11 Oct

Larry Bennett

Bennett has been a member of the Political Science Department at DePaul University, where he was taught courses on Chicago government, American political culture and urban politics and policy since 1990. He has a doctorate from Rutgers University.

Q: What do you think are Mayor Richard M. Daley’s biggest accomplishments? Failures?

A: Accomplishments: Richard M. Daley has done much to improve Chicago’s reputation and showcase Chicago as a global city. His approach to small, physical improvements—neighborhood libraries and public schools, neighborhood playgrounds, the “greening” of major thoroughfares such as Lakeshore Drive and Ashland Avenue, the renovation of facilities such as the Garfield Park Conservatory—has substantially improved Chicago’s physical appearance, and I think many Chicagoans sense that this is a good place in which to live.

Failures: Daley’s reshaping of the public schools and public housing have been uneven in their impacts—some public housing residents have moved into better housing, some Chicago Public School students attend better schools—but in each instance, the majorities of the populations most directly affected by these policies have not benefitted. His fiscal management has been tied to the economic expansion that benefitted the city in the 1990s and for the first several years in the 2000s (an active real estate economy, growth in tourism), but as those economic sectors have declined so have municipal revenues. He leaves office with the city government facing a massive fiscal deficit, and there will be no easy way out of this financial crisis. His leadership has also been tarnished by what I call “insider-ism”—decision making dominated by him and a few associates—and beyond this inner circle a cohort of business and civic leaders.

This situation was illustrated by the planning process for the 2016 Olympics—in particular, the unwillingness of the 2016 committee or the city government to truly engage with the community representatives of the neighborhoods that would have hosted the Olympic venues.

Q: Do you plan to vote in the Nov. 2 general election and why or why not?

A: I will vote on Nov. 2 because, as my above answer indicates, I have strong opinions about a variety of public policy issues. Yes, I am skeptical of many politicians, but I also think that elections matter.

Q: Were you surprised by Mayor Daley’s retirement announcement?

A: Everyone was surprised—possibly including Daley. I do think there were signs in the preceding months that he was losing his taste for the job and its many demands. Keep in mind, at 68 years of age he is not a young man.

Megan Ashley

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