Chicagoans should be grateful for NATO summit in their city

I realize the NATO summit may be a hassle for several days (and the weeks of media hype) but it reinforces a point that Chicagoans often worry about: Chicago is indeed a world-class city, #7 on a recent list. This ranking, meaning that Chicago is a top ten city in the world (!), has both advantages and disadvantages. Even though this ranking may include short periods of difficulty, millions of metropolitan-area residents have benefited in the past and will benefit in the future.

NATO blunder or deep-seated Chicago wish to be recognized as the capital of Illinois

I know a lot of people were having fun at NATO’s expense yesterday after it made several errors in a video ahead of the upcoming summit in Chicago. One of them was particularly interesting:

A video about Chicago posted Thursday on the website of NATO’s in-house television news network,, could leave leaders fumbling the facts at the international water cooler.

First, there’s the matter of Illinois’ capital city.

“More than 60 heads of state and government will meet to discuss crucial matters of security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” a narrator’s voice says as the five-minute video plays panning shots of Chicago. “And so, the leaders of the member nations of the organization created by the 1949 Washington Treaty will meet in the capital of Illinois this time.”

What in the name of Abraham Lincoln? The summit was moved to Springfield?

While the capital of Illinois is indeed Springfield, I wonder if this doesn’t hint at a secret wish of Chicagoans for the city, whose region has roughly 70% of the state’s population, to be the actual capital. As the most populous city as well as the economic powerhouse for the state, why not simply move the government operations there as well? Doesn’t Chicago effectively function as the capital anyway? Now I know official state business takes place in Springfield but think about the power and influence politicians from the Chicago area wield. Think of the economic impact Chicagoland has on the state. Think of the images many Chicago area residents have of those who live “downstate.”

An argument could also be made about the need to move capitals to reflect changing realities. Springfield wasn’t the first capital in Illinois and the earlier capitals were all further south, reflecting where the population of the state was at the time. Indeed, Chicago was a small community into the late 1830s and northeastern Illinois was relatively unsettled compared to the rich farmland further south. Geographically, Springfield made sense. I think you may be able to apply some of this geographic logic to a few other state capitals as well such as Albany compared to New York City and Sacramento compared to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Going even further, Washington D.C. emerged as a new city because of a compromise between different factions (Alexander Hamilton’s wished for the nation’s capital to be a big city, New York City specifically). Imagine what a powerhouse New York City could be in global city rankings if it also had Washington D.C.’s share of governmental influence? (Ironically, the United Nations, the foremost global governance organization, is based in New York City even as the capital of the United States is not.)

Granted, you would expect an organization like NATO to get the capital of Illinois correct. But perhaps their error simply reflects what Chicago leaders think…