This article is part of the State of Chicago series.
At this point in my series, I want to highlight a few areas I’ve mostly written about elsewhere in detail, so will not repeat in full as posts in their own right.
1. Fix the Fiscal mess. The changes at the city level are a nice start, but there’s a long way to go. The state of Illinois has done little to address the structural problems it faces. With the worst finances in the nation at present, this item is critical.
2. Changing the Culture. I’ve written before about Chicago’s culture of clout. That is, Chicago has a unitary power nexus centered around the mayor’s office, and personal influence – guanxi if you will – is how things get done. This has been a positive in some respects in that it enables the city to get things done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just matter if you can get things done, it also matters what it is that you do. And how you get things done ultimately matters as well. Cultural change is an imperative here.
3. Professional Services 2.0. I believe that Chicago should seek to (at least in part) look to reframe its economic development around its structural advantages. Centrality is one of these, for example. The biggest plank here is Professional Services 2.0 – figuring out how Chicago can dominate the next generation of professional services.
4. Infrastructure. Addressing the region’s infrastructure gap is key. From a transport perspective this means most importantly 1) finishing off the Red Line L reconstruction on the North Side, 2) completing the O’Hare Modernization Plan in a timing consistent with market realities – and on no account building a new major greenfield airport and 3) finishing off the CREATE project among other things needed to unclog the horrible rail bottlenecks in Chicago. Also, I believe the Chicago River needs to be re-reversed, and the watershed systems re-separated. This is needed to stop the Asian carp invasion among other things. All of these are very costly and I won’t pretend to know where the money will come from. But they are long term major projects needed for the region.