Cities: Clouter with Conscience

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There sits Buddha, face unfathomable, hooded eyes of blue ice, nose stubborn and strong. Lines like deep parentheses bracket his thin lips; beneath them is a small chin, and beneath that is a big chin. Five-and-a-half feet high, close to 200 lbs. wide, he is swathed in a cautious dark suit from which peeps an embroidered breast-pocket handkerchief with a monogram: R.J.D.

Buddha speaks—and his pronouncements are aphorisms. "Leadership," he says, "has to be formulated on the basis of what's good for Chicago. If something is in the public interest, then...