WITH JORDANNA THIGPEN
Photo by Jack
Chicago - the second best city in America
By Jordanna Thigpen
March 17, 2006
I returned this week from exhibiting at the National Halloween
& Party Show in Chicago. You really haven't lived until you've
spent a week checking out the latest in Halloween costumes (looks
like we're in for a sexy Halloween), trying out this year's haunted
house attractions, and involuntarily suffering through repeated
refrains of Terror & Mystery sound effects and breathing
a week's worth of fog machine effluent, all while trying to field
customers at your booth. Oh, and getting the autograph of the
first Jason from Friday the 13th (remember the lake scene?)
So escaping to downtown Chicago, and touring some outlying urban
areas, was really a blessing. Why is it the second best city in
The roads and freeways are in good condition. Now Chicago sees
some pretty heavy winters. Snow and ice wreak havoc on roads,
and so do semis filled with America's finest cattle, chemicals,
and grain. Yet, the roads are in better shape than the Bay Area's.
How is that possible?
The city is on track - and according to Mayor Daley, dedicated
- to being the most environmentally friendly city in the world.
Mayor Daley is an amazingly progressive environmentalist. The
City Hall has a rooftop garden with 20,000 plants. The City has
adopted the Chicago
Standard that outlines strict green building standards for
Back in 2004, the City entered into a court settlement with Commonwealth
Edison to create a $100 million fund for green buildings. The
city even has a Center for Green Technology, housed in a building
that is the only platinum LEED-certified municipal building in
Chicago has so many innovative programs! Being a visitor and
looking at the list at City Hall is like starving in a candy store.
Programs for landlord training, creating public art, a Greencorps
Chicago program which conducts workforce development for greening
projects, a Façade Rebate Program which is unbelievably
managed by neighborhood business organizations, and a CitySpace
Program which is a partnership between several public entities
to convert public land into open space.
The city has dedicated substantial resources to programs which
help the small business community. Chicago is doing so many things
right, and it's run from the top-down, so there's actual cogent
order in the government.
We're talking about Illinois, I realize. There are still problems.
Archaically, people still smoke in restaurants in the suburbs,
and at bars, so you cannot sit at a restaurant's bar and enjoy
a meal. There's lots of Republicans. I even sat next to one on
the ride back, a glycol salesman who confided he was concerned
about the breathtaking incompetence of Bush Inc, and would consider
voting for a Democrat in 2008.
The property taxes are some of the highest in the country, according
to bitter local residents (although the city and state have more
resources to improve society as a result.)
People do not seem as healthy as Californians. A lot of suburbs
are really Anglo, and racial tensions are unresolved. In the words
of a local columnist, the city is world famous for political corruption.
And they might be beautiful, but federally protected migratory
Canadian geese are apparently filthy pests causing problems at
But we cannot forget that Chicago's progressive spirit has given
us Senator Barack Obama, Mayor Daley, and former Governor Ryan
(the jury just started deliberating in his corruption trial, but
he put a moratorium on the death penalty when he was governor,
so he deserves special mention.)
It is a land of the most hopeful, most compassionate, most amazing
leaders we've yet seen in our current landscape. Senator Obama
is hyponotically inspiring and will be our first African-American
Mayor Daley toils pragmatically with pure iron singing in his
veins. Ryan will live in history for having the sense to stop
the racist, broken death penalty system.
I must finally note that everyone is friendly. Wherever
you go, people are smiling and ready to help. People of both sexes
are courteous and hold the door for each other. Straight men actually
smile at women! A revelation for a female. Is it bourgeois to
care about this? Yes, but it's still delightful, just like Chicago
District 6 resident Jordanna Thigpen is an attorney, small
business owner and a Commissioner with the City's Small Business
Commission. You can usually find her at work and she doesn't get
to Ocean Beach often enough. Email Jordanna at email@example.com.
here for Thigpen archive.