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The New Chicago Way

The New Chicago Way

Lessons from Other Big Cities

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Ed Bachrach and Austin Berg


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
288 pages, 6 x 9, 5 illustrations


Additional Materials


Flier     Bachrach & Berg interview on Chicago Tonight     "How to Fix Chicago" U.S. News

"Mayor's race gives us a shot at a new Chicago Way. Here are 4 ways to start" Chicago Tribune"Chicago's political system is set up to produce corruption" The Economist

"Time To Reform Chicago Governance With A City Charter" Law360

"Curing the Chicago Way" Chicago Magazine

"Is is Time to Cancel 'Alderman'?" Chicago Magazine

"The Chicago Way, Kass on the Street (02/16/19)" WGN Radio

"Some voters, experts cold on Chicago's February election tradition" WGN TV

"TOPIC: The New Chicago Way: Lessons from Other Big Cities Digs deep into the culture of Chicago Politics, with Co-Authors: Ed Bachrach and Austin Berg" WGN Radio

"Commentary: Move to an elected school board, Chicago--but get it right" Chicago Tribune

"Burke's Loss is Lightfoot's Gain" Chicago Magazine

"The New Chicago Way: Lessons from Other Big Cities" Cato Institute Daily Podcast

About the Book

For all the wrong reasons, a national spotlight is shining on Chicago. The city has become known for its violence, police abuse, parent and teacher unrest, population decline, and mounting municipal and pension debt. The underlying problem, contend Ed Bachrach and Austin Berg, is that deliberative democracy is dead in the city. Chicago is home to the last strongman political system in urban America. The mayor holds all the power, and any perceived checks on mayoral control are often proven illusory. Rash decisions have resulted in poor outcomes. The outrageous consequences of unchecked power are evident in government failures in elections, schools, fiscal discipline, corruption, public support for private enterprise, policing, and more.
Rather than simply lament the situation, criticize specific leaders, or justify an ideology, Bachrach and Berg compare the decisions about Chicago’s governance and finances with choices made in fourteen other large U.S. cities. The problems that seem unique to Chicago have been encountered elsewhere, and Chicagoans, the authors posit, can learn from the successful solutions other cities have embraced.
Chicago government and its citizens must let go of the past to prepare for the future, argue Bachrach and Berg. A future filled with demographic, technological, and economic change requires a government capable of responding and adapting. Reforms can transform the city. The prescriptions for change provided in this book point toward a hopeful future: the New Chicago Way.


Ed Bachrach is the retired CEO of Bachrach Clothing and the founder and president of the Center for Pension Integrity in Chicago. His op-eds have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Sun Times.
Austin Berg, an award-winning writer, is the director of content strategy at the Illinois Policy Institute. He contributes opinion columns to the Illinois News Network and wrote the documentary film Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics.


"The book could easily be used as a college textbook on city management in a political science department. In one volume, the authors collect information and analysis about the key issues with which Chicago is grappling. It explains them simply and succinctly but comprehensively and in detail."—Jay Lehr, The Heartland Institute

“This book is a thoughtful recitation of the problems of one of our greatest cities. If more intelligent, articulate citizens like Ed Bachrach and Austin Berg would take the time and make the effort to understand and publicize the fiscal realities, we would at least have a chance of finding real public support for solutions. This book is an urgent plea for change. It should be read.”—Richard Ravitch, former lieutenant governor of New York
The New Chicago Way reveals how serious Chicago’s government problems are and how they are related to each other. More important, it provides a comprehensive solution to those problems. It should be read by scholars, public interest groups, and the public.”—Dick Simpson, author of The Good Fight: Life Lessons from a Chicago Progressive

“Chicago is unusual among major American cities in not having a city charter to allow voters to shape and reshape their governance structures.  This volume provides a good case for considering a home rule charter as a vehicle to consider a wide range of the best possible governance options. “—Dr. Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State Los Angeles

"The produce of exceptional scholarship in terms of research, organization and presentation, "The New Chicago Way: Lessons from Other Big Cities" is an extraordinary and seminal study that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking." —Carl Logan, Midwest Book Review