Mayor Daley, U. of Chicago students “adopting” Gary

Former Chicago Mayor Daley and students from the University of Chicago have teamed up to help Gary, Indiana:

With guidance from Daley and Freeman-Wilson, University of Chicago graduate students are trying to figure out what to do with Gary’s abandoned buildings and how to promote greater use of technology to help the city accomplish more with less, among other projects.

The hope is that the students will go on to help other cities after graduation. If successful, the U. of C.-Gary partnership could be replicated in other industrial towns grappling with decline…

Last quarter’s class was divided into three project teams. One team is cataloging Gary’s abandoned buildings, which are magnets for crime and eyesores that further depress surrounding property values. Another is trying to recruit pro bono legal and consulting services for the city. And a third is trying to craft a strategy to clean up front stoops and empty lots one block at a time. This quarter’s class also is tackling untapped funding opportunities and economic development…

In Gary, Daley is applying things he learned as Chicago’s mayor. One example is helping Gary residents take advantage of the earned income tax credit, a tax benefit for the working poor that many don’t know exists. Taking the credit puts money back in people’s pockets, which prompts spending, which boosts the economy.

This sounds like a good project for graduate students who could get hands-on experience. In terms of helping the entire city of Gary, I’m more skeptical. If done well, someone like Mayor Daley and the prestigious University of Chicago can help connect Gary to people who are experts in certain areas (providing social capital) and also monetary capital. But, as the article notes, plenty of outsiders have tried to help Gary before…

Another question that comes to my mind is how Chicago and Gary are connected and whether a stronger partnership between the two cities could help. Gary is an industrial suburb that helped provide some of the materials that helped make Chicago great and also provided a port away from the city. But, such conversations would then have to include talk about things like shared infrastructure and perhaps the Gary Airport (does Chicago want this kind of competition?). Gary is part of the Chicago region and a metropolitan focus could help a lot here.

I’ve noted the work of Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson before.

Walmart increases nearby home values

The Atlantic reports on a University of Chicago working paper (subscription req.) that having a Walmart nearby noticeably affects housing prices:

Home values within a half mile of a new store got a 2 and 3 percent boost. Within a mile, the store pushed up values 1 to 2 percent. That translated to a $7,000 average bump for nearby homes and $4,000 for houses a little further away.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a subscription and thus cannot look at the paper directly, but I have a few questions:

1.  Do other big-box retailers (e.g., Target) similarly boost nearby housing prices?
1a.  Is Walmart’s boost larger?

2.  Is there a corresponding drop in housing prices if/when a particular Walmart closes (often only to reopen at a new location a few miles away)?
2a.  If yes, is the drop greater than the boost?

Chicago Tribune suggests the University of Chicago is the birthplace of sociology

In a column about how Chicago could better market itself to the world, there is a bit about sociology at the University of Chicago:

Chicago’s reputation has consistently lagged behind reality. Who among us traveling abroad hasn’t mentioned his or her hometown only to hear: “Al Capone! Bang, bang!” It happened to me in Beirut, while the Israeli army and Yasser Arafat’s forces were battling in 1982. Lebanon’s capital has been fought over so many times that keen-eyed inhabitants would point to pockmarked walls, dating them as “old damage” or “new damage,” depending on how recently tanks had shelled them…

Perhaps an image consultant can give us a municipal makeover. Chicago’s motto, “Urbs in Horto” — City in a Garden — is too namby-pamby. It doesn’t inspire anyone to grab the next flight to O’Hare.

Gilding the lily doesn’t work either, as the University of Chicago found when it hired a hotshot adman who pitched it as a “fun” campus. You can’t sell the birthplace of atomic energy and sociology with an “Animal House” image.

The birthplace of sociology is at the University of Chicago? A few qualifiers might be in order:

1. Perhaps the birthplace of American sociology. Other schools might want to debate this.

2. Perhaps the first academic department in sociology. Again, I don’t know the exact history here.

But to suggest that sociology was founded at the University of Chicago misses a lot of the early thinkers, like Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Spencer, that helped make that early department possible. Of course, the U of C department has had a large impact on sociology but the founding claim is off.

Side note: this reminds me of some of the international visitors my dad used to host in Chicago. They, too, were very interested in Chicago’s mob past and wanted to see places where Al Capone and others had been.