Chicago 2016

October 23rd, 2009 by Collin Canright | Filed under Political Economy.

I’m still upset that Chicago lost the 2016 Olympics to Rio. My wife Christina and I spent that dreary, rainy Friday three weeks ago in a hotel ballroom full of building subcontractors, preparing to celebrate winning the bid. We had it in the bag.

That arrogance no doubt had something to do with Chicago losing in the first round to a city known for its crime (Rio) and a city known for its congestion (Tokyo); nothing negative immediately comes to mind for Madrid. I knew when I saw the pictures of the public support from the beach-goers in Rio that we had nothing like that kind of public support.

Business leaders supported the bid, as did the building subcontractors we were with. But not an overwhelming majority of Chicagoans I talk to. Too much congestion. Too much corruption. Too much of a hassle. Shortsighted, I’d think, or say depending on how well I knew the person.

I felt somewhat comforted that the Washington Post said “Chicago Gets Gold Medal for Design.” It also helped a lot to hear former U.S. Olympic Committee chair and general sports marketing legend Peter Uberroth commented, in effect, that Chicago didn’t lose the bid as much as Rio won it. He also disabused some notions that provided a little more comfort, namely that the U.S. Olympic Committee is in disarray and didn’t do its job with the International Olympic Committee, with which it feuds.

Yet arrogance, lack of support, and political disfavor do not get to the heart of the matter. I don’t exactly buy the corruption argument many local opponents put forth. I like Mayor Daley and what he’s done for the city, and, a few mistakes aside, how he ran the bid. I have voted for him every time he’s run, and if he runs again he’ll likely get my vote again.

Even so, it occurred to me that I live in a city still known worldwide for the gangsters of the 20s and machine government, and I live in a state in which an inordinate number of former governors are indicted or end up in the federal pen. (Really, isn’t just one too many?)

What would take to transform government in the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago? What would it take to transform so that we live as the progressive place with the green reputation befitting the City in a Garden, with an efficient and effective transportation system, a government that supports citizens to learn and use their talents to their fullest, with the stellar reputation we are on the brink of gaining, as when Fast Company magazine named Chicago U.S. City of the Year in 2008, home to one of the most go-for-it and exciting U.S. presidents in a long time.

It would take a concerted, intentional effort to change the fabric of state and, by extension, city government. Corruption is rooted in the reputation of our state, and whatever realities lie behind the reputation are systematized, standard operation procedure, and status quo–in a word, invisible. I voted for Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, too, and I’m sure I had good reasons at the time. I’ll bet there’s more to those stories of individual corruption than you read in the papers and see on TV.

New thinking is needed. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m on the steering committee of the event I’m about to suggest as a start, the Transformational Leadership Symposium–Staying Ahead of the Curve in Transformational Times, where we’ll consider new thinking on leadership and new ways to instill change, especially in an economy that’s forcing growth through innovation. New thinking on leadership is why I’ll attend, why I’m a doctoral student at the Wright Graduate Institute for Human Potential, and why I’ll do as much as I can to transform my own thinking about leadership and understanding of how to change systems of thought and, by extension, institutions of action.

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One Response to “Chicago 2016”

  1. Collin | 30/10/09

    Christina showed a TED talk this morning on urban design from Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach, featuring his photographs of pattern and design in cities around the world. The last minutes of the talk, starting at about 13:30, focus on Chicago. Forbes commends Mayor Daley as “a bit of a design hero for working through the political processes to improve an area” and how his vision of diverse design in the city has made Chicago internationally known, for both public projects like Millennium Park and neighborhood project like the diverse plantings within city streets (compare Ashland Ave., Irving Park Road, and Clark St. north of Andersonville, for instance). Listen to the talk:

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