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Daley holds City Hall open house

Mayor Daley opens up his office greet Chicagoans as his term as Mayor comes an end. The first people line

Mayor Daley opens up his office to greet Chicagoans as his term as Mayor comes to an end. The first people in line lined up starting around noon. Monday, May 9, 2011 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 9, 2012 10:27PM

In 1989, Mayor Daley celebrated the first of his six inaugurations by opening the doors of the mayor’s office to well-wishers.

Thousands lined up for the chance to kiss the mayoral ring and curry favor with a man they hoped could deliver a job, a contract, a permit or some other form of favored treatment.

On Monday, there was another, shorter line outside Daley’s office. Only this time, there was nothing the mayor could do for those who had their bags checked and passed through a pair of metal detectors positioned outside the mayor’s office.

There was only something they could do for him — make Chicago’s longest-serving mayor feel appreciated as he makes the difficult adjustment to political retirement.

“Everybody knows how good the mayor was. To me, he was the best,” said Billy Goat Tavern owner Sam Sianis.

Sianis has an outpost at O’Hare Airport that was initially placed in the name of his wife at the city’s direction. When the Chicago Sun-Times raised questions in 2005, City Hall initially removed Billy Goat IV’s certification as a women’s business enterprise, only to restore the certification.

Asked whether he’s concerned about losing his O’Hare concession under new Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sianis said, “It’s [in] my wife’s name. It’s not me there. It’s all a minority.”

Arean Battle, a civilian employee of the Chicago Police Department, said she stopped by during her lunch hour — not to thank Daley, but to see the inside of the mayor’s office.

“I’m just curious. I’ve never been to the 5th floor,” she said.

Although the open house for the general public ran from 1 to 4 p.m., the mayor’s office sent out more than 1,000 invitations to people who’ve worked with Daley over the years to be part of an earlier receiving line that ran from 8 a.m. to noon.

That line was serenaded by the bag-piping Shannon Rovers and included Martin Koldyke, chairman-emeritus of the Golden Apple Foundation, who thanked the mayor for taking over the Chicago Public Schools.

“The key was making it possible for us to, not only train residents in our schools, but then he gave us the worst schools in the city for turnaround candidates,” Koldyke said.

“Rahm wants to double the number of residents we train each year. He wants to have 40 turnaround schools in his first term. None of that would be possible without the base Daley started.”

Rick Garcia, founder and former political director of Equality Illinois, was moved to tears as he talked about the son of Bridgeport who emerged as a champion on gay and lesbian issues.

“In 1993, I was in that office and six of us were arrested sitting on the floor protesting Mayor Daley’s refusal to pump up the AIDS budget. And today, I almost want to go in there on my knees and kiss his feet. From the gay community’s standpoint, he is the best mayor in the country,” Garcia said.

Chicago Black Hawks President John McDonough noted that, without the infrastructure improvements the city bankrolled at Daley’s direction, the United Center would never have been built.

“The spirit that he has brought to this city — the fact that this is now recognized as an upper-echelon, international city” is a tribute to Daley, McDonough said.

Newly-elected state Treasurer Dan Rutherford credited Daley with carrying Chicago to “a new level of international prestige. My hope is that he continues to still be a part of this great branding and growth and exposure of the city.”

Monday’s event was billed as an “open house,” but reporters were barred from the mayor’s office. And even though there was a photo op of the handshaking, the Chicago Sun-Times, which has broken scores of stories on corruption and contract cronyism during the Daley years, was specifically excluded.

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