the time of publication) Chicago was on top of the list of cities with technology jobs, boasting more high-tech jobs in fact than Silicon Valley in California. This is a remarkable transition for Chicago, coming just a few years after some economic and social pundits were suggesting that Chicago was going to become just another "has-been" great city and suffer a freefall like Detroit has done (Clark, p. 494).

How did this happen? Why is Chicago a vibrant, economically strong city when urban-savvy scholars and social scientists had said Chicago was on the way down? Any experienced observer of cities and politics knows that Chicago didn't accomplish this renaissance without good leadership. Clark contends that as to the "pessimists" views, their "paradigms were outmoded"; and moreover, Clark asserts that theories of urban growth do not take into account "amenities" -- which are "a key" to understanding urban growth" (Clark, p. 494).

Clark and colleagues posit that globalization today means more than economics, wealth and trade. It means culture, democracy and "amenities," according to Clark (p. 497). Indeed, Clark refers to amenities by quoting Gyourko & Tracy (1991), who explains that amenities are "non-produced public good such as weather quality that has no explicit price" (Clark, p. 497). Along with the non-produced goods, amenities also include what Clark calls the "Entertainment Machine" (which includes the Chicago lakefront and its bike paths, beaches, shops, bars, restaurants, those Cubs at Wrigley Field and other attractions).

The author passionately argues that the Chicago of Mayor Richard J. Daley is long gone and much of the city's negative image -- "once dominated by clientelism, patronage, jobs and contracts" -- has gone with it as Mayor Richard M. Daley has launched "epochal change" (Clark, p. 503). Part of that change, Clark continues, includes the fact that the average citizen is not a "mere cog" at the bottom of a rotten-to-the-core political machine, obeying like a Pavlov dog when the precinct captain tells him how to vote (Clark, p, 503). The changes mentioned in the preceding paragraphs add up to strong ammunition to be used against those who insist Chicago is still the same corrupt big city.

Why Richard M. Daley Succeeds: / Key Evidence Backing up Thesis: Meanwhile, Larry Bennett (The Mayor Among His Peers: Interpreting Richard M. Daley") guides a reader's understanding of the accomplishments of the Daley of today, and adds substance to the belief that Chicago has indeed turned a corner. The turning of that corner however doesn't mean, as far as Bennett is concerned, that there is no longer a political "machine" in Chicago; in fact he calls it a "new Democratic machine" (Bennett, p. 3). Prior to delving into Daley's brand of stewardship, Bennett writes about the history of successful (and failed) mayoral administrations in the U.S., notably the "comeback" of central cities (including Chicago) in the 1990s.

To read pages 16-20 of Bennett's piece, Daley appears to be on the one hand among the most progressive mayor in Chicago history and on the other a control freak with a tight grip on the mechanisms of change and power. To wit, Daley has: one, reorganized the Chicago school system (new construction, less authority in the hands of parent-dominated school boards, promise of 100 new schools); two, re-structured public housing (with mixed results and substantial resident resistance; resident relocation has not gone well; Bennett evaluates the results as "poor"); three, reorganized the way police serve communities ("Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy" CAPS; bringing together community people and street cops on a monthly basis to discuss problems and issues); and four, embraced gay rights groups, African-American community leaders, and environmental activists; and moreover Daley has appointed members of minority groups (and women) to prominent administrative positions, giving the impression of leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion.

When Bennett points to Daley's reforms (mentioned above) he points out that these measures -- in particular the courting of "formerly marginal constituencies" -- are "a stunning departure from his father's policies" (Bennett, pp. 18-19). Meantime, though it is obvious that the world has changed in dramatic ways since Richard J. Daley -- the ultimate purveyor of brutally administered power politics -- was mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley himself discourages "any popular involvement in civic affairs that would compromise his hold on power" (Bennett, p. 19). The son of the old dictator hires people who dictate the terms of change to the citizens, but on the other hand his enhancement of the tourist venues, his environmentally wise public works decisions in the central city, his upgrading of Chicago based on his more visionary worldview -- all of these positives should give credibility and persuasiveness to the view that

Bennett asks rhetorically (p. 9) if indeed the comeback of the central urban megalopolis in America in the 1990s "made" successful mayors, or did "effective majors play a significant role in improving their cities." He leans toward the latter, Bennett asserts, citing activist mayors like Giuliani (New York), Riordan (Los Angeles), and Rendell (Philadelphia) -- along with the second Daley -- as proponents of the strategy of "redefining" what the citizens expect to get from city government (Bennett, p. 12).

Richard M. Daley's Record: As to the job mayor Richard M. Daley has done, on page 14 Bennett explains that while Daley is widely credited with being successful as a "political leader" -- because he has been able to assume control over a Chicago City Council that has a history of being divided -- he has not shown leadership when it comes to mobilize the electorate. As a kind of measure over his inability to excite the entire voting public, over five election periods, Daley's winning percentages have gone up but the voter turnouts have gone down (Bennett, p. 14). The downside for Daley was the series of scandals in 2004 that blackened an otherwise fairly clean administration, Bennett writes.

The visible (physical) upside for Daley includes: expanding O'Hare Airport and McCormick Place Convention Center (for more and bigger trade shows); redevelopment of Navy Pier; building the Millennium Park complex, among other tourist-related venues. All of these developments fit well into what Clark (referenced earlier in the paper) would refer to as amenities, and amenities are what draw tourist dollars -- from a community of interested travelers on a global scale (Bennett, p. 15). Also on page 15 Bennett credits Daley with devising -- through his vision and proper use of the "bully pulpit" -- a three-pronged program for progress: one, making Chicago a "global city" (including bidding on the 2012 Summer Olympics, which did not succeed but placed Chicago in an international sporting light); two, reorganizing city and private agency service functions; and three, "social inclusively at the elite level."

Richard M. Daley, African-Americans, & Community Development: According to her 2007 book, Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City, author Mary Pattillo discusses the North Kenwood -- Oakland (NKO) neighborhood under Daley's "Plan… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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