Is Peter Thiel Right About Chicago?


Peter Thiel recently made one of his trademark provocative statements by saying, “If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley.”

The problem for Thiel was that he said this while speaking at an event in Chicago. No surprise, it didn’t go over well. An enquiring questioner wanted to know, “Who comes to Chicago if first-rate people go to New York or Silicon Valley?”  read more »

What the Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Tell Us About Gentrification


The Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are two of the seminal films set in Chicago. Indeed, Chicago itself is a character in both films.

The films are radically different even though released only six years apart. There are many ways to slice this. Some have said that one is the South Side movie (The Blues Brothers) and the other the North Side movie (Ferris Bueller). Some see one as more urban, one more suburban.  read more »

UberPool & LyftLine: How the New Carpools Will Change Travel

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How will new carpool options like LyftLine and UberPool affect the marketplace of transit services? When mobility conversations turn to Lyft, Uber and other ridesourcing — or ridesharing — companies, the discussion typically centers on their effects on the taxicab business. Here in Chicago, Lyft and Uber recently survived a turbo-charged regulatory battle with cabbies that could have forced them to entirely withdraw from our city.  read more »

Chicago's Advantages


When I wrote that Chicago is the duck-billed platypus of American cities, I noted that there were a lot things about Chicago that were unique – both good and bad – putting it in a class of its own and making it hard to compare Chicago with other cities.  read more »

Chicago Is the Duck-Billed Platypus of American Cities


Census results last week show Chicago as the only one of the twenty largest cities in America to lose population. The freaking out over a tiny loss isn’t really warranted. The comparison to Houston is bogus. Etc, etc. Yet Chicago’s leaders have refused to grapple with the real and severe structural and cultural challenges that face the city. That’s something they need to do if they want it to succeed over the longer term.  read more »

Chicago Is Winning the Battle for the Executive Headquarters


The corporate headquarters used to be the primary measure of a city’s economic clout. Saskia Sassen, while not ignoring headquarters, documented how in the age of globalization, the resurgence of the global city was driven by demand for financial and producer services, not more and bigger HQs.  read more »

The Fall of Rahm Emanuel


Rahm Emanuel, a man of obvious talent, drive, and leadership capacity, should have been an ideal person to run a big city like Chicago. Unfortunately, because of his stubborn unwillingness to admit and compensate for his flaws, that was not to be.  After barely limping across the finish line in his re-election bid and tamping down the fallout from Moody’s downgrading the city’s debt to junk status, Emanuel has now been rocked by a truly huge scandal.  read more »

How Chicago’s 606 Trail Fell Short of Expectations


When I was back in Chicago over Labor Day, I had to check out the “big three” new public space projects there: the Riverwalk, Maggie Daley Park, and the 606 Trail. The Riverwalk is a spectacular project I already wrote about. Maggie Daley Park, a new playground just across Columbus Dr. from Millennium Park’s Frank Gehry designed band shell, has been controversial and got mixed reviews. But I really liked it. More importantly, kids seem to love it.  read more »

Techno Fixing the Urban Zone

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In 2008, when Chicago inked a deal to privatize its parking meters, a chorus of groans ensued. To say that the deal was widely panned is putting it mildly. Its detractors say the city accepted too little in exchange for turning over the operations of its parking meters for a near-eternal 75 years to a private company that promptly raised the prices and sued the city. To many, the deal appeared desperate and irresponsible; a prime instance of a city in the red buckling to the ambitions of a private operator and getting little in return except for a pittance of one-time cash.  read more »


Chicago’s Great Financial Fire


My latest piece is online in City Journal and is called “Chicago’s Financial Fire.” It’s a look at the ongoing financial crisis in that city, which has all of a sudden gotten very real thanks to a downgrade of the city’s credit rating to junk by Moody’s. Here’s an excerpt:  read more »