Fifth annual Pritzker Forum on Global Cities discusses life post-Covid


Photo courtesy of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Financial Times and the Chicago Council of Global Affairs virtually held the fifth annual Pritzker Forum on Global Cities on Oct. 15.

The Financial Times and the Chicago Council of Global Affairs virtually held the fifth annual Pritzker Forum on Global Cities on Oct. 15. Under the lens of the Covid-19 pandemic, discussions were based on how cities are changing and what must be done to secure a sustainable future. 

Usually, the event is held in June, where leaders come together in addressing the challenges different cities face. The pandemic has forced the event to adopt a new format. From September of this year to June of 2021, the forum will be exploring how cities are dealing with Covid-19 through three stages: adapting governance, pursuing equity and reimagining resilience. This forum was centered on adapting governance. Local officials, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others in different states and around the world, discussed how the pandemic has affected their cities and what solutions need to be found through various levels of governance. 

“The Covid pandemic has changed global cities as we know them,” said Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. 

“We could connect global experts on urban issues in a way we never could if we all had to hop a plane to O’Hare,” said Peter Spiegel, the U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times in the opening remarks.

After Spiegel and Daadler made their remarks, Lightfoot concluded the opening part of the forum by addressing how she said Chicago is “fortunate” to have global partnerships to help fight the virus, while also saying the city is doing its best to provide equipment and resources for its population. Lightfoot submitted a video for the forum and didn’t attend it live. 

Since the forum took place, Covid-19 cases in and around Chicago have risen. According to CNN, Chicago is seeing a current positivity rate of 6.4 percent, which has grown from 4.6 percent last week. 

Naperville has also seen similar trends. According to, the number of cases in Naperville has increased by 122 in the past week, bringing it to a total of 1,577. Because of this, the Wall Street Journal reports increased restrictions and shutdowns across Illinois. 

DePaul junior and Naperville resident Becky Budds said the suburb has been trying to maintain a balance of keeping people in work while handling safety precautions. However, with another shutdown, more people are losing their jobs and aren’t seeing unemployment benefits. 

 “I think if they’re going to shut things down again, there should be compensation for people who are out of work yet again,” Budds said. 

Even with the pandemic heading into its seventh month, Budds has seen people disregarding safety guidelines, which has affected her as she lost another job, since those are the groups continuing the spread of Covid-19. Now, Budds works at a restaurant, and with winter weather coming and restrictions on indoor dining, many in the industry are uncertain of what their jobs will look like going forward. Still, Budds thinks that contact tracing is an effective method to stop the spread of the virus and a way to keep businesses open. 

“If cases are really coming from restaurants, we should track that and shut those specific places down instead of putting a blanket shutdown over all of them,” Budds said. 

The forum also touched upon what other cities across the nation are doing to manage the spread of Covid-19. It hosted the mayors of Miami, Florida, Seattle, Washington and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to share their perspectives on the current crisis. 

Francis X. Suarez, the mayor of Miami, had tested positive for Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic and isolated for 18 days until he got two negative tests. When asked on how the president should deal with his experience with the disease, Suarez gave his advice. 

“It’s imperative that you be transparent,” Suarez said. 

Suarez was also the first elected official to contract the disease. However, different cities have different forms of governing. As Suarez has tried implementing mask mandates for Miami, Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, didn’t do that for his city. Peduto explained that their local government doesn’t oversee health since it’s done at a county and state level. Yet, he explained that Pittsburgh had considered their public safety measures since January, which had led to early purchasing of personal protective equipment. 

“We were able to purchase our PPE at a time where there wasn’t that great of a demand,” Peduto said. 

Seattle was the first city to see a Covid-19 case. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan explained how the city was lucky to be home to scientists and technology experts as they weren’t getting help on a federal level. Even as the city was able to flatten the curve, the city still had to change its governance to continue providing wages to workers and provide childcare centers to frontline workers. Yet, through conversations with a mayor in South Korea, Durkan said that Seattle has been able to offer free testing, which has been available to 12 to 15 percent of overall tests statewide. 

“We are still staying at home and taking smart…measures around our businesses to keep people safe,” Durkan said. 

New York City, an early Covid-19 hotspot, has been seeing cases on the rise since June. According to NBC 4 New York, total statewide hospitalizations have surpassed 1,000, however, positivity rates are low. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that overall positivity rate remains below one percent, excluding hotspot areas, which are at 2.21 percent.

Gabriela Cohen is a student at Ithaca College, who has been at home in New York City since March. She believes that the city has handled the pandemic very well. Cohen explained that from March to June, New York City was chaotic as people were flocking to grocery stores and getting supplies. However, as the summer hit, the city emptied out as many went to their summer homes or moved away. As Cohen is still in Manhattan, she has seen how it has been able to reopen following precautions. 

“People make sure to wear masks, restaurants are making sure people are distant, recreational facilities that have begun to open again are kept clean and restaurants are making sure they are following CDC guidelines,” Cohen said. 

She also brought up that people in the city have adjusted to the “new norm” by now. 

The forum also had mayors from different countries. The mayors of Palermo, Italy; Dublin, Ireland and a former Prime Minister of New Zealand spoke on how their cities and countries have been dealing with Covid-19. 

Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando compared the Covid-19 pandemic to fighting against the mafia. He said that Italians desperately wanted to be free from the government of the mafia, so the same mindset applies with the virus. 

“We wish to win another time because we have a vision,” Orlando said. 

Hazel Chu, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, said the majority of the population she’s noticed have been trying to keep each other safe and has adhered to the science behind the pandemic. 

“There needs to be more power given to the local counselors,” Chu said on how the local and national governments have come at odds. Like other places, policies from the national government ultimately come to effect in Ireland. 

As Dublin and Palermo have had firm approaches on handling the virus, so has New Zealand, whose response to the virus is generally believed to be among the most effective. The Lancet Regional health provided data on Covid-19 in both New Zealand and Taiwan, and explained what other countries could learn from them.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her country handled the outbreak well because it followed scientific advice, putting good public health policies in place and engaged with its citizens. 

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved in New Zealand,” Clark said. 

Even though the forum was virtual this year, DePaul has had a partnership with it for several years. According to GianMario Besana, the associate provost for global engagement and online learning, members of DePaul’s leadership team, along with graduates, have attended the forum in the past. 

“The relationship with this event, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs more generally, is further evidence of DePaul’s significant engagement with Chicago as a global city,” Besana said.

 “The Forum offers opportunities to connect and learn from global leaders who are at the helm of some of the largest and most complex cities around the globe, all of which face similar issues to what we encounter daily in Chicago and some distinctive challenges as well,” Besana added. 

He also mentioned that DePaul is grateful for the active collaboration with the city of Chicago.

The next forum will take place in February of 2021.