The City That Works
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I think [Richard J. Daley] made Chicago the most livable city in America. He paid attention. He stuck to his knitting. I use that word in our own business, too. He knew what they needed between neighborhoods, good streets, good highways, and water systems. And he did those things. He did the public works projects well.
James McDonough, Commissioner of Department of Streets and Sanitation, interview excerpt, September 17, 2003
Chicago owes much of its reputation as “the city that works” to Mayor Richard J. Daley’s administration. On his watch, the city prioritized neighborhood services. It added new garbage trucks, sewers, and street and alley lighting. It reorganized and enlarged police and fire protection. It furnished cleaner water with the Central District and the South Water Filtration Plants. The mayor oversaw city beautification projects. Examples included neighborhood cleanup campaigns and construction of one of Chicago’s first bicycle paths.
Daley also revitalized the downtown Loop area. He urged national and international corporations to establish headquarters there and facilitated construction of many of the buildings that have come to define the city’s skyline. Among those were the Standard Oil Building, the Hancock Building, and the Sears Tower.
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A number of city residents felt left out, believing that some businesses, workers, or neighborhoods benefited over others. But Daley’s defenders pointed to the vitality of Chicago’s business and cultural life during his administration, especially at a time when other major cities suffered losses of business and population declines.