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Ald. on naming library after Richard M. Daley: We’ll ‘get more resources’

Former mayor Richard M. Daley with grandchildren Kev3 Jack 6 Maggie 8  along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel look portrait

Former mayor Richard M. Daley with grandchildren Kevin, 3, Jack, 6 and Maggie, 8, along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel look at a portrait painted by Chicago artist Steve Musgrave as a Chicago Public Library is named in Daley's honor. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 2, 2011 12:44AM

Citizen Richard Daley looked tan, relaxed and only slightly irritated to face reporters Thursday during a rare public appearance since retiring as mayor after 22 years in May.

He wore a blue suit and a wide smile after the ceremony naming the new West Humboldt Park library — one of 59 libraries built during Daley’s time in office — in his honor.

Backed up against the building’s blond brick, Daley told reporters that libraries are “community anchors” that bind the city together, and he’s proud to have the Richard M. Daley library in the “great community” of West Humboldt Park near Chicago and Kedzie.

Local residents, however, weren’t always so thrilled about naming the state-of-the-art library after Chicago’s longest serving mayor.

“Because this is a mixed community, Hispanic and African American, they wanted to name it after some Hispanic leader,” Ald. Walter Burnett, (28th), who Daley called “Ald. Barnett” during the naming ceremony. “I was like, ‘Look, if we name it after [Daley] we get more resources and people donating stuff to the library. And if we need something we can always hit up his family.’ Let’s keep it real. It’s about what we can get.

“They wanted to protest about the name. I think [naming it for Daley] is only fitting. This will help us in the community. Maybe we should get something else new named after Mayor Daley over here.”

Still, plenty of local folks posed for photos with the former mayor in front of a painting in the library lobby — a portrait of Daley reading a copy of Daniel Burnham’s plan for Chicago.

Daley, who appeared with Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the first time since Emanuel’s inauguration, didn’t bite when asked if hearing the new mayor talk about the city’s inherited financial woes got under his skin.

“No. People want to blame everyone. So, it’s all part of life,” Daley said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Daley said what he misses most about being boss is “driving around the city and meeting people. … You really see the city as mayor … that’s what you really miss.”

Dealing with the media? Not so much.

“You took my passion where I was strong about something [and] you took my facial expressions [and showed] them on TV. You had your own [game] going. I understood that,” Daley said. “I understood more things about who you talked to and who you were with going back to [when I was] the state’s attorney. Who told you what. Who laid the story.”

As for his personal life, Daley said his wife, Maggie, who has cancer and spent a week in the hospital last month, was improving.

“Maggie is feeling much better, thank you,” he said. “She’s feeling very good.”

Daley, 69, said he hasn’t had trouble filling up his schedule. “Oh, I’m busy,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

As he left the event, the former mayor took off his suit jacket and offered a ride to his former press secretary Jackie Heard, who was on hand to cut short reporters questions.

Daley climbed into the cloth, front passenger seat of a tan mini van — not quite the leather-wrapped luxury of the Lincoln Town Car he was used to as mayor. But had no complaints.

“This is alright,” Daley said before his driver pulled away from the Richard M. Daley Library parking lot. “I love vans.”

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