Chicago

Obama's Home Town

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Hyde Park, in Chicago, is where President Obama called home before moving to Pennsylvania Avenue.

I once called 5118 S. Dorchester home.

Hyde Park is a college town surrounded by – but not really part of – a big city. The University of Chicago, founded in 1890, is the heart of the community. The campus was built of Indiana limestone, fake Gothic, and made to look old from its very inception. Some people like it.  read more »

Olympics the Chicago Way

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Most American cities chose not to bid on the 2016 summer Olympics and with good reason. With the exception of the 1984 Los Angeles games, the Olympics has proved a big time money loser in city after city. More often than not, it has been staged more for the prestige – think of Berlin in 1936 or China in 2008 – it brings to regimes, particularly autocratic ones.

In Chicago, prestige is important, but graft is the real king. In Chicago, one of the most corrupt big cities, the Olympics represents, more than anything, a grand chance for a giant heist.  read more »

Origins and Growth of Al Capone’s Outfit: Chicago’s First Ward Democratic Organization and its Aftermath

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Barack Obama ran for President with his headquarters in downtown Chicago. Obama's election night victory speech was just blocks away in Chicago's Grant Park. To historians of organized crime both locations are located in a significant place: Chicago's old First Ward. This valuable plot of land is where Chicago's Democratic Machine and Al Capone's criminal organization both began. The connection between the two is of great historical significance. Why? Because the Chicago Mob is nothing but an outgrowth of Chicago's old First Ward Democratic Organization.  read more »

Downtown Central-Cities as Hubs of Civic Connection

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There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world.  read more »

Tracking Business Services: Best And Worst Cities For High-Paying Jobs

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Media coverage of America's best jobs usually focuses on blue-collar sectors, like manufacturing, or elite ones, such as finance or technology. But if you're seeking high-wage employment, your best bet lies in the massive "business and professional services" sector.

This unsung division of the economy is basically a mirror of any and all productive industry. It includes everything from human resources and administration to technical and scientific positions, as well as accounting, legal and architectural firms.  read more »

The Gambler King of Clark Street, the Origin of Chicago's Political Machine

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Long before Chicago sold off its assets, made plastic cows parade and outlawed goose guts, there was Michael Cassius McDonald, Big Mike. Where the Chicago Machine now grinds the citizen with Progressive idiocies, Mike McDonald and other Machine Mavericks like the Lords of the Levee appeared to actually help people. Vice and Government have gone hand-in-hand since Solon tried to reason with Croesus – Hesiod tells us that political corruption sparks political thought. The life of Michael Cassius McDonald was active and thought-provoking.  read more »

The Real Mayor of Chicago

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Most Americans living outside the Chicago area identify the city with Oprah, Obama, or Michael Jordan. When the subject of who really runs Chicago comes up, most people would say Mayor Daley. Chicago's lack of term limits and persistent political machine have kept Mayor Daley in office for over 20 years.

Those who know Chicago politics know there's one man who's more powerful than Mayor Daley, Alderman Ed Burke. Mayor Daley may be the identifiable public face of Chicago's political system and act as a lightning rod for criticism, but the lower profile Alderman Burke wields the real power.  read more »

The Successful, the Stable, and the Struggling Midwest Cities

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The Midwest has a deserved reputation as a place that has largely failed to adapt to the globalized world. For example, no Midwestern city would qualify as a boomtown but still there remain a diversity of outcomes in how the region’s cities have dealt with their shared heritage and challenges. Some places are faring surprisingly well, outpacing even the national average in many measures, while others bring up the bottom of the league tables in multiple civics measures.  read more »

What Does Urban Success Look Like?

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What does urban success look like? Ask people around the country and they’ll probably say it looks something like Chicago.

Arguably no American city over the past decade has experienced a greater urban core renaissance than Chicago. It is a city totally transformed. The skyline has been radically enhanced as dozens of skyscrapers were added to the greater downtown area. Millennium Park opened as a $475 million community showplace full of cutting edge contemporary architecture and art. There has been an explosion in upscale dining and shopping options, as well as large numbers of new art galleries, hotels, clubs and restaurants.  read more »

A Tale of Two Blizzards

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January 1979 saw one of the worst blizzards in city history hit Chicago, dumping 20 inches of snow, closing O'Hare airport for 46 hours, and paralyzing traffic in the city for days. Despite the record snowfall, the city's ineffectual response was widely credited for the defeat of Mayor Michael Bilandic in his re-election bid, leading to Jane Bryne becoming the city's first female mayor.

In January 1978, a similar blizzard had struck the city of Indianapolis, also burying the city in a record 20 inches of snow. Mayor Bill Hudnut stayed awake nearly two days straight, coordinating the response and frequently updating the city on the snow fighting efforts through numerous media appearances.  read more »