The New Chicago Way: Lessons from Other Big Cities
For all the wrong reasons, a national spotlight is shining on Chicago. The city has become known for its violence, police abuse, parent and teacher unrest, population decline, and mounting municipal and pension debt. The underlying problem, contend Ed Bachrach and Austin Berg, is that deliberative democracy is dead in the city. Chicago is home to the last strongman political system in urban America. The mayor holds all the power, and any perceived checks on mayoral control are often proven illusory. Rash decisions have resulted in poor outcomes. The outrageous consequences of unchecked power are evident in government failures in elections, schools, fiscal discipline, corruption, public support for private enterprise, policing, and more. Rather than simply lament the situation, criticize specific leaders, or justify an ideology, Bachrach and Berg compare the decisions about Chicago's governance and finances with choices made in fourteen other large U.S. cities. The problems that seem unique to Chicago have been encountered elsewhere, and Chicagoans, the authors posit, can learn from the successful solutions other cities have embraced. Chicago government and its citizens must let go of the past to prepare for the future, argue Bachrach and Berg. A future filled with demographic, technological, and economic change requires a government capable of responding and adapting. Reforms can transform the city. The prescriptions for change provided in this book point toward a hopeful future: The New Chicago Way.