Chicago, Illinois

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Harold Washington was Chicago's first African American mayor (1983-87) and as a reform mayor who presided over the death of "the machine as we knew it" in the face of massive city council resistance -- a period called "council wars" that occupied the first two years of his mayoralty.

Washington's innovative, neighborhood-oriented economic policy, is less well known. A set of local activists tied to University of Illinois-Chicago professor and city planner Robert Mier had created the Rehab Network and the Community Workshop on Economic Development (CWED), and their ideas infused Washington's campaign and administration.

Washington and Mier -- who became Commissioner of Economic Development -- combined a neighborhood focus with an overtly redistributive approach to economic policy, promoting industrial retention in response to the epidemic of plant closures and job losses that had affected Chicago and the Midwest in the period before and after the 1983 election. Administrators adopted principles like "jobs not real estate" as economic development policy, and that city neighborhood development programs should be delegated to neighborhood organizations, rather than administered from city hall.

Washington died at his desk in City Hall in November 1987. His successor as acting Mayor, City Council member Eugene Sawyer, continued Mier and other administrators from the Washington administration until a special election in April 1989. Richard M. Daley, who won that election, had campaigned against the neighborhood oriented development policies but he now faced an already organized constituency of neighborhood groups and small factory operators and eventually supported at least some of Washington's initiatives through a mayoralty that lasted 22 more years.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 12
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    Steel and Southeast Chicago: Reasons and Opportunities for Industrial Renewal, A Research Report to the Mayor's Task Force on Steel and Southeast Chicago
    Markusen, Ann; Lerner, Joshua; Patton, Wendy; Ross, Jean; Schneider, Judy (Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwestern University, 1985-11)
    Reports the research effort by Chicago’s Task Force on Steel and Southeast Chicago (1984-86) done under the direction of Prof. Ann Markusen. The report describes the evolving structure of the U.S. and Chicago steel industry characterized by increasing differentiation as functions are transferred to smaller, independent units like steel service centers taking on part of the processing and wholesaling to consumers like fabricators, the automobile, farm equipment and fabricators generally. It finds basic steel production challenged by technological changes but fundamentally viable, and essential to the health of the sector overall. Facing other options like “bowing out” of steel production; or “bidding down” costs, the authors argue that “building on the basics” is the better course.
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    Building the Bridge to the High Road: Expanding Participation and Democracy in the Economy to Build Sustainable Communities
    Swinney, Dan (Center for Labor and Community Research, 2000)
    Describes the evolution of the Center for Labor and Community Research from Swinney’s 1970s practice as a shop floor labor organizer and toward a realization that changes in overall business structure had destroyed the stable environment in which redistributive labor demands had much promise. The result is the proposal for a more broadly inclusive organization of labor, business and community elements toward s “high road” economy through instruments like employee buy-outs and a focus on high value added products.
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    Building on the Basics: The Final Report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Steel and Southeast Chicago
    City of Chicago (City of Chicago, Department of Economic Development, 1986)
    Chicago Mayor Harold Washington introduced this 44 page report as an “inventory of recommendations” coming from the city’s Task Force on Steel and Southeast Chicago (1984-1986). The scope was expansive. There was equal focus on revitalization of the large basic steel producers – five mills that had employed tens of thousands of workers as late as the mid 1970s – and the regeneration of the Southeast Chicago area and the prospects for its population and labor force. As to steel production, there was much attention to the use of research institutions like the Argonne Laboratory to be leaders in steel production technology; and for the city to take the lead in national policies toward the industry. Relying on the substantial research by city staff, the Report also pointed to the large numbers of firms and substantial labor resources in ancillary steel related activities – steel service firms, already employing over 11 thousand seemed bound to increase in numbers due to changes in manufacturing practice in major steel-consuming industries.
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    Harold Washington and the Neighborhoods
    Wiewel, Wim; Clavel, Pierre (1992)
    When Wim Wiewel and Pierre Clavel co-edited Harold Washington and the Neighborhoods (Rutgers University Press, 1991), they also began videotaping interviews with potential chapter authors, initially (in 1989) with the video done by Elizabeth Montgomery. Wiewel took the lead on the video project, not only supporting Clavel's year co-editing the book at the Center for Urban Economic Development--he was director--but getting funding from the Chicago Community Trust for more discussion and video, including a small conference where Washington, City Hall officials, and community activists came together to reminisce about the experience. This video is the result. Footage of Washington speaking in campaigns and as Mayor is combined with clips from interviews and the conference, where participants include Maria Cerda, Donna Ducharme, Doug Gills, Elizabeth Hollander, John Kretzman, Greg Longhini, Robert Mier, Alton Miller, Kari Moe, Arturo Vazquez, Judy Walker, and Timothy Wright.
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    Making Policy With Communities: Research and Development in the Department of Economic Development
    Giloth, Robert (Rutgers University Press, 1991)
    Robert Giloth, who had been a community organizer in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, returned from PhD studies at Cornell in 1985 to assume the directorship of the Research and Development (R&D) Division within Robert Mier's Department of Economic Development. R&D was a unit free of service responsibilities; Giloth called it a "free space" and it was well situated to undertake studies of neighborhood initiated projects and interests: it undertook "collaborative special projects and problem solving with community groups [on] loan funds, resource recycling demonstrations, plant closing responses, business incubators, worker buyouts, and industry plans." Giloth suggests case studies in several of these topics.
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    Planned Manufacturing Districts: How a Community Initiative Became City Policy
    Ducharme, Donna (Rutgers University Press, 1991)
    Donna Ducharme was the founder and executive director of the Local Economic and Employment Development Council of Chicago's New City YMCA at the time of writing. She later became the Deputy Commissioner of Planning for Industrial Development (1993-96), and then CEO of the Delta Institute providing environmental planning services to local manufacturers and others. Ducharme had been working with unemployed youth at the New City YMCA in Chicago's Near Northside when she noticed factory jobs disappearing as a result of real estate development pressures. Gentrifying owners and developers wanted to convert old loft buildings, found factories noisy and nuisances, and factories were closing their doors in part because of neighborhood pressures. In the late 1970s, taking time to study planning at MIT she came upon the idea of using zoning powers to protect factory jobs. Upon her return to Chicago, Ducharme began advocating "Planned Manufacturing Districts" (PMDs) in the nearby Goose Island industrial corridor and other locations. In this piece she describes the years of advocacy that finally resulted in city hall support. The story is carried further, notably in Joel Rast's Remaking Chicago (1999), but this is where it began.
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    Decentralized Development: From Theory to Practice
    Mier, Robert; Moe, Kari (Rutgers University Press, 1991)
    Robert Mier had been Commissioner of Economic Development, Kari Moe in the Mayors Office in the Harold Washington administration. Here they draw on that experience for a well referenced and detailed account of the Department of Economic Development (DED). They describe its policy roots in Chicago's neighborhood movement. They reference the Chicago Workshop on Economic Development (CWED), Moe's role carrying that background into the Washington campaign and administration, while Mier points out his own experience teaching planning at UIC working with neighborhood organizations which later became "delegate agencies" working with DED. The chapter goes on to describe the struggle to create a neighborhood oriented and decentralized organizational culture in the face of Washington's political needs to succeed with "big bang" projects like the White Sox and Bears' stadiums, Wrigley Field lights, and a new central public library.
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    Chicago Politics and Community Development: A Social Movement Perspective
    Gills, Doug (Rutgers University Press, 1991)
    Doug Gills, with John Betancur, did a series of books and other pieces on community organizing in the aftermath of the Washington mayoralty in the Richard M. Daley administration in the 1990s. He had earlier done a dissertation on the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment, and co-authored a book on the election of Harold Washington in 1983. Here he provides a summary of the enlargement of support coalitions basic to that election.
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    The Washington Papers
    Committee to Elect Harold Washington Mayor of Chicago (Committee to Elect Harold Washington Mayor of Chicago, 1983)
    This is a campaign document, presented as a guide to the "transition" following Washington's victory in the general election in May 1983. Reflecting the work of numerous committees, the document lays out general goals in sections on Jobs, Health, Crime and Community Safety, Housing, Neighborhoods, Education, Women's Issues, Senior Issues, Art and Culture, Energy and Fiscal Policy.
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    "Chicago Works Together": 1984 Chicago Development Plan
    City of Chicago (City of Chicago, 1984-05)
    Commissioned by Mayor Harold Washington and directed by Economic Development Commissioner Robert Mier, who convened key department heads in a series of retreats in the winter and spring of 1984. Mier provided them with copies of the transition document The Washington Papers to emphasize themes like "jobs, not real estate" and "balanced development" that had emerged in community meetings and during the 1983 election campaign. Washington had caught the neighborhood sentiment and sought to reverse decades-long practices of the earlier Richard J. Daley political machine which gave priority to downtown and corporate interests over those of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Chicago Works Together was framed to implement the campaign commitments, and became a thematic guidepost supporting such efforts through a set of city agencies.