At NLC’s State Municipal League staff workshop in Chicago last week, former mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley spoke to attendees about the importance of public service and the need for cities to come together to affect change.
Invoking the theme of NLC’s upcoming Congress of Cities, “Cities Lead,” Mayor Daley stressed that cities are at the forefront of issues such as sustainability, alternative energy, and innovative use of public-private partnerships. For example, Chicago’s renowned Millennium Park was developed as a result of a public-private partnership and now draws an estimated 4 million tourists a year to the area.
Daley served as mayor of the City of Chicago for 22 years, stepping down only two years ago. He described his favorite part of the job as getting out into the community on Saturdays, because it provided an opportunity to see citizens working on behalf of their communities, organizing neighborhood clean-ups, serving as little league coaches and volunteering in numerous other ways to improve their neighborhoods. Mayor Daley noted that Saturdays provided him an invaluable perspective on what was important to Chicago residents.
This perspective informed his policy decisions and motivated him to build coalitions between various constituent groups since many of their needs and concerns, such as public safety and education, were the same.
At the end of the day, change has to come from local government. As Mayor Daley aptly remarked, “local government is the future.” As the nation becomes more urbanized, it is cities, large and small alike, that must push for the change they want to see at the state and federal levels. NLC works with its members and 49 state municipal leagues in a “funnel-up” partnership to shape policy decisions that will improve quality of life for all city residents.