Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Welcome to Chicagoland


Trailer for CNN series “Chicagoland” – click here if the video does not display.

As part of his plan to boost sagging ratings at the network, CNN chief Jeff Zucker commissioned an eight part reality series about Chicago and its mayor called Chicagoland that premiers tonight at 10pm ET. The show is produced by the same people who did the Brick City series about Newark Mayor Cory Booker, with support from mega-star executive producer Robert Redford.

Rahm and the Media

Given that Brick City seems to have only helped Booker’s reputation, cynics in Chicago have already noted the fact that show’s producers are represented by the William Morris Endeavor Agency, which just so happens to be the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother Ari. This is as much because of as in spite of a well-publicized move by directors Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin to ask the agency to recuse themselves from representing them when it comes to the show.

One need not believe in such a conspiracy to see this show as yet another example of Rahm’s media power – and his fearlessness in pursuing high profile opportunities to get his message out even in venues where he’s not in complete control. Rahm has had significant success in getting high profile national and global attention – for example, a glowing profile from NYT columnist Thomas Friedman – since taking office. He didn’t shy away from getting out there even when a spike in murders made global headlines Chicago of the type Chicago didn’t want – a time when many mayors would have crawled into their bunkers. And although he’s been in office a while now, Rahm fatigue seems not to have set in. Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg has a lengthy piece on him in the March issue of Esquire with the colorful title of “And Now For the Further Adventures of Rahm the Imapler.” The Financial Times recently ran a mostly positive piece called “Rahm Emanuel: Mayor America.” It even includes a high production quality six and a half minute video that will give you a flavor of it (if the video doesn’t display, click here):

With his ambition for Chicago as a global city, Rahm clearly sees global media as the ones that really count. Chicago’s status as a media center afterthought means few out of town reporters actually know that much about the city, hence Rahm has a huge opportunity to shape the message. This must infuriate the local media, which to a great extent Rahm is free to ignore because of his ability to go direct at the national and global level. Chicagoland should thus be seen as part of Rahm’s global media push, both for Chicago and for himself.

Reality TV vs. Journalism

The series is probably as good for Rahm and the city as it could possible get. Certainly the problems – high crime, poor schools, and labor troubles – are not glossed over. But given that they’ve been well publicized globally, it’s hard to imagine how they could be without sacrificing all credibility. Within the context of realism, this is a big win for the city.

Whether it’s a big win for journalism is another story. Like most modern documentaries or reality TV shows, Chicagoland is non-fiction in a sense, but also heavily scripted and edited to provide a compelling narrative. This makes for great TV drama and characterizations, but whether it represents truth as a reporter would tell it is much more doubtful.

Just as one example, the producers clearly had extensive access to Rahm and he’s frequently shown as concerned about crime, battling with unions, boosting the local economy, talking to school kids and even mentoring an inner city kid he brought on as an intern. But is that a fair representation of how Rahm Emanuel spends his time? The Chicago Reader did a two part series analyzing Rahm Emanuel’s schedule and published a two part series about it called “The Mayor’s Millionaire Club” (see part one and part two). They show that access to Rahm is heavily dependent on your wealth, influence, and donations. Yet that doesn’t come through in Chicagoland at all. Instead when the occasional powerful people are shown, they are always doing a good turn for the city, such as a group of tech executives donating products to schools.

I’m not suggesting this series should have been a bulldog investigative piece. However, I strongly suspect that CNN’s actual journalists will be seething at seeing their network and its relatively strong reputation being used for what is clearly not the type of work they themselves would undertake. Right or wrong, the CNN brand carries an expectation of a certain type of journalistic standard that the Sundance Channel (where Brick City originally ran) doesn’t. Right now on CNN’s Chicagoland page there’s an ad for Anderson Cooper 360. Something tells me that were Anderson Cooper in charge of Chicagoland, it would look quite different.

Compelling Drama and Characters

However, taken on the terms of a Sundance series, Chicagoland succeeds, and my guess is that Rahm will be overall pleased. The show sets up the drama by structuring the series as battles between opposing forces. In the first couple episodes, this is the battle between Rahm and Chicago Public Schools leadership on the one hand, and the teachers union and some affected parent groups on the other over plans by CPS to shutter 50 schools. Frankly, I thought it overly portrayed Chicago as if it were Newark. The segments were introduced by short positive vignettes of some aspect of Chicago (like the Stanley Cup playoffs), followed by more extensive coverage of the school closing dispute, and educational and crime problems in Chicago’s impoverished South Side. It would be like doing a flyby of Times Square before doing a deep dive on some of the worst blocks in Newark. While I myself have written on the two Chicagos theme, I was feeling that Chicago was being unfairly stigmatized.

I need not have worried. After the initial focus on the school closing dispute, the focus shifts. The drama is now between the good guys (basically every single person featured in the show) and the bad guys (gangsters and such who exist almost entirely offscreen, or so we’re led to believe). Almost without exception, the good guy characters are shown as 100% white knight types. Instead of positive vignettes followed by something Newarkesque, there’s a more balanced take in time allocation and the threads start merging across the two Chicagos. The show also starts laying the Chicago sales job on with a trowel. In Chicagoland’s coverage of things like the food scene, the music scene, the comedy clubs, or even footage of Rahm protesting a neo-Nazi march back in the 70s as a teenager, it’s hard to see how this could have been any more positive in its portrayal of the city if it had been produced directly by the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. This is a huge win for the city.

The show also manages to create several compelling characters. One of them is the surgeon who leads the trauma unit at Cook County Hospital, a job I certainly would not want. How that guy manages to balance family life in Roscoe Village (my old neighborhood) with the reality of what he deals with every night at his job is beyond me.

But the star of the show is clearly Elizabeth Dozier, principal at Fenger High School in the South Side neighborhood at Roseland. She’s shown fighting not only to only educate her students, but keep them safe over the summer, and even invest in their lives after graduation when they get in trouble. (Dozier trying to help a former student who’s in jail for robbery realistically shows the need for “retail” 1:1 or N:1 investment in the lives of specific troubled people, not just programs, to make a real difference in a troubled person’s life – and even so the difficulty in seeing life change happen). Her obvious passion and dedication in the face of tough odds clearly come through. Yet even here there’s a sense of manufacture. Dozier is a young, attractive, stylish black professional who not only runs a South Side High School, but also gets personal face time with Rahm, knows Grant Achutz of Alinea, and hangs out with Billy Dec on his boat. How much of this A-list hob-nobbing was happening prior to Chicagoland coming to town I wonder? Regardless, it makes for compelling TV.

While I have my quibbles, I think on the whole Chicagoland is an enjoyable watch that will end up being good for the city and the mayor. Just don’t go in expecting journalism. This is first and foremost reality TV style drama. With that caveat in mind, I recommend watching it.

Takeaways From the Chicagoland

Watching Chicagoland made me think again two bigger picture issues.

First, in watching gangs take revenge on each other in an endless cycle of retaliation that literally stretches on for years and in which no one can actually recall the original offense, I was reminded of Hannah Arendt writing on the role of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is the exact opposite of vengeance, which acts in the form of re-acting against an original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered course. In contrast to revenge, which is a natural, automatic reaction to transgression and which because of the irreversibility of the action process can be expected and even calculated, the act of forgiving can never be predicted; it is the only reaction that acts in an unexpected way and thus retains, though being a reaction, something of the original character of action. Forgiving, in other words, is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly, unconditioned by the act which provoked it and therefore freeing from its consequences both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. The freedom contained in Jesus’ teachings of forgiveness is the freedom from vengeance, which incloses both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end.

Forgiveness is not the only way to put a stop to a cycle of revenge. Arendt posits official punishment as another. But forgiveness is clearly the fastest and surest route. Until either the police are able to impose order and mete out genuine justice, or the grieving family and aggrieved gang compatriots of these murder victims are able to forgive and forswear vengeance, the cycle is unlikely to ever end.

I don’t want to judge too harshly teenagers in a ghetto living out the only life script they’ve ever known. But what’s our excuse? We too often live out in miniature the same process ourselves. How often do most of us forgive genuine wrong done against us, even of a much less consequential nature? Tune into the internet any day of the week and see untold amounts of shrieking over some offense or another, real or imagined. I suspect the vast majority of us would be behave no differently from those gangbangers in similar circumstances. We are blessed not to be there, however. But will we use that privileged position to end or perpetuate cycles of wrong in our own lives?

Secondly, Chicagoland made me think about the bigger picture of leadership in our cities and the major problems they face. I voted for Rahm as mayor, for three reasons. 1) I saw him as like his mentor Bill Clinton, namely someone to whom getting elected and staying in power is more important than pushing any ideological agenda. In short, I saw him as a pragmatist, not an ideologue with a policy ax to grind like Bill de Blasio. 2) Rahm spent a lot of time outside of Chicago. He’s got a global perspective and a global network that’s critical in this era. He’s also got the gravitas to interact at the highest levels of power in America, which is something few mayors can say. 3) Rahm has no natural constituency in Chicago. So if he wants to be re-elected, he needs to perform. He clearly has future political ambitions, and flaming out as mayor wouldn’t be helpful in pursuing them.

Looking back, while I’ve criticized Rahm for an excessive focus on the elite, I believe my judgment then was correct and on the whole I think he’s done a decent job in a very difficult situation. Apropos of point #3, if Chicago thinks differently, the popular and competent Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is waiting in the wings. Whatever you think of his neoliberal policies, it’s clear Rahm is an actual leader, one with a ton of intelligence, drive, power, and the will to get things done.

Yet watching Chicagoland, it’s evident that even leadership ability of Rahm’s caliber struggles mightily with the city’s huge challenges. Chicago has a massive fiscal hole, and a very serious problem with a two tier society that has left vast tracts of the city behind. It’s by no means certain that Rahm will be able to make Chicago soar in the way that Daley did in the 90s, or even get re-elected if a there’s any stumble and a credible candidate like Preckwinkle gets into the race.

When I think about the difficulties in solving the problems in Chicago, which has not only Rahm’s leadership but a massively successful global city economy in the Loop and hundreds of thousands of well-heeled residents, it makes me pause. If Chicago struggles with its problems, how much more so other cities facing similar or worse problems but with much weaker leadership and no global city money and firepower? It really makes me wonder if a lot of places are simply going to die a slow death barring some lucky break from a change in the marketplace.

This ultimately is what I’d challenge the residents of other cities to think about when watching this show. Look at Chicago and what it is dealing with. Think about your own problems and your resources for combating them vis-a-vis Chicago. If that doesn’t make you sober up, I’m not sure what will.

20 Comments
Topics: Civic Branding, Urban Culture
Cities: Chicago

20 Responses to “Welcome to Chicagoland”

  1. Harvey says:

    People describe Chicago as two cities, compared to Manhattan and Detroit. But we’re really more like three cities, like touristy, expensive San Francisco sandwiched between decrepit Detroit and diverse, middle-class Queens. I see a little about ‘SF’, a lot about ‘Detroit,’ but not much about us up here in ‘Queens’ (for me, the Far North Side, specifically Edgewater).

  2. Harvey says:

    And Rahm is definitely not getting elected because ‘Queens’ hates his guts. But as usual, no one asked us.

  3. Brent says:

    No one asked you, Harvey? What, you don’t vote?

  4. John Morris says:

    That a large number of Americans buy into a “great”, all powerful “concerned” leader’s journey to “fix” a complex human community is pretty disturbing.

    Interestingly, both Newark & Chicago are great examples of how political power can destroy economic and social bonds.

  5. urbanleftbehind says:

    “Queens” talks a good game, but they will tend to go to the whitest of the available candidates. Chico and DelValle didnt help themselves by running at the same time. While Chico was a distant runner-up he maxed out his support (a weird coalition of middle-age Mexican Americans and somewhat reluctant Police, Fire and City worker types who gave him victories in the 19th and 45th wards), I think DelValle had more cross-over appeal (to north side whites and some blacks) in a 1-on-1 against Rahm.

    The upper parts of the SW side and some parts of the NW side of Chicago may becoming a 4th City – if not a Los Angeles, than perhaps a eastern Los Angeles County or SW Dade (FL) County.

  6. I’m looking forward to the CNN series. I don’t live in the City of Chicago anymore, but do depend on the strength of its central core for employment, so I’m pretty personally invested in Rahm’s performance. So far, I generally agree with Aaron’s assessment of Rahm, particularly the pragmatic part. Now, Rahm certainly isn’t pure and is famously known to succumb to personal squabbles, but for the most part, I think that the vast majority of his decisions are rooted in the fact that he legitimately believes that they improve the city overall. That sounds simple, yet that’s actually pretty difficult to do in a city where there are so many entrenched institutions with extremely narrow-minded political viewpoints and/or constituencies. Pragmatism is a quality that’s in short supply in politics these days and Rahm, for the most part, has that mindset.

    I completely understand that Rahm might irk people that live outside of the perceived “favored areas” surrounding downtown and the North Side (just as Michael Bloomberg irked the “Queens” counterparts previously). The challenge, though, is Rahm’s concentration on those favored areas may very well be completely pragmatic from the overall city standpoint. For a city with a limited amount of resources (or, if you look at the true financial picture, actually doesn’t have resources in the bank at all and is playing blackjack on casino house credit), in what locales will there be the highest ROI? Whether it’s fair or not, I think it’s a tough argument to say anywhere other than putting more down in the successful areas in the hopes that it will spread to other neighborhoods.

    That’s not to say that we can just ignore the crime and schools in the worst South and West Side neighborhoods – those conditions are truly deplorable. Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be a magic one-size-fits-all solution to this even if the city had unlimited financial resources – there are deep-seated societal issues beyond money that need to be reversed. Aaron’s correct that it’s quite depressing that the shimmering development in “Global Chicago” isn’t translating into a better life for the other part of Chicago. The only thing worse than that would be if there wasn’t a “Global Chicago” at all (in which case this place would be Detroit).

  7. Anne says:

    I lived in Chicago for 20 years before the birth of twins forced us to depart from the Lincoln Square neighborhood. I had three children, and the idea of educating all three in the public school system was perhaps doable, but we could not find affordable housing in a neighborhood we wanted to live in.

    That was in 2004 – by then, our beloved working class neighborhood had been transformed into Lincoln Park North. My husband and I would stroll throughout the neighborhood and wonder what jobs had the salaries to pay for all those $800K houses (our combined salaries could not support such a purchase.)

    Education is an enormous issue – as is cost of housing. I never wanted to leave the city but back in 2004, housing had skyrocketed to beyond what we could pay. And then there was the issue of school three children in a system that struggles mightily to educate Chicago’s youth. Blaming the union is one-dimensional argument that fails to look at the complexity of the issues Chicago teachers face on a daily basis. I liked seeing the section on the principal in Chicagoland – but how many principals have such connections – what other principals hang out with Achatz?

    Even though I’ve since moved out of state, Chicago is and will always be my home. But my city was ravaged by Daley’s greed. Daley may have helped Chicago “soar” in the 1990s – but he did so at an enormous cost to the city as a whole. And clearly, only highly visible parts of the city felt the benefit of that uplift. He sold off assets for less than what they were worth and focused only on investing in neighborhoods he wanted to show off to tourists. The result is a city with the very real potential of joining Detroit in swirling down the rabbit hole of terrible policy and a lost tax base.

    What has Rahm done differently? I don’t hear much good about him from our city friends. The rich appreciate his efforts. Those in “Queens” do not. Not much of a city mayor if he appeals only to the well-heeled North Shore crowd he grew up with.

  8. I’ve got to push back on the theme that Daley/Rahm haven’t been serving the “Queens” types. From my vantage point, that is a broader economic issue across America where there are simply fewer “Queens” people to begin with. Neighborhoods, stores and restaurants now need to be either upmarket or downmarket with little in between, and when given those two choices, virtually every mayor in every city will take the upmarket option. I’m not saying that this is a good thing – a strong middle class (with services and towns/neighborhoods to support them) is important in this country. However, the demographics simply show that we have much more of a bifurcated distribution of income where there are a lot of wealthy/affluent people and a lot of poor people. The developments in Chicago and virtually every other city that has enough affluent people to support large-scale gentrification are simply reflecting that. Just put yourselves in the shoes of someone that actually has to go out and get financing and make money on a real estate project. The incremental cost of building a luxury condo/apartment building that sells or rents for premium prices is relatively low compared to a “middle class” apartment building in the same location, so if I’m a developer, it’s not exactly a difficult decision as to which model that I’d want to invest in. Daley and Rahm are definitely not perfect, but I think too many people make them bogeymen on the supposed loss of the middle class in Chicago when the reality is that all of America is losing its middle class.

  9. urbanleftbehind says:

    I dont think its fair to lump Daley and Rahm together. I think Daley was far more adept at kicking the can downstream and was far more willing to distribute the “goodies” across the city, initially out of a pragmatic desire to satiate the black community that spawned Harold Washington, but this also expanded to bottom-line and “spiritual” affirmation of the Hispanic (HDO) and even same-sex communities.

    Rahm is a fiscal pragmatist by and large – he had to be in light of the pension issues, crime. It is somewhat brave to incur the ire of black community (who preferred the devil they knew to a possible Villaraigosa and in turn gave him his largest margins in 2011) by doing a much needed right-sizing of the CPS. Rahm I think would be fine being a one-term mayor if meant the accomplishment of one major initiative. He has a multitude of other options that a Daley son would have to whitewash his persona to have.

  10. myb6 says:

    Frank the Tank, +2. I spend much of my daily life with social-justice types, and while I really admire them I can never agree with their politics; they have no real response to the practical issues you’ve mentioned.

    Anne, it seems your primary issues with Chicago were public school quality and house prices in desirable areas. What policies or lack thereof from Daley/Rahm do you think were key? To me, they seem mostly out of mayoral power (schools~=demographics, prices~=zoning), but I’m interested in your take.

  11. Ronald says:

    I’m still waiting for the part where the black community in this country is analyzed from the viewpoints of honest folks instead of guilty conscious liberals. As a young black male, I can honestly say that most of the problems in Chicago, and in America for the most part, are due to the black community. I’m willing to admit that fact but most in the black community and in the media won’t. When is that subject going to be addressed in the media? It seems like in the black community it’s ok to be a thug/gangster. It’s ok to blame whitey and not take responsibility. It’s ok to not snitch. It’s ok to get pregnant at 15 and have 2,3,4 or even 5 different baby daddies. It’s ok to not work and sit on your @ss while milking the system. It’s ok to think that being educated means you’re “trying to be white.” Why isn’t black on black murder as big of a deal as white on black murder? As a young black male who immigrated to this country, these are the things I’ve noticed. These topics are the many elephants in the room yet the media refuses to acknowledge them.

  12. Stephen Popolizio says:

    It is becoming increasingly apparent that Rahm’s increasingly prominent profile in the national (liberal) media is in preparation for a role in national (Democratic) politics. It looks as if he is being groomed for higher office. Specifically, if Mrs Clinton is nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, as she most certainly will be barring any unforeseen events, will Rahm be her vice-presidential running mate?

    Rahm has a much more influential place in the Democratic Party than the office of Chicago’s mayor might suggest. He served in the Clinton administration as a senior adviser and of course later served as President Obama’s Chief of Staff. This latter position cleared the way, if you will, as an entree into the office of mayor of Chicago (Bill Daley, Richie’s brother, took the Chief of Staff job, in a political swap). Rahm wasn’t eligible to become mayor, as he wasn’t a Chicago resident. Miraculously, the Illinois Supreme Court found a way to exempt him of the requirement.

    Rahm’s “election” was hardly an election at all. There never was an opposing party. There was no Republican or any other party opponent. It was more of a Democratic primary that was cast as an election. Any candidate receiving 50% of the vote plus one was declared the winner. Rahm received only 323,000 votes in a city with 1.28 million voters. Only 600,000 voters participated. Essentially he became mayor because the Daley machine managed to split any opposing voter bloc with other candidates (all Democrats) who really had no chance to win (Rahm’s strongest opponent was Gery Chico whose support from the Hispanic community was watered down by the candidacy of another Hispanic, Miguel del Valle, the City Clerk).

    I mention all this only to put this new media buzz into context. We will undoubtedly be treated to more in the months ahead as we approach the 2016 election. I would be very surprised if Rahm is even thinking about being re-elected as mayor. As for the state of Chicago, I (a former Chicago resident) concur with Anne’s perceptive comments above. Harvey’s characterization of Chicago as three cities (Detroit, Queens and upscale San Francisco) is spot on.

  13. Racaille says:

    “Looking back, while I’ve criticized Rahm for an excessive focus on the elite, I believe my judgment then was correct”

    Actually it wasn’t then and it’s still not now. This is an artifact of interaction with Joel Kotkin as he becomes more unhinged/angry by the day.

    “This ultimately is what I’d challenge the residents of other cities to think about when watching this show. Look at Chicago and what it is dealing with. Think about your own problems and your resources for combating them vis-a-vis Chicago. If that doesn’t make you sober up, I’m not sure what will.”

    The US and its people had better snap out this idea that cities are nothing but cesspools..a theme generated by conservatives and the angry, white male.

    One view of this map will tell you the importance of cities:

    http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2014/02/19/the-incredible-gdp-map-that-shows-half-of-output-generated-by-a-few-cities/

    If they die, were are all dead.

    @Ronald…

    You are absolutely correct. The city hasn’t failed the black community, the black community has failed the city. It is one thing to be poor and uneducated, but it’s another to be a criminal and glorify it. Simply watch one episode of Chiraq for verification.

  14. John Morris says:

    “The city hasn’t failed the black community, the black community has failed the city.”

    Wow, an amazingly insensitive and largely ignorant statement.

    Few cities in America went as far as Chicago in terms of aggressively attacking social bonds through mass housing destruction and forced relocations. Black communities bore the brunt of this- and since they were so young had a smaller stock of built up social capital stored away.

    Of course many blacks have added to the misery- and many black “elites” have cashed in on Chicago’s political corruption.

    I doubt that I will watch all ten episodes which seem to underline the problem. Chicago can’t seem to distinguish between “society”- the result of free interaction and capital built over generations & government force.

    “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society”

    Frederic Bastiat

  15. John Morris says:

    Ronald says:

    “I’m willing to admit that fact but most in the black community and in the media won’t. When is that subject going to be addressed in the media? It seems like in the black community it’s ok to be a thug/gangster. It’s ok to blame whitey and not take responsibility. It’s ok to not snitch. It’s ok to get pregnant at 15 and have 2,3,4 or even 5 different baby daddies. It’s ok to not work and sit on your @ss while milking the system. It’s ok to think that being educated means you’re “trying to be white.” Why isn’t black on black murder as big of a deal as white on black murder?”

    Sadly this rings too true, but it was hardly always the case. Luckily there is an archive of 70,000-80,000 photos of what Pittsburgh’s black community was once like.

    http://teenie.cmoa.org/

    The hidden story in America isn’t the horrors of slavery or Jim Crow, but the relative success of the black community in spite of it. Something happened in the years since- and it largely happened in the North. Things have gone backwards.

  16. John Morris says:

    If one did a word association…

    Chicago- Gangster would probably be number 1

    Chicago- Politics (corruption, fraud & intimidation) would probably be number 2

    My perception is that far to much of life has to circulate through the political arena in some way and this distorts normal human relationships.

    It might make a great TV show to have a great leader running around “fixing” things, but it probably makes a horrible city.

  17. Jon Seisa says:

    Neoliberal Extremist and vulgar-mouth political bully Rahm Emanuel is totally removed from the average citizen of America’s Chicago, particularly removed from the disenfranchised low-income African Americans of Chicago who feel RE’s policies are reshaping the city towards the interests of the few privileged Elite and not the commoner; in fact they feel the symbolic elements of their communities are being dismantled. Some have more severe words for his arrogant disconnect. Author Kari Lydersen identifies him as “Mayor 1%” to his 99% opposition, being literally the entire city of Chicago: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/19810-the-rise-of-chicagos-99-against-rahm-emanuel-mayor-1

  18. Rod Stevens says:

    Frank-the-Tank and Ann:

    Frank-the-tank: you say, “polish the diamonds you have”. Ann: you say, “But we the middle class can’t live here if we can’t send out kids to school.’ I agree with you both, and maybe Rahm needs to do both at the same time if he’s going to get REelected, Bloomberg being the model.

    There are two absolutely essential public serviceS people the middle class expects: education and safety. And Education needs Rahm’s pragmatism more than just about any field, for it is more resistant to change than anything else in our society. Radically increase the number of charter schools and new kinds of “learning academies” and use these to strengthen various neighborhoods. In fact, allow the middle class to take the initiative in these and you’ll get a kind of “market urbanism”, as long as the unions and school administrators don’t limit them once they get success.

  19. the urban politician says:

    What’s wrong with Chicago’s schools?

    Last I checked, lousy students fail schools. Schools don’t fail lousy students.

    There we are again, the black community just pointing fingers at everyone but themselves to find fault.

  20. the urban politician says:

    Just to clarify what I’m trying to say above:

    It is not the schools that are failing. It’s the students.

    It never was the schools. Chicago’s schools are just fine. Put a bunch of Asian kids into the EXACT SAME schools and all of a sudden you have the best school system in the nation. I promise you that.

    This is a dumb, “white guilt” kind of discussion that I always have and always will chuckle at. Glad I don’t bear the burden of perpetual self-blame for another ethnic group’s challenges…

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