Our Kind of Town Chicago Is

PERSONALLY, THE TWO MAYORS could not be further apart. The compact Mr. Bloomberg is the accidental mayor, a politician whose party allegiance is a matter of convenience, and one who is rich enough not to care that it is. The meatier Mr. Daley is the son of Mayor Richard J. Daley, who was in office for 21 years—a record that Daley fils, now in his 19th year, is likely to break. Daley the younger grew up in a working class neighborhood and had his Democratic affiliation denied him as a result of some pansy-ass legal change that made all primaries in Chicago nonpartisan (a change that Mr. Bloomberg unsuccessfully sought for New York City also). He still is a member of the local and national Democratic Party, however, and has acquired an image of a managerial mayor only to the extent that a man named Daley is able to.

“Daley is much more of a political animal; Bloomberg is much more of a businessman,” said Dick Simpson, a former member of the Chicago City Council who teaches political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “In New York, there is no longer a Tammany machine; there is still a Daley machine.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s mimicry began early: Without any political roots, he had to rely on those of others. In the first days of his first term, he resurrected advisers from the Lindsay and Dinkins administrations, and was even considering hiring Paul Vallas, Chicago’s education chief, as schools chancellor. (Philadelphia hired him first.) Mr. Vallas had been the one who ran the new Chicago public schools, which Mayor Daley had assumed direct control over. Chicago’s model became widely imitated around the country. In fact, Mayor Giuliani had even tried to get rid of the Board of Education. But it was Mayor Bloomberg who, his first year in office, succeeded.

“Sometimes I think the thing about the Bloomberg administration is that there is this attitude that if someone has a good idea, we are not the least bit reluctant to use it and give credit where credit is due,” said Mr. Doctoroff. “Of course, it’s important for a city to be an innovator. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t more efficient to borrow someone else’s ideas and adapt them. It can show you the way politically. It can show you the way technologically.”

Mr. Doctoroff in fact went to law school at the University of Chicago in the early 1980’s. Andrew Alper, the former president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, went to college and business school there. But neither say that their backgrounds made them more receptive to the winds from the Windy City.

“The two mayors share a pragmatic approach,” said Mr. Alper, now chairman of EQA Partners, a hedge-fund company. “Beyond that, I don’t think there is any business relationship.”

What coordination came about usually occurred at lower levels of government. Ms. Fuchs, who worked on Mr. Bloomberg’s first election, recalled that the candidate came up with the idea for 311 during the campaign, while looking at page after page of phone numbers for city agencies. But he was following a well-traveled route: President Clinton proposed the number to relieve 911 operators of nonemergency police calls. Baltimore adopted it first. In 1999, Chicago configured 311 to field not just nonemergency police calls but all nonemergency calls for city government, later winning an award from Harvard’s Institute for Government Innovation as a result.

According to Mr. Daley’s press office, delegations came from New York to visit Chicago on two occasions about four years ago to consult on 311, and a delegation from Chicago went to New York to help implement it. Mr. Bloomberg inaugurated 311 in New York in March 2003.

The Bloomberg administration has also consciously mimicked Chicago’s efforts, dating back to Mayor Harold Washington’s administration in the mid-1980’s, to keep condo developers from pushing out still-vibrant manufacturers around the center of town. In 1990, Mayor Daley implemented the first “planned manufacturing districts” in which zoning would prohibit any conversion of industrial space for residential or commercial uses.

“I went out there for three or four days and had the opportunity to visit two or three of the planned manufacturing districts and spoke with my counterpart there,” said Carl Hum, the outgoing director of the mayor’s Office for Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses, who will start as president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in September. “It was definitely recognized as the leading city in regards to industrial retention and had a lot of the same parallels to New York.”

Early last year, Mayor Bloomberg declared 16 areas around New York City, such as parts of Bushwick and Red Hook, as “industrial business zones”—which are less stringent versions of Chicago’s planned manufacturing districts.