2 Oct

Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider

The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider is president of DePaul University, having been appointed to that position in 2004. As the Chicago school’s chief executive officer, he has been active in such civic organizations as the Economic Club of Chicago, Illinois Reform Commission, Chicago History Museum and Chicago2016. He has a doctorate from Harvard University in Administration, Planning and Social Policy.

Q: How do you think Mayor Daley will be remembered by historians?

A: There will be a significant list of accomplishments, including beautifying the city, greening the city, keeping Chicago economically vibrant in a time when nearly other major city on the Great Lakes slipped badly; replacing the failure that was the public housing system with mixed use housing; the expansion of the arts, health care and higher education sectors in the city; the airport expansion; raising Chicago’s global profile; growth of Chicago as a tourist destination; and the redevelopment of Navy Pier and Millennium Park. There will also be the usual list of questioned activity, including the destruction of Meigs Field, the patronage scandals, the hired truck scandal and the selling of public assets to fund short-term budget deficits.

Overall, I think the mayor will be remembered rather fondly by history. He’ll likely be considered a transitional figure who simultaneously led the city according to both “the old rules” and “the new rules.” When he began, the city unions, ward system, and patronage system were powerful forces in the city through which much of the city business was accomplished. As he leaves office, much of that still exists but is weakened, and a different legal and political climate requiring more transparency and business-like processes for “good-government” is beginning to take its place. Chicago is still very much in this transition, and I think it will be said of Mayor Daley that he knew how to lead through both systems, and in fact is the best single example of this transition period.

Q: What qualities would you like to see in Chicago’s next mayor?

The next mayor has a terrible set of challenges in the immediate years ahead. Until the national economy picks up, the city is going to face a revenue shortfall and still have to pay all the expenses of a budget that’s largely salaries, forcing highly unpopular choices. Many forces in the city and state will likely “test” their own relative strength against the new mayor’s. We’ll need someone who’s willing to name the challenges clearly and transparently, and who can successfully withstand the inevitable pushback as those choices are made. I also hope that in the midst of this “defense,” the new mayor executes a strong offense, investing in the basic infrastructure and city improvements that make Chicago attractive in the long run. The city must retain long-run thinking to survive. I sincerely hope we get someone who loves Chicago as much as Mayor Daley has, putting the city first in all things without regard to future office or advancement. If anything, that’s been the current Mayor’s—and Chicago’s—saving grace.

Q: Do you think there is campus enthusiasm for the upcoming elections?

A: Yes, I find it’s a frequent conversation topic everywhere I go on campus. I think this will only increase as the candidates declare themselves in the weeks ahead. What would please me even more, however, is if DePaul students would get involved in the election and work on behalf of their preferred candidates. Good government only happens when good people get involved.

Megan Ashley

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