In the past week, Chicago has been awash with members of the national political press corps, who waxed enthusiastically about its lakefront, deep dish pizza and friendliness.
Now, with the Illinois primary over (Mitt Romney won, by the way), all those journalists are on planes out of town.
And that might be the last time they think about Chicago until this fall’s general election – unless they’re back to cover the NATO summit in May.
The situation sums up Chicago’s challenge in being considered a world class city, writes Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune.
“We want the world to think well of us all,” he says in his column today. “A greater problem, perhaps, is that too many people don’t think of us, well, at all.”
Rosenthal talked to Rowan Bridge, a BBC Radio producer who has also lived in Washington, D.C. “I don’t think most people in the U.K.have any idea where Chicago is,” Bridge told Rosenthal.
“Most people in England think the United States consists of three cities — New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles — because they’re the ones that run the media, they’re the ones where the celebrities hang out, they’re the ones where the politicians are.”
This week, a delegation led by Gov. Pat Quinn and Amy Rule, the wife of Chicago Mayor Rahm, is in Brussels, drumming up excitement at NATO about all the things Chicago has to offer. They’re bound to mention parks and performances and Garrett’s Popcorn and its great chefs.
But all this sparked a discussion on the Changing Gears team: what makes a city a world class city? Here are a few criteria that we came up with.
International activity. To be world-class, a city has to be the international center of something — the place you have to go in your field, where all things stem from. Think of global financial capitals such as New York, London and Hong Kong, or political capitals such as Washington and Beijing.
Chicago is a player in many fields, from airlines to the legal world to food, but it does not seem to be the go-to place in any one area. (If you disagree, tell us in comments).
Culture. Los Angeles is clearly an global entertainment capital. So is London. Paris is the center of the art and fashion worlds. Milan matters when it comes to music, Rome and Shanghai for all those things put together.
Chicago has a theater scene, and a food scene, and a music scene, and plenty of movies are made there. And when Oprah did her show there, Chicago drew people from all strata of global society. All those things are elements of a global city, but again, Chicago doesn’t inarguably lead in any of them (although I know I’ll get an argument from some foodies).
Location. The Tribune’s Rosenthal hits on this in his column this morning and our Changing Gears team agrees. Chicago’s location between the two coasts simply hurts its world class candidacy.
When people come to the U.S. from overseas, they can work in visits to a variety of places just by sticking to the east and west coasts. Getting to Chicago takes effort. Visitors from anywhere outside the Midwest have to fly there, where it’s possible to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Las Vegas, or take a train from New York to Washington.
There’s one thing that Chicago has in spades when it comes to a world class city: pride of place. Almost everyone who’s from Chicago or lived there has warm feelings about it, especially NPR’s Scott Simon, a faithful cheerleader who even named one of his books, “Windy City.”
But when it comes to world class status, as Rosenthal puts it in his column this morning, “that’s not enough.”
What are your views about Chicago? Does it deserve to be considered a world class city? What does it need to do to get there?