Remarks by Richard M. Daley at the Future of the City Symposium, Feb. 1, 2011

MAYOR DALEY: It is a great honor and privilege to be here and to thank the University for their wonderful contribution to our city. This institution has given more, I believe, than any other institution in the history of our city. Recently, their great commitment dealing with our public schools, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, I do appreciate their great partnership in regards to rebuilding our public schools system in our city, as well as other cities around the country and around the world. They have been the forefront of education reform and research and evaluating our reforms and our plans on a daily basis and all of us appreciate that, and also other mayors around the country appreciate that.

Also, the commitment they have made in regards to studying the critical issue of the gun issue. Gun violence in our city has been vital for us in regard to ways we can address these challenges. A consortium at the University of Chicago has partnered with us, with local philanthropic organizations in studying gun violence in our city. It’s been a valuable tool for us and mayors who believe that common sense gun laws should be enacted in this great country.

Those are just a few examples of the commitment the University has answered for civic leadership, as President Zimmer pointed out. The other is it has been a great partner here in the history of the City of Chicago. And this is an example for other universities around the country to follow. When other mayors talk to me about the partnership we have with the University of Chicago, of course, they go back to their universities and talk about the University of Chicago and how they partnered not just with government itself, but with the community, which is really important. So I want to thank them for being a great citizen. I also want to commend the Harris School of Pubic Policy Studies and the Office of Civic Engagement for organizing this wonderful event.

I know it will be a starting point to many on important discussions. In that vein, I want to mention a few points that I think are very critical to any discussion about the future of cities—future cities not just in America, but the world, and what makes them successful.

The first point is one that is on the mind of everyone today, and that is the state of the economy. The recession continues to impact every city and state. Most revenues continue to slow. But demand for services always increases in times like this. So especially now, whether you’re a mayor or a governor or business leader, it is more important than ever [to] not let today’s problems stand in the way of your vision for the future. Without the type of unshakable vision and understanding that today’s decisions determines tomorrow’s outcomes, cities will not succeed.

So first, we must be more aggressive about helping to grow our local economies. Yes, fewer jobs may be created in the new economy, but they only underscore the need for each of us to create new ideas, new thinking to help the private sector create the new jobs that are so badly needed. In Chicago we have a long-term plan in place. We are acting now to create new jobs now, but we’re also taking a long-term view, making sure we expand Chicago’s role in the technology industry, financial services, hospitality industry, health care, transportation, and, of course, manufacturing, just to name a few.

Similarly, to help ensure our future stability, we must provide a high quality education for every student in every school. The future economic success of Chicago, or any other city, hinges on the education more than any other factor. It is the most important service we provide in government. If the city fails to graduate students who are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, we are not just threatening our economic future, we’re guaranted that we won’t have one.

Unless we do more to improve our schools and act more seriously [than] we are today to help every person improve their academic abilities, our country risks its global economic leadership position and, of course, our quality of life. To me, making America’s schools the best in the world is a fundamental quality of the challenge of the 21st Century in cities across the nation. A good education, getting children and adults involved in learning as a lifetime pursuit, is tied to our nation’s long-term success in so many ways.

A good education system gives people tools for life. It’s essential if we are to create the jobs of the future and bring more people out of poverty and into a productive life. A good education system helps us create new businesses that thrive and survive and grow our tax base. A good education system gives young people an alternative to a life of crime – gangs, crime, and drugs. A good education system is essential if we are to overcome the divide between the haves and have-nots in our nation, a divide that is growing unfortunately.

And we have to rethink what we mean by education. The reality is that a good education shouldn’t be limited to our children and end at high school or college. We need to redefine education as a lifetime commitment that involves every aspect of our lives and every environment, and not just the schools. I call it “learning environment.” We must recognize that every adult is a partner in a life-long learning process—the parents, the teachers, the clergy, and other mentors. That learning must take place in our churches, in our libraries, and our parks and recreation centers. A lifetime of learning is essential if we are to keep our workforce on the cutting edge of emerging technologies and jobs in a global economy. And we must do that if we are to remain a thriving city.

Surveys show that Americans [more] than ever don’t believe that the American Dream exists any more, and that their children will be worse off economically than they are today. That is a very, very sad comment on where we stand as a nation. It is why I plan to ask Washington, DC, to earmark more federal dollars for programs in math and science teaching and learning that will help give our students an edge they need to compete globally.

First and foremost, we need support from the federal government for school infrastructure and modernization. Why is that? Because local government depends on real estate taxes for infrastructure, rebuilding, modernization of our school system. And a lot of local taxes can not be moved higher and higher every year because of tax caps and other issues, and especially the citizens.

Since 1995, we have opened 46 new schools. In the last two years, we have opened 11 new school buildings as part of the new Modern Schools Across Chicago Program, which is supported entirely with the City of Chicago funds.

Secondly, we need additional federal support to teach world language and culture to our young people. Learning other languages is great, but it’s also important for young people to understand the ways of other countries. We currently offer world language programs in 11 languages, including language spoken by billions of people—Chinese, Arabic, and Russian—with more than 100,000 students studying at 336 schools around the city. But we need to expand these programs if we are to give our young people the kind of global education that prepares them to be leaders in our city, in our nation, and the world.

Thirdly, we need more federal dollars to recruit math and science teachers from other countries to learn their best practices and adapt them to American classrooms.

And finally, we need more dollars to provide our city with cutting edge technology in our schools, both in the classrooms and the homes of residents of every community of our great city.

The recent federal economic stimulus program called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a perfect example of federal support that helped us take an important project we couldn’t have done on our own in these difficult times. For example, in technology, Chicago received the highest level of broadband funding of any other major city. We used $16 million to fund two broadband projects to increase access to technology in our underserved communities.

In math and science education, we’ve been fortunate that over the past several years, leaders in Chicago’s philanthropic and corporate community have stepped up to help fund several initiatives in Chicago Public Schools. For example, the Chicago Community Trust has invested more than $10 million to fund math and science curriculum development and improve the quality of Chicago Pubic School’s math and science teachers. The Joyce Foundation has invested funds to help Chicago Public Schools recruit high-quality math and science teachers to the Chicago Pubic Schools system. Baxter Corporation invested $5 million to help fund a new biotechnology center at Chicago Public Schools’ Lindblom Science and Math Academy in the Englewood community, including new science lab equipment, to fund two new math and science charter schools in Chicago, and to help expand a math and science teacher development program with the Illinois Institute of Technology. Abbott Labs is helping to fund the after school Science37 program, which provides high-quality science learning opportunities to Chicago Public Schools students outside of school hours. But support for these types of programs need to be a part of the federal government’s permanent way of thinking, and not just during a recession, if we are to keep moving forward. Unless we act with innovation and creativity to improve our schools and develop our workforce, we risk losing our place [as a] major participant in the global economy.

The time for studies and speeches have passed. We’ve had enough of them. What we need now is action and decision making. And that’s why in Chicago we have made a strong education system our city’s priority for over 15 years. And yes, you can debate what our next steps should be in Chicago, but no one can ignore that we have improved our schools and that as a city, Chicago’s future is brighter because of the steps we have taken and continue to take today.

With an eye toward the future, we are also understanding the comprehensive restructuring of the Chicago Public School career and technical education program that will reorganize 250 non-standardized career programs into 80 college and career academies at 35 high schools over the next seven years. Similar charter schools have and should continue to play a role in helping our young people reach their full potential. Parents should have a choice of schools and approaches. The choice that charter schools provide elevates our standards and accountability across the board. Charter schools are community schools. They serve young people from every neighborhood, in many cases offering opportunities unavailable elsewhere.

Along these lines, we have also began reinventing our community college system, so we provide our students with far more sophisticated job training, as well as higher education. Cheryl Hyman, who I named as City Colleges chancellor last year to carry out this reinvention, is one of your afternoon panelist today, so you will hear more about our City Colleges’ vision for the future.

Taxpayers in Chicago have done, and continue to do their part in improving our education system. We have received responsibility for our public schools. We went to our taxpayers, expanded our plans and our vision, and they agreed to raise the taxes to help finance more than $5 billon in school construction and repair.

And beyond education, I believe that to succeed in the future cities must protect the environment and improve neighborhood quality of life. As many of you know, in Chicago the environment is a major component to our strategy to attract people and jobs, and to remain competitive in the global economy. So we have undertaken hundreds of initiatives aimed at making Chicago the most environmentally friendly city, not only in the nation, but in the world.

For example, we’ve rehabbed existing city buildings, constructed new ones, we’ve followed green building policies. Our Center for Green Technology was the first municipal building in the world to be awarded platinum rating by the U.S. Green Building Council. We have now more than 600 gardens and green roofs. They have been constructed or underway, covering more than seven million square feet of public and private buildings in Chicago. This helps reduce the amount of energy needed to cool all of our buildings. We’ve added more than 1,500 acres of open space throughout the city since 1998, installed 90 miles of landscape medians on major streets, created a Chicago Climate Action plan, a comprehensive and detailed strategy to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and address our climate change.

The future belongs to the cities that recognize that modern day men and women want to live in a metropolitan area because they offer more opportunities and more choices. People also want open space, nice parks, clean beaches, jogging paths, bike trails, flowers, trees, grass, and, of course, clean water. But as importantly, they want government that has managed in the most transparent and cost-effective way possible to protect our taxpayers. And I believe we’re doing that.

If the bad economy has brought one thing into focus, it is that our taxpayers are stretched beyond their means. We must do more to rethink the role of government and even restructure it to control cost and further and better serve the people.

And finally, if we are [to] continue moving forward in this city, we all must work together. I cannot emphasize that enough, because it is only by working together that we have accomplished so much in our city’s history. Much of the progress we have made in Chicago over the years happened because in everything we have tried to accomplish we have cast the widest possible net for ideas, and we have tried to improve every community in our city.

You can see the results just in Millennium Park, where the business and philanthropic community helped us create our internally acclaimed showplace for art, music, architecture, landscape design, and outdoor activities. This wonderful gathering place also guarantees revenue that is invested in our neighborhoods.

You can see it in the Chicago Recovery Partnership, in which 50 foundations from Chicago’s philanthropic community helped us maximize all of our federal economic stimulus resources and extend benefits beyond just the one large infusion of funding. You can see it in Chicago Career Tech, a new program created with business partners that helps us retrain middle-income laid off workers for technology-based jobs of the future.

Urban centers are where the greatest concentration of people will live in the 21st Century, so beyond our city limits, we must make cultural connections, expanding our working relationship so we can thrive in the global economy.

The visit two weeks ago by President Hu of the People’s Republic of China was very gratifying because of all the hard work we have done in recent years to build cultural and economic connections between Chicago and China. We also established a significant connection with the Arab World through focusing forums held here and in Jordan and in Morocco with U.S. and Arab mayors in the last three years. Similar, we have hosted conferences that brought together mayors throughout the Western Hemisphere.

In 1960, my father signed the first Sister City agreement with Warsaw, Poland. Since then, Chicago has established official relationships with a total of 28 cities in almost every region of the world. We’ve organized a Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway initiative to bring local leaders in the U.S. and Canada together to work toward spending – speeding Great Lakes protection and the recognition efforts that have been progressing far too slowly. Of course in the restoration area in the protection of Great Lakes, that has become the highest priority of mayors throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

In 1997, I organized the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus here in [the] Chicago area, a partnership that now serves as a model for other regions throughout the country. Mayors understand that if cities are going to maximize their potential for economic growth and innovation, then federal and state governments must be willing to invest in them. So a spirit of collaboration must include them, even though it can be a challenge to hold the federal government’s attention more than ten minutes. To me – It will change. I hope so. To me, these are the things future mayors and others must do to ensure long-term viability of cities, develop and maintain a broad set of partnerships that give their decisions the strength of many instead of the uncertainty of just a few.

[It’s been my] great privilege to serve as your mayor. I’ve said to people [who ask,] How do you feel when very shortly you’ll be leaving office? [that] every moment of public life I’ve enjoyed. And I’ve had the privilege of serving not only the people of the City of Chicago, [but] the county of Cook as state’s attorney. And to me there’s no greater calling than public service and so many opportunities that you have both in the private sector, non-for-profit, and in government. It is important for all of us to roll up our sleeves and give back our time and energy in order to improve not just our city, but our nation and the world. Thank you very much.