Justin Dart, the megamillionaire plastics king, a financial backer of Ronald Reagan, once observed that “a dialogue with politicians is a fine thing, but with a little money, they hear you better.” With a lot of money. they may hear even if you whisper.
Thus there’s good reason to wonder what the many big-money contributors to Richard M. Daley’s mayoral campaign–contributors of $10,000, $25,000, and even $100,000–will want to say if their candidate wins.
There’s long been an intimate, curious, and even sordid relationship between money and politics in Chicago. But this election marks an important turn: Even though he is not the incumbent, Daley has raised an unprecedented amount of money in a very short time (about $6.1 million as of Monday and still growing), thanks especially to a high number of very big contributions. Some observers fear that this phenomenon portends the consolidation of a new political force in Chicago–a “new machine.” Not a machine of pinky rings and tavern owners, but one of alligator briefcases and law-firm partners. In some cases, especially in the big law firms, there may be a hope of quid pro quo attached to these big donations; compared with the past, however, the payoffs for most of the political contributions are likely to be less direct, but more lucrative.
Daley would like people to believe that the money is not an issue, that the people who give him these princely sums simply like him and want what’s best for the city. Indeed, many are personal friends–or friends of his late father–and they no doubt believe that what they are doing is best for the city, just as the resident of a CHA project on the south side might know Tim Evans and think working for him is best for the city. The difference is that the black woman in public housing doesn’t have $100,000 to spare so Evans can flood the airwaves with slick ads. “But $25,000 to a lot of those guys [Daley contributors] is like lunch to us, like a tip to the bartender,” observes a politically well-connected lawyer. Also, the vision that the white, male lawyer or businessman has of what’s good for the city may be quite different from that of the poor woman trying to keep her family fed and clothed.
Some big-money contributors truly believe that Daley can best achieve the goals that almost everyone shares: better schools, safer streets, a more vital economy. In addition, however, a great many have very special concerns for themselves, their firms, or their industries: more business, lower taxes, less demanding city bargaining over new development projects. Most also share a class interest: they look at the city from the privileged vantage point of corporations and business executives; they want a mayor who will share that viewpoint and listen to them when big decisions have to be made.
For example, Daley’s biggest contributor is J. Paul Beitler, a major downtown developer. Beitler, a Republican who lives in Winnetka, thinks the downtown area owes nothing to the rest of the city. He refers to the city’s neighborhoods as “the suburbs.” He thinks the opening up of political debate that followed the election of Harold Washington has deterred international investors from participating in his big projects (despite evidence that the city is in the midst of one of the biggest downtown building booms in its history), and he sees Daley as returning the city to a period of “stability” much like the reign of his late father. Beitler has little patience with neighborhood demands or ethnic demands for hiring equity, and he thinks manufacturing is such a lost cause it would be good to tear down some factory districts to build housing. Beitler clearly thinks his views would be best for the city; a lot of people who don’t live in Winnetka and don’t have $115,000 to spend on the candidate of their choice might disagree. To whom will Daley listen?
In a democracy citizens are expected to make choices about how government reconciles their common and clashing interests. And as the Supreme Court reaffirms again and again, the governing principle is one person, one vote. But as the cost of campaigning rises, the importance of contributors rises, too. When a multimillionaire living in the suburbs can give $50,000 or $100,000, his voice is amplified to a volume that can drown out the voices of thousands of voters living in the city. If the principle were one dollar, one vote, we could just put the mayor’s office up for competitive bidding.
Notwithstanding Daley’s casual dismissal of the money question, his campaign financing raises two big issues: Is there something wrong with the system? Is there something troubling about what the contributions mean for Daley as a potential mayor? The answer to both questions is yes.
The relationship between money and the machine has changed over the decades. “It was a more direct corruption in early periods of machine history,” observes former alderman Dick Simpson, now a professor of political science at the University of Illinois. “You would simply bribe officials, and they would spend what they needed on campaigns. Even in the 60s there was a standard amount for zoning changes.” Simpson points out that since the 70s, 13 aldermen have gone to jail, “so the practice is not dead.”
But generally, Simpson says, “with Mayor Daley, as far as anyone knows, you didn’t slip money in an envelope. When Daley remade the machine, that way of buying influence changed. By the late 60s, if you had a multimillion-dollar contract, it was more of an alliance between institutions and political leaders. It wasn’t paying $500 and getting a vote. It was a knitting together of institutions, but businesses made sure Daley knew they had contributed to the party and to the mayor.”
As Mayor Daley began to knit together a coalition of real-estate developers, construction firms, building-trade unions, and downtown business interests–all devoted to central-city, highway, and other construction projects–he maintained the old machine ward organizations. Patronage still drove the machine, and patronage workers were, by most accounts, expected to ante up 2 or 3 percent of their pay for the party, as well as work their shoe leather off for the ticket.
Elections were less expensive, but nobody knows for sure what they cost. Until his 1975 race, when he spent a little over $1 million, Richard J. Daley never had to reveal his campaign finances. (In the state legislature, his son Rich dutifully voted against campaign finance disclosure in 1973.) “Daley’s mayoral campaign finances have been perhaps the most closely guarded secret of his political career,” wrote the late Harry Golden of the Sun-Times in 1975. “His closest associates have said the total spending of his campaigns since 1955 [has] been known only to Daley himself and one Democratic Party aide.” Daley spent virtually nothing on television, but precinct workers got lots of “walkaround money” to turn out the vote .
Of the contributions Mayor Daley had to disclose in 1975, half the money came from city employees, contractors doing business with the city, and ward organizations or politicians.
In 1979 Jane Byrne upset the machine on a shoestring budget and a snowstorm, but after reconciling herself with the “evil cabal” she’d attacked during the campaign–Burke, Vrdolyak, et al–she ushered in a new era of fund-raising. She began exacting contributions of up to $80,000 from contractors who did business with the city, ostentatiously escalating the prior practice of the machine. Over the course of four years, she raised more than $10 million. Byrne launched a massive television campaign to remake her image, but she also continued the old machine tactics, such as handing out “gifts” to CHA residents. “Take the hams, take the turkeys, take the cheese,” Harold Washington told public-housing residents in his ’83 campaign against Byrne–“but vote for Harold.” Rich Daley, also a mayoral candidate in ’83, proposed limiting campaign contributions to $1,000 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations.
In 1983 Washington had no access to big money. So he made the best of a bad situation and used fund-raising as a way to build a dedicated populist base. “The one thing in stark contrast between Daley’s money machine and Harold’s money machine was that Harold’s was broad-based and produced votes,” says Jay Doherty, who headed up Washington’s 1983 fundraising. “The guy with the $50 contribution had a real stake,” and felt enthusiasm about voting and mobilizing others.
Washington received 36,000 contributions. Two-thirds of those we re for less than $150, and these accounted for half the money he collected. By contrast, in 1975, 73 percent of Mayor Daley’s contributions were for $500 or more. This year nearly all of Rich Daley’s money has come from fewer than 5,000 contributors giving more than $150 each. As of late March, 30 percent of Daley’s money had come from just 1 percent of his contributors, each giving more than $24,000.
Washington maintained his grassroots financial-political base and pushed through City Council a campaign-finance reform law, limiting firms or individuals doing business with the city to contributions of $1,500. But in 1987 he also went after the big donors and people who wished to curry favor with the incumbent; he raised $5.8 million for his 1987 election (compared with $4 million in 1983).
Washington’s “movement” produced a potent if not always well-organized alternative to the decrepit machine. But Republican Governor James Thompson had meanwhile demonstrated another alternative. According to several campaign finance experts, Thompson has developed to a fine art the use of “pinstripe patronage,” providing lucrative state work to law firms and financial institutions whose partners support him.
As a former U.S. attorney–head of the office where many promising young lawyers get their experience–Thompson had close ties to law firms. And law firms have become increasingly important both in handling the work of government and in lobbying for businesses. Sometimes firms that receive work from the state are expected to do more than simply contribute. According to one attorney at a major firm that does bond work, “Oftentimes you even have to hire someone as a partner or an associate who the politician directs that you hire.” That costs more than the truck driver the old machine might have wanted, but it pays off better.
Local Democrats have eagerly adopted Thompson’s techniques. County Assessor Tom Hynes, Rich Daley’s stand-in for the 1987 mayoral election, received heavy contributions from both law firms and developers. Developers gave him one-sixth his total funds and twice as much as they contributed to Washington, even though he was the incumbent. Hynes’s campaign was thus a modest precursor of the new machine.
Contractors doing business with the city have been generous this year with Daley and with incumbent Eugene Sawyer. But in Daley’s case they’ve been swamped by lawyers, developers, and other big business contributors. By mid-March, Tim Evans campaign researchers had identified lawyers as the source of 17 percent of Daley’s money and real estate developers, and contractors as the source of 19 percent. A partial recheck of their work suggests that they were slightly understating those shares.
In the past decade, but especially with the Daley and Sawyer campaigns, Chicago has entered the era of big-money, television-dominated politics, setting a dubious record as the city with the most costly mayoral races in the nation. Of course local politics reflects the trend in national races; but many blame the Democrats’ national shift to blockbuster fund-raising and TV advertising for the declining enthusiasm of their traditional supporters, and the same trends in Chicago may be partly responsible (along with a lack of passion for either Daley or Sawyer) for the low turnout in last month’s primary election.
“Since the Byrne years the price tag on elections has become greater and greater and contributions larger and larger,” Dick Simpson notes. “That’s nearly always an undesirable trend. Leaving aside conflicts of interest, the average citizen has less involvement in the election. If you can buy x TV time, then the citizen is about as shut out as under the old machine. It’s clearly an unhealthy pattern for the city to have money raised this way. In one of the attempts to replace the machine as it disintegrates, we’ve moved to a money-television connection which does not bode well for the city’s future.”
Gary Snyderman, managing director of Common Cause in Illinois, is alarmed not only by the total expenditures but also by “the truly huge contributions coming into the Daley campaign. Even in the governor’s race we’ve seen only a couple of contributions in that range, and here’s a municipal race that has exceeded those contributions. They are so far out of line with what the average citizen could give that it instantly becomes a question of influence.”
Common Cause has twice succeeded in passing laws for public financing of state elections, and Thompson has twice vetoed them. “Election campaigns simply turn into fund-raising races,” Snyderman laments. “People able to gather the money or put themselves in debt to rich contributors get their views heard. We have to question whether that is in the public interest. What if Daley and Evans had to run with equal amounts of money?”
The old machine, corrupt as it was, could at least make a claim that the average citizen was an important part of politics, even if he or she had no real voice. The emerging system threatens to produce more direct control by a rich elite. Even if their motives were purest altruism, there would still be reason to worry about this subversion of democracy.
Even additional reforms now before the City Council are inadequate. They include prohibiting city employees from soliciting donations, closing a few current loopholes, and extending the $1,500 limit to people or firms seeking business with the city. Daley, who does back some of the Council reforms, no longer supports his 1983 proposal to limit campaign contributions, but he was on the right track then. There should simply be a flat limit of $1,000 for contributions from any person or firm, and a cap on overall campaign spending. Public financing–matching private contributions should be provided to those reaching a threshold level of support. Qualifying candidates could also have guaranteed access to television and debates.
No reforms will take greed or power-lust out of politics, but they can give the average citizen a better chance of influence. The new system of pinstripe patronage, big-buck financing, and saturation television advertising is no great improvement over the old machine days.
There is reason to be worried not simply about the new rules of the game, but also about the significance of the big contributions Daley has received.
The motivations of the big players are varied, but in the view of Rob Warden, editor of Chicago Lawyer, few are acting out of pure charity. “Ask any law firm that gives $25,000 to Daley how much they gave to UNICEF or Crusade of Mercy or Amnesty International, and I’ll tell you how much–nothing. Either they expect a favor or think there may be an implied threat if they’re left out.”
Daley fund-raisers sent a letter to major law firms asking for contributions of $25,000. “When the county’s chief lawyer tells law firms to ante up,” explains one lawyer, “it’s like if the U.S. attorney asks you to drop by his office. You probably go.” Why risk offending someone powerful, especially if he has control over lucrative business, especially if the odds favor him winning and becoming more powerful?
As state’s attorney Daley farms a lot of legal work out to private law firms, and it’s a safe bet that his friends get more of it than his enemies. As just one example, consider the story of attorney Joseph A. Cari Jr., as told by the Tribune in 1987. A longtime backer of Daley (he has given $1,000 this year), Cari moved to the firm of Coffield Ungaretti Harris & Slavin in late 1983; in 1983-’84, the firm’s contribution to Daley’s campaign fund increased substantially. From having no business with the state’s attorney’s office, Coffield Ungaretti suddenly had more than $1.4 million in billings from 1983 through 1987, mainly for handling malpractice cases at Cook County Hospital. Last year, according to the state’s attorney’s office, Coffield Ungaretti received $245,000 in billings from that office. This year, according to Daley campaign statements, the firm gave Daley $2,500.
Cari maintains it is “absolutely ridiculous” to suggest that there is any link between the political contributions and work from the state’s attorney’s office. Asked if law firms shouldn’t nonetheless avoid even the appearance of a connection, he argued that his firm’s contributions do “not even come close” to giving the appearance of impropriety. “Why is it that everything is always suspect?” he asked. “Why can’t people do something just because it’s the right thing to do? There’s no hidden agenda.” Cari says that work from the state’s attorney’s office makes up a tiny share of the firm’s total billings, and that Daley simply chose the best lawyers in the city.
It’s the history of money and politics in Chicago that leads to suspicion, and Daley’s list of campaign contributors does little to allay the fears. According to research compiled by the Evans campaign, at least 18 lawyers or law firms doing business with Daley’s office have contributed $250,000 to him since 1982, including $75,000 for this mayoral race. For example, Evans sources say that Katten Muchin & Zavis attorneys contributed $47,000 to the mayoral race after the firm received $118,000 in work from the state’s attorney’s office since 1988; Baker & McKenzie lawyers have given $8,000 after their firm received $43,000 in work last year. In meetings with leaders of community economic-development organizations, Daley has indicated that more of the economic-development work now done by the city’s law department should be contracted out.
To comply with the city’s $1,500 campaign-finance law, the Daley campaign has returned more than $120,000 in contributions from law firms and other concerns doing business with the city. But the law has its loopholes. As state’s attorney, Daley is a county official, and any work his office lets out is thus not subject to the city’s law. In addition, a law firm doing substantial business with the city can abide by the letter of the law but stretch its spirit if its attorneys contribute as individuals. According to materials released by the Evans campaign, Jenner & Block and its attorneys gave $22,000 to Daley’s campaign fund; the firm has done $650,000 in business with the city since 1985. Bell Boyd & Lloyd and its lawyers gave $23,150; that firm has received more than $230,000 in city work in 1986-’87, not counting the substantial sum it makes from city bond work (technically paid by the syndicators of the bonds rather than by the city itself).
“They believe the condition of doing business with the city in the future is a political contribution now,” says an attorney from one of these firms who disapproves of the link between giving campaign money and getting work. Even if the payoff is not guaranteed, he says, the appearance “does diminish competition.” Dick Simpson agrees. Even if contributing doesn’t buy influence or favors, Simpson says, others will think it does and refrain from soliciting the business themselves.
Of course “pinstripe patronage” is only part of the Daley fund-raising story. Other big givers have entirely different motives:
Many of these big contributors share interlocking interests. For example, the lawyers at Katten Muchin Zavis Pearl Greenberger & Galler, who gave $54,000, received $82,000 from 1985 to 1987 in fees for representing Cook County Hospital in malpractice cases that Daley steered their way. They also represent developer Thomas Klutznick (who gave $40,000), Farley Industries, and the Chicago White Sox (McHugh is one of the major bidders on the new stadium).
Quite apart from any of their very particular interests (or their devotion to good schools), the big contributors to Daley’s campaign want “access.” When they speak, as Justin Dart suggested, they want the future mayor to pay attention. In some cases they may want power for its own sake, not as a means toward economic ends. Arguing for a Daley endorsement before the Illinois Public Action Council (IPAC made none), Paul Stepan assured the consumer representatives, one participant recalls, that “if Daley is mayor and you have a problem getting access, you just call me.”
Such power brokering by the elite would reverse one of the most important initiatives of the Harold Washington era, giving community representatives a direct voice in government. “The question posed by the Daley contributions is what kind of government they would dictate,” argues Tom Coffey, who worked on Washington’s 1983 campaign, then served as director of intergovernmental relations, and now works with Jay Doherty as a public interest advocate. “The campaign someone runs is a fair reflection of what someone’s appointments are going to be like. Harold ran a grass-roots campaign. So when he was elected, that group of people who elected him, who contributed and worked, they thought they had a seat at the table.
“With Daley, the man in the street believes he can’t be part of it unless he gives $50,000 or $100,000,” Coffey continues. “Now he thinks, ‘I’m out.’ Whether the mayor intends to be a man of the people or not, he’s now a mayor of special interests, the lawyers, bankers, and others who elected him mayor–and they believe it. When these people ring him up, he must answer. When they want to be on a commission, he must listen. When contracts come up and they ask for a level playing field, he can’t tilt the table in terms of community organizations. If the contributors who gave him all this money are dissatisfied with him, will they be with him in 22 months [for the next mayoral election]? If he doesn’t take care of his base, he loses.
“A lawyer contributing thousands of dollars may not want anything for himself,” Coffey says, “but he’ll express his view of the world and where the city should be going. Community organizers like Gale Cincotta and Nancy Jefferson aren’t going to have that same access. Money dictates access. What worse criterion could you have for a government?”
Of course, the big donors profess admiration for Daley as a leader. But there is good reason to doubt that they support him for his own personal qualities as much as for what he symbolizes. In a survey conducted by Crain’s Chicago Business, executives overwhelmingly favored Daley, but only 8 percent did so because they thought he would do a good job, 2 percent because he inspired confidence, and 1 percent because of his intelligence. More–roughly 25 percent on each count–were impressed with his experience, his origins with a political family, and his being “in tune with business.”
They backed him, the pollster concluded, because they think “Daley is one of us though we can’t put a finger on why.” In that sense, Daley may be right that these contributors can’t buy him. They don’t need to. As one citizen-group lobbyist says, “Daley will be friendly to those guys, but he would be friendly if they gave half as much. It’s the social forces between the two candidates that’s at issue in this election. The mainstream business community is trying to buy back city government.” And Daley is their broker, a man who largely sees eye to eye with them.
The big developers, who backed Daley’s father but are putting even more money behind the son, see him as a source of stability. I spoke recently with one person in the industry who asked a prominent pro-Daley developer why real estate people backed him so strongly. The developer answered, according to my source, that “there was a sense of Armageddon,” that this election represented “a last chance to recapture the Hall for whites.” Although a few developers gave Washington money, usually hedging their investments with contributions to his opponents, they opposed him overwhelmingly. Some loathed his tenants’ rights ordinance, others his short-lived lease tax. A great many were angry that Washington was unwilling to support the World’s Fair boondoggle.
For developers, a “stable climate” means a mayor “who will be in there a long time,” says a public-interest planner. “If you know how things are run and that it will be stable eight or ten years, you can sit back and take it easy. The assumption is that once Daley gets in, he will solidify power. [They feel] democracy is terribly inefficient.”
Although most developers praise the professionalism of the current Planning Department, they disliked the Washington administration’s “hard bargaining,” Thomas Klutznick told the Tribune. Developer Klutznick, cochairman of Hynes’s 1987 campaign and contributor of $40,000 to Daley, wants to set up a “Redevelopment Authority” under mainly private control that would isolate development from community pressures. “Historically in Chicago builders have built pretty much what they wanted to build and how they wanted to build it in exchange for nothing,” says the above-quoted public-interest planner. Recently they’ve had to give a little, and they don’t like it. Nearly everyone agrees that there’s room to rationalize the planning process, but even with its problems, the Chicago planning process is four times faster than New York’s.
Although some of the developers’ contributions seem large, they’re small compared with the potential return. Former alderman Leon Despres, who recently retired from the city’s Plan Commission after ten years of service, says, “I saw what it meant for developers to have a Department of Planning that protects the city and one that gives them the edge. The difference can mean millions of dollars on one simple development, one single high rise. Developers want very much to have an administration that gives them the edge, and large contributions are made with the hope and expectation they’ll receive [such] treatment.”
The developers are “restorationists, trying to restore the monarchy, just like the supporters of Louis XVI wanted him back on the throne,” says a prominent attorney. “They remember the good old days. Their motives are complex, but these guys are not interested in the quality of kiosks on State Street. The most pervasive thing and the scariest thing is that they’re interested in power.”
Few of the big contributors are willing to talk about why they give. Philip Klutznick, Thomas’s father, who gave $25,000, even acknowledged a certain embarrassed discomfort with such big contributions. But J. Paul Beitler, the 43-year-old cofounder of Miglin-Beitler, one of the city’s largest development firms, was not reluctant to talk about why he gave Daley $115,000.
“It’s not for the reason that Tim Evans espoused,” he said. “We’re not out to buy a piece of Chicago. We already own a substantial piece of Chicago. The property that we own pays more property taxes as a single building than most communities. The unfortunate thing is since we don’t live in the city, we don’t have any right to vote and participate in the decision-making process. . . . Most of those who gave do not live in the city. The only way we can make our voices heard is to support financially the best candidate who will do the best job for creating a city environment that will be fertile ground for development and business. That’s why we’re here in the city.
“What people forget is that developers are not fat cats,” he continued. “We simply deal in a high-profile product. We create the workplace. If that workplace goes somewhere else, so will work. No factory, no work. But ping-pong legislation from city government has jilted the development community’s ability to get international investment. We have to put a halt to that and bring stability. If you call that selfish, damn right, it’s selfish.
“There’s a disparity between a $100,000 home and a $300 million building. I have just as much stake as somebody who lives here, but I can’t vote. Admittedly, I could live here.”
Beitler says he supports Daley “so we can return to a city that works.” When I argued that Chicago is in the midst of its biggest downtown building boom since the Great Fire–nearly $10 billion in new construction between 1979 and 1991–he countered, “That’s in spite of city government, not because of it.” Beitler blames the city for temporary losses he took on the huge O’Hare Presidents Plaza office complex, during the year when the lease tax was under consideration. In this year’s mayoral campaigns, he said, Sawyer, Evans, and Bloom all acknowledged the possibility of reviving the lease tax. Daley wouldn’t specifically rule it out, Beitler said, but he did say “Before we do [it], I’ll sit down and discuss it with you.”
Beitler is also outraged at the recent proposal to require new office buildings to provide child-care facilities or pay a fee to support neighborhood child care. Such “linkage” payments “stink,” he said. “It smacks of logic that it’s the Loop developer’s responsibility to support the suburbs. What have the suburbs done for me?”
Suburbs? I asked. Linkage fees are to be used to support the neighborhoods. “I’m calling the neighborhoods ‘suburbs,'” he replied. “What have the neighborhoods done for me? What has the office building taken away from the neighborhoods as opposed to adding?”
I imagine a good many people living in those neighborhoods might get their hackles up at hearing a resident of Winnetka complain about not being able to vote in Chicago, then call the neighborhoods suburbs, as if “Chicago” consisted only of office buildings, hotels, and department stores. If Beitler built his new 1.1-million-square-foot Madison Plaza office tower on the Kansas plains, it wouldn’t be worth what it is at Madison and Wells. Part of its value comes from the people who live and work in Chicago, whose taxes have for many years supported downtown development, making life sweet for the Beitlers of this metropolis, while their own neighborhoods were shortchanged and manufacturing neglected.
Beitler, like Daley and the editors of the Tribune, thinks manufacturing is dead in Chicago. “The smokestacks are giving way to service industries,” he argued. “[The city is] dominated by transportation, banking, commodities exchanges, service industries, Big Eight accounting, law firms.” He thinks creation of affordable housing is “a dramatic problem in Chicago, and we have to address it. I’d be far happier knocking down some of those manufacturing buildings and putting affordable housing there.”
But eliminating the better-paying manufacturing jobs makes it harder for families to afford housing, and there are sound economic reasons to think some governmental encouragement could stimulate a manufacturing revival in the city. Besides, as Columbia University researcher Saskia Sassen has recently argued, cities around the world that have abandoned manufacturing and shifted toward financial and service economies. have tended toward greater income inequality and more intransigent social problems.
Beitler argues that building affordable housing will take governmental support. But he’s reluctant to endorse any tax increase for housing or the schools (another of his priorities). “There are always alternatives,” he said. “[Daley] will have to find those alternatives. If the alternative turns out to be an increase in income tax, we’ll have to deal with it and pay.
“I think Rich Daley is a leader who knows his limitations and has the ability to surround himself with competent people,” Beitler argued. “He’ll bring back professionals who will rebuild the bureaucrat component that makes city government work. The infrastructure of government has been tampered with severely for pure ethnic and political reasons.” Clearly, Beitler has limited sympathy for recent affirmative action.
All this is part of what Beitler and many of the other big contributors will be telling Rich Daley when they sit down to talk about their vision of the city–skyscrapers rising rapidly for well-paid professionals who can afford to buy housing on the gentrified lakefront, and an army of modestly paid service workers whose education and housing needs will somehow be met by a trickle-down from the central city to the “suburbs” of Lakeview, Bridgeport, and Garfield Park. Don’t sweat the details; just establish order, spruce up that image of stability for the international investors, and don’t change anything that might upset developers (even if the needs of the city might change). Get that old urban growth machine revved up again with big projects (even though a thousand points of more modest intervention might produce more).
Aside from their own particular deals or pinstripe patronage, Daley’s big donors are worrisome because of their vision of Chicago. The old “city that works” of the Richard J. Daley era “was working for developers, people making money off the city,” argues Rabbi Robert J. Marx, an Evans supporter. “It didn’t work so well for the people of the city. These contributions portend a return to a vision of a city of bricks and stone.”
In the end, the real significance of Daley’s fund-raising is that he shares the vision and priorities of his rich white contributors, at least one-third of whom live in the real suburbs, where they can enjoy the wealth they make from the city without sharing in its burdens. They did not appreciate their brief exposure to the participatory democracy that followed Harold Washington’s victory. Where some observers saw peaceful protest, community involvement, and the opening of debate, they saw an unruly “mob.” So they called for the restoration. From the battlements of their high rises they cried, “Long live King Richard II!”
(Research assistant: Ann Eudikis.)
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tony Griff.