Daley as Patron of the Arts

Really? Mayor Daley? I guess one could argue that the downtown has been revitalized since the 1990s, certainly more after-dark options in the Loop than there used to be.

Wicked TRI-X 400

The downtown Chicago Theater District honored Mr. Daley on its 10th anniversary, led by Broadway in Chicago, the potent operator of downtown theaters, as well as by the Goodman Theatre and the 250-theater Chicago League of Theatres. The celebratory tone came amid the mayor’s difficult year, replete with an awful economy, budget travails, the suicide of a top ally and his lowest popularity ratings in years.

“No one has worked harder and risked more than Mayor Daley,” declared Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago.

Mr. Raizin alluded to the Loop’s distinctly melancholy state not long ago — before the refurbishing of several theaters like the Auditorium, the expansion of Loop university campuses, and new restaurants — and the benefits of the revitalization for his firm. They include annual audiences of 1.7 million, a decade of payrolls totaling $100 million and the impact on other sectors, like hotels, with 6.7 percent of local hotel occupancy attributed to people coming to town to see his shows, like the musical “Billy Elliott.”

Some Daley critics might have winced upon hearing Mr. Raizin present the case for tax increment financing, or TIFs. They’re a development tool, used nationwide, that Daley has relied on to, critics say, benefit developers at the expense of other public entities such as public schools and parks. They’ve been essential to the downtown theaters, he said.

And if the activity in the Loop at night leaves a lot to be desired, you cannot deny the failure of previous mayors to turn matters around. Remember Jane Byrne’s ignominious State Street Mall gambit?

Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman, called what has happened with the theater district “a signal achievement in urban development and private-public partnerships,” lauding the mayor’s “vision, tenacity and courage.”

Mr. Daley’s arts record is solid and goes well beyond the time he stood on the “Jersey Boys” stage and exhorted Chicagoans to go watch theater. For all the caricature of the monosyllabic, middle-brow politician, the mayor has been a force, in part due to his world travels and a propensity to borrow the ideas of others.

Whether it’s fiberglass cows on street corners, the handiwork of world famous architects or teaching Chinese in the public schools, the mayor has a sophisticated sensibility akin to a plodding baseball pitcher’s sneaky changeup — it’s frequently missed.

(click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – Daley Takes Center Stage as Patron of the Arts – NYTimes.com.)

Cadillac Palace BW

So I guess let the Mayor have his moment, he won’t be in office much longer, doling out the TIF dollars.

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