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    Entries in Chicago (2)

    Sunday
    Oct092016

    Is Kurt Summers the Future of Chicago Politics?

    The city’s young treasurer has turned a moribund office into a hive of activity, fueling speculation that he has higher aspirations.
    BY  JULY 2016

    On a cool late-spring evening in the Wild 100s of Chicago, an area on the far South Side known for its gang wars, Kurt Summers Jr. is addressing a small crowd gathered inside a once-gleaming 1920s retail building. There used to be a beauty school here; later the building housed a counseling service and a check cashing store. But even those businesses are gone. This community, built by middle- and working-class Dutch families 15 miles from downtown, never recovered from the closing of the South Chicago steel plants in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it’s a symbol of violent crime and urban decay.

    But to Summers, who grew up on the South Side, violence is only a symptom of the community’s real dilemma. “We don’t have a violence problem in Chicago, we have an economic problem in Chicago,” he tells the crowd of about two dozen residents, who applaud in agreement.

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    Monday
    Feb012016

    The Evolving Job Description (and Requirements) of a CFO

    Chief financial officers used to be concerned with just balancing the books. But today’s CFOs have taken on a higher role.
    BY  FEBRUARY 2016

    Kenneth Rust is a key player in redeveloping an old post office in downtown Portland, Ore. Denise Olson is pushing new technology to save Phoenix money on procurement. Jim Beard figured out how to update and expand Atlanta’s water and sewer systems while avoiding a scheduled rate hike.

    These tasks require different kinds of know-how, but Rust, Olson and Beard all have the same job title: chief financial officer. It’s a position that has morphed in recent decades. Where CFOs were once primarily in charge of numbers -- making sure the books were balanced, bills paid and audits clean -- they now are called on to be strategists with an eye to developing the city’s economy. And where CFOs came to the job touting experience in a local or state finance department (and perhaps a stint as city controller as well), they now hail from more varied backgrounds. Just as in the private sector, many public enterprises are looking for CFOs with talents that include creative thinking, communication skills and long-range planning -- and for good reason. Today, just about everything a municipality does is either under the CFO’s purview or at least under his or her watchful eye. “Almost every major decision the city makes,” Beard says, “I get to be in the room.”

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