One hell of a mayor, but Daley makes right call to say so long
Sep 7, 2010
Updated: November 19, 2010 5:00PM
Mayor Daley is making the right call.
We respect his decision, after 21 years in office, to walk away.
The man seems increasingly crabby, increasingly isolated and increasingly joyless in a job he says he loves.
And who can blame him-
The City of Chicago faces a record $655 million budget hole and the inevitable dismantling of city services that the mayor himself long championed; and we sense that much of the public has grown tired of his autocratic ways.
But before he goes, allow us to make one thing perfectly clear:
Richard M. Daley has been one hell of a mayor.
Though his dictatorial style at times offended us, Chicago flourished during his two decades at the helm.
Chicago is a better city, a more livable city and, most importantly, a city with a future thanks in large part to Daley.
He got things done.
Daley's broad, sweeping vision for the city has always been his strength - along with his refusal to let anything stand in his way.
Daley took over control of the public schools when more timid politicians urged caution.
He embraced the Chicago Housing Authority, promising better homes and better lives for residents, knowing there would be political fallout and it was sure to hurt him.
He built Millennium Park, brought life and theater back to the Loop at night, created the Museum Campus, made city beautification a top priority and went after O'Hare expansion.
He has taken bold action and big risks when he safely could have settled for less, pushing Chicago forward and securing its future.
At the same time, Daley has not blithely ignored the rest of Chicago, as his critics contend.
He's built libraries, new schools and police stations in every corner of the city and put better schools and safer neighborhoods at the very top of his agenda.
And how has Daley pulled this off- By, above all, winning over former adversaries. Some call it co-opting - and there's truth to that - but that's far too simplistic.
When Daley took over as mayor in 1989, Chicago was a deeply divided city. Yet our mayor of mangled syntax, our most famous son of Bridgeport, blossomed into an unlikely, but highly skilled, coalition builder.
He's extended a hand to Chicagoans of all races, ethnicities and political bents to find out what they wanted -and then made it happen for them.
If we have one great worry for the post-Daley era now on our doorstep, it's that the ugly racial politics that threatened once to tear apart the city could return.
Daley is a man who loves Chicago to his core, but his fierce papa bear approach to government - Rich's way or no way - has become an increasing liability in recent years.
His circle of trusted allies has grown small. He's a tough guy to work for. Years of City Hall scandals, involving hiring practices and city contracts, have left Chicagoans feeling cynical.
He's gone on what now looks like a privatization bender, selling off vital city assets and emptying the city's piggy bank.
And at a time when the city faces enormous financial challenges and fresh ideas are desperately needed - for fixing the schools, quelling street violence and stemming suburban flight - the mayor's own well of creativity looks to be running dry.
Daley said Tuesday that he has given his all to Chicago, and no one can doubt it. For more than two decades, he has worked every bit as hard for the city as his old man did, and he was guided by a more worldly, more inclusive, vision.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. You've made this city easier to love.
And thanks for knowing when it's time to say so long.