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Doing more with less: cities seek solutions

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White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, and Greg Brown, co-CEO of Motorola, discuss the need for city-business partnerships. “You just can’t do it on public dollars anymore,” Emanuel said.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and other global leaders emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships in overcoming economic challenges Tuesday at the sixth annual Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum.

“Governments have to do more with less,” Emanuel said. “You just can’t do it on public dollars anymore.”

Emanuel joined leaders of more than 100 cities and local governments at the forum, “New Partnerships for a New Economy: Driving Innovation in Cities.”

Building partnerships with private foundations, businesses and other local governments can help cities when public resources diminish, Emanuel said.

He stressed the importance of investing in city colleges as workers return to school to boost their skills, as well as looking outside the city limits for solutions.

“Cities and suburbs should work together, thinking on a more regional basis as an opportunity to partner up,” he said.

“Cities should be thinking of solving problems in a metropolitan fashion, rather than urban versus suburban.”

The federal government tried to step in quickly after the economic crisis began by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, but local governments have the clearest picture of what constituents need, Emanuel said.

“The local level knows best where it needs to spend these precious dollars — whether that’s on new projects, maintenance or upgrades,” he said.

“What the president is looking at down the road is, which projects are of national importance.”

In another panel discussion, U of I Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy encouraged leaders to incorporate sustainability into city planning.

Kennedy is president of Merchandise Mart Properties, which received LEED silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

More city workers, especially those younger than 30, are choosing to work for companies where the environment is a priority, Kennedy said.

“In this city, being sustainable matters,” he said. “Sustainability and economic recruitment go together – you can’t separate those. If you have a sustainable building, you have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Kennedy highlighted the importance of supporting higher education.

“There are no challenges a city faces that can’t be cured by a strong economy,” he said. “Look at where job growth comes from — most comes from small businesses, which are started by college graduates. We need to reinvest in universities.”

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley echoed Kennedy’s support for education in the day’s third panel discussion.

“Education is the great equalizer and it should be the top priority,” he said. “What you have to do is bring the business community and educators together.”

It’s important for mayors and local government leaders to get creative in the face of challenges like the economic crisis, Daley said.

“If we are to succeed, it’s critical for all of us to embrace the future with new ideas and new thinking,” he said. “It’s more important than ever not to let today’s problems stand in the way of having a vision for the future.”

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares welcomed the leaders to UIC.

“If our cities are to flourish, then we must commit ourselves to working together in synergistic partnerships,” she said.

“In doing so, we will forge a path for the next generation and the ones after that.”


Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, left, with Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and U of I Interim President Stanley Ikenberry. “Education is the great equalizer and it should be top priority,” Daley said.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, Interim President Stanley Ikenberry

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