The two mayors Daley: Son about to pass father for time in office
By FRAN SPIELMAN ★ City Hall Reporter December 17, 2010 1:59AM
Mayor Richard M. Daley is serving his final term in office. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: April 19, 2011 5:09AM
Richard J. Daley was Chicago’s beloved father figure, the most powerful big-city mayor this nation has known.
He built O’Hare Airport, McCormick Place, expressways, public housing high-rises and a University of Illinois at Chicago he called his crowning achievement. His leadership of a vaunted Democratic Party machine made him a presidential kingmaker.
His son, Richard M. Daley, has presided over the “softening” of Chicago — from a Rust Belt manufacturing center to a greener, international city with a burgeoning technology base. By mastering the art of coalition politics, he has transformed Chicago from the racially divided city once known as “Beirut on the Lake.”
On Dec. 26, the younger Daley will surpass his father as Chicago’s longest-serving mayor, having served 7,917 days — 21 years and eight months. The fact that Richard II reaches this milestone as he prepares to retire from politics doesn’t diminish the accomplishment.
Comparing father and son is difficult because of the vastly different eras in which they served. The mayor’s powers have been diminished by demographic changes, union contracts and the Shakman court decree banning political hiring and firing. A prolonged recession, shrinking federal and state funding and a more aggressive news media have also made the mayor’s job more difficult.
But comparisons are unavoidable, particularly about which Mayor Daley was more powerful.
“If you define it as the political power broader than your own situation, my dad was because he had the system he controlled as party chairman and mayor together,” said mayoral brother and businessman William Daley. “Rich had to create that organization for himself to do his politics, as opposed to my dad, who had to get control of the [Democratic] organization, but, once he got control of it, he pretty much sat on top of that mountain unopposed until the very end.”
Edward J. Bedore served as budget director under both father and son. “One was a builder,” Bedore said. “The other completed the house.”.
Tom Donovan, who was Richard J. Daley’s deputy mayor and patronage chief, said he “marvels” at the similarities, particularly as Richard M. Daley “got a little bit older.”
“Their real strength comes from their ability to connect with Chicagoans,” said Donovan. “They both love the city and fight for the city. And neither one of them ever aspired to be in any other position.”
Former Gov. Jim Thompson sees Richard II as having “amassed as much or perhaps even more political power than his father did” despite the hurdles.
“In the original Mayor Daley’s time, Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods were much stronger and more consolidated,” said Thompson, who, as U.S. attorney, pursued Richard J. Daley’s associates but later forged a close relationship with Daley’s son. “Now, the ethnic blocks that once existed and were a source of political power have … gone other places. They live in the suburbs or collar counties. Yet the current Mayor Daley has been able to gather unto himself much of the political power his father once had. He has ended up in control of almost every major lever of power, and that has helped him shape the city in his own vision.”
With the younger Daley about to surpass his father’s longevity in office, here’s a look at how they stacked up on key issues:
Richard J. Daley served as mayor during the turbulent 1960s, when the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. triggered riots that destroyed entire neighborhoods. He also had to contend with the rise of black politicians who were powerhouses in their own right.
Richard M. Daley took office after “Council Wars,” the power struggle that saw 29 aldermen — nearly all of them white — thwart then-Mayor Harold Washington’s every move. Neighborhoods weren’t being destroyed. But Chicago’s image around was.
“There were tremendous racial problems, but he didn’t have the political system to rely on to help either calm things down or do things that my dad had,” William Daley said. “Under my dad, you had the first African-American president of a state Senate . . . .You had a system that had diversity inside the club.
“My dad was as sensitive to the race issue as Rich was. Because he was both mayor and party chairman, the political dynamic motivated him. Rich didn’t have the political motivation. It was all about trying to settle the city down and get some progress, pass things in the City Council.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said that black ministers who dared to speak out against Richard J. Daley in their sermons on Sunday would sometimes have building inspectors show up at their churches on Monday. Jackson said there’s no such “intimidation” under Richard M. Daley, who has “blacks, whites and browns all over the place” in city government.
“I don’t think you’ll find people saying hostile things about the current Mayor Daley,” Jackson said. “He’s not a polarizer.
“His daddy said, `Shoot to kill.’ That was polarizing. His daddy resisted Dr. King’s presence. That was very polarizing. We’re beyond that now. He’s managed a diverse city differently and better. He’s had to employ the powers of persuasion because he didn’t have the power of tyranny.”
Richard J. Daley cared enough about education to personally lobby in Springfield for state school aid. He brokered costly settlements that ended or averted teacher strikes. He demolished 8,000 homes in Little Italy and Greektown to make way for UIC.
“Do you realize the political hit he took for that?” Bedore said. “But he had the courage to stand up for things.”
Still, William Daley acknowledged that his father struggled to tame a Board of Education bureaucracy that was a “huge part of the black middle-class.” Also, unable to keep pace with the baby boom, many Chicago students were taught in trailers derisively known as “Willis wagons,” for then-Supt. Benjamin Willis.
Richard M. Daley’s 1995 school takeover and his Renaissance 2010 program to close and replace failing schools raised the stakes for a system once known as the “worst in the nation.”
“Education became a much bigger issue in Rich’s tenure than it was for the city during my dad’s,” William Daley said. “By the late ‘80s, it became obvious that, to have a healthy economic city, your education system cannot be left to go into the toilet, which the system had.
“Rich saw this flight of young people. They would get married. They lived in the city. It was dynamic. It was fun. [But] the minute they had a kid, [they were] outta here . . . . That drove Rich as much as anything to say, `We’ve got to fix these schools.’ “
With good intentions and a political side-benefit to boot, Richard J. Daley presided over the construction of public housing high-rises. They proved to be dependable sources of votes for Daley’s Democratic machine. But they also turned into crime-ridden warehouses of the poor.
Richard M. Daley’s risky 1999 takeover of the Chicago Housing Authority laid the groundwork for the $1.6 billion “Plan for Transformation” that tore down the high-rises and replaced them with mixed-income communities.
There have been complications, though. The plan is years behind schedule, largely because of the collapse of the housing market. And displaced CHA residents, dumped into communities that lack the social services to support them, have been blamed for a spike in violent crime in neighborhoods once dominated by the black middle-class. Overall, though, the son has done much to clean up the mess left by the father.
“The whole thing which was started as a great liberal experiment turned into a debacle,” William Daley said. “Everybody in those 50 years ago-plus…[has] to take blame for the fact that these things built with the right intentions totally ended up being the opposite for the people who lived there….You cannot have…an entire building where few people, if any, go to work, and it’s the lowest-common denominator of income, opportunity, challenges, most kids.”
Richard J. Daley had the good fortune to serve at a time the federal government was lavishing Chicago with funding. But he also was a finance wizard and championed the home-rule authority that empowered Chicago to impose an array of new taxes. He worked with then-Republican Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie to create the Regional Transportation Authority to draw mass-transit funding from six counties. He created Chicago’s executive budget.
“The Finance Committee used to draw up the budget,” Bedore recalled. “But, if the mayor is responsible, why would you want to entrust the entire process to the aldermen?
[“Being a former state revenue director, state senator and county clerk who used to draw up the budget for the county, he knew that was not the way to operate.”
To say that Richard M. Daley isn’t the “numbers guy” his father was is an understatement. He establishes broad budget guidelines, then directs underlings to execute them. Even when he blazes a trail — say, by privatizing city assets — he leaves the details to others, at times at his own political peril.
It worked in the $1.83 billion deal that privatized the Chicago Skyway. It failed miserably in the 75-year, $1.15 billion deal that privatized Chicago parking meters. And the current mayor’s decision to spend all but $76 million of the money to hold the line on taxes for the past two years has dropped Chicago’s bond rating and left his successor to face major budget worries.
Richard J. Daley’s administration suffered through a series of scandals, culminating with the conviction of his patronage chief, Matt Danaher, press secretary Earl Bush and Tom Keane, the City Council floor leader and Finance Committee chairman with whom Daley had an uneasy alliance.
After a cops-as-robbers scandal in the old Summerdale Police District, the late mayor also hired a civilian — University of California, Berkley professor O.W. Wilson — to serve as police superintendent.
Richard M. Daley has suffered more punishing body blows as a result of the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals.
Members of a Duff family with political ties to Daley and reputed ties to organized crime pleaded guilty to defrauding the city of $100 million in contracts earmarked for minorities and women.
Of the 48 people charged in Hired Truck, 31 were city employees, including Daley’s former Streets and Sanitation commissioner and his patronage chief.
Like his father, the current mayor also responded to a major police scandal — in the now-disbanded Special Operations Section — by appointing a civilian superintendent. But, unlike Wilson, Daley’s choice of career FBI agent Jody Weis has struggled to rally the troops behind him.
Contract cronyism was a steady drumbeat under both father and son. Richard J. Daley faced a scandal after awarding city insurance business to Heil & Heil, a firm that employed his son.
Richard M. Daley faced the embarrassing revelation of his son’s hidden ownership stake in a sewer-cleaning company that won millions of dollars in no-bid contract extensions from City Hall. He also grappled with his nephew’s risky real estate venture involving $68 million in city employee pension funds.
The law firm of Daley & George — which once included the mayor and still includes his brother Michael — emerged as the city’s pre-eminent zoning firm during Daley’s 22-year reign.
And city contracts have benefited a parade of mayoral pals, including Oscar D’Angelo, Jeremiah Joyce, Michael Tadin, Michael Marchese, Patrick Harbour and Victor Reyes.
Richard J. Daley was elected mayor in 1955, when only a handful of Chicago homes had televisions. The device the elder Daley derisively called “da box” would soon become the dominant force in politics.
Television would capture the darkest days of the Daley era — when Chicago police officers clashed with anti-Vietnam War demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Richard J. Daley’s infamous “shoot-to-kill” order during the riots that followed the King assassination was captured on audiotape, even though his press secretary tried to deny it.
Richard J. Daley almost never gave broadcast interviews. Access to the mayor was limited to press conferences.
Richard M. Daley has presided over an even bigger media revolution, with the advent of the internet. A notorious technophobe, he nevertheless maintains a presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and the city’s website is a treasure-trove of information.
The younger Daley has been far more accessible to the media than his father ever was. He not only does broadcast interviews, he also avails himself to media questions two or three times a week.
“Television probably played the most part in both of `em lasting so long,” William Daley said. “In spite of the rap on both of `em that they weren’t great speakers — they stumbled here, stumbled there — the ability to come into a home through television and speak to people in the way both of `em spoke, the people who watched it understood what they were saying in Chicago-speak. It came through with the sincerity that, `This is about my love of the city.’ ”
Richard J. Daley built O’Hare, UIC and a Jardine Water Filtration plant that, Bedore recalled, was nearly as controversial as UIC because it was built on precious lakefront property. Chicago expressways, the Sears Tower and other skyscrapers were built during his tenure. He also rebuilt McCormick Place after a devastating fire and took over privately run rapid-transit lines to form the CTA.
With the city’s infrastructure largely in place, Richard M. Daley could concentrate on what his brother calls the “softening” of Chicago — with landscaped medians, green roofs, the refurbishing of Navy Pier and Soldier Field and the creation of Millennium Park, which gave downtown Chicago what William Daley calls the central “meeting place” that great cities need.
Long before Sept. 11, 2001, the current Mayor Daley had the foresight to build a 911 emergency center that became a model for the nation.
While his father dreamed of building an airport in the lake, the younger Daley bulldozed a lakefront airport after midnight, setting the stage for the grand plan recently unveiled to turn Northerly Island, former home of Meigs Field, into a nature park. He also modernized Midway Airport and pushed a massive O’Hare Airport expansion that will be only halfway home as he leaves office.
Bedore maintains that father and son were both unfairly accused of favoring downtown development at the expense of the neighborhoods.
“Think of all the new police and fire stations that have been put in the neighborhoods,” Bedore said. “That was done under Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley.”
As mayor and party chairman, Richard J. Daley dictated state and local tickets and controlled the Legislature.
Jim McDonough, Richard J. Daley’s Streets and Sanitation commissioner, recalled being summoned to the mayor’s office soon after leaving City Hall to become president of an engineering firm. Daley wanted to make McDonough his CTA board chairman, a full-time job at the time. McDonough said he couldn’t accept because he already had a full-time job, and Daley “threw me out of his office.” A few days later, he called McDonough back with an apology and a new offer.
“He said, `OK, now we’re gonna have that press conference I was telling you about,’ “ McDonough recalled. “I said, `How?’ And the mayor said, `I changed the law.’ In a matter of just a few days, Mayor Daley had convinced the Legislature to change the law and make it a part-time job.”
No Democrat dared run for president without first kissing the elder Daley’s ring. The late mayor’s alliance with John F. Kennedy put Kennedy in the White House. Some say the 1960 presidential election was stolen in Chicago. No matter what really happened, Daley’s support was so crucial, the Daley clan comprised the second set of guests invited to spend the night at the Kennedy White House. William Daley recalls the new president saying, “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Mayor Daley.”
Richard M. Daley has controlled the City Council with an iron hand, as his father did. But he’s been a bit player in presidential politics and a victim of Springfield politics controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).
His proposals for casino gambling, a new Lake Calumet Airport, a downtown transit circulator and most of his gun-control initiatives went down in flames.
The younger Daley shunned his father’s dual role as mayor and party chairman and did an end-run around the traditional Democratic ward organizations that worked against his 1980 campaign for Cook County state’s attorney and his 1983 campaign for mayor. He built his own political armies of city employees — led by the Hispanic Democratic Organization — and rewarded them with jobs, promotions and overtime, until the feds put a stop to it.
“Richard M. Daley has the same job” as his father, Donovan said, but he added, “He doesn’t have the ability to hire and fire. Much more needs to be done with leadership and persuasion.”
Richard J. Daley had a potent partnership with organized labor. He sealed every deal with a handshake and honored his word, guaranteeing city trades people the prevailing wage paid to their counterparts in private industry. In return, labor leaders were an invaluable cog in the Democratic machine. They helped deliver the vote for the mayor and his handpicked candidates. Chicago Federation of President Bill Lee was the mayor’s longtime friend and political confidante.
Richard M. Daley has had a tumultuous relationship with organized labor. All but one major union gave the cold shoulder to what would turn out to be his final re-election campaign. He infuriated labor by privatizing city services and turning public schools into charters. In the political donnybrook over Wal-Mart’s entry into the Chicago market, Daley did what would have been unthinkable to his father: He sided with Wal-Mart against organized labor and vetoed a “big-box” minimum wage ordinance that would have tied Wal-Mart’s hands. Union leaders subsequently spent millions to elect a more labor-friendly City Council.
Daley spent years trying to repair the damage — and agreed to a 10-year deal with members of the building trades that taxpayers could not afford to guarantee labor peace through 2016, when he hoped Chicago would host the Summer Olympics.
But the tenuous peace was shattered when the mayor’s Olympic dream went up in flames and the economy soured. To erase a record budget shortfall, Daley pressured unionized employees to agree to furlough days, comp time instead of cash overtime and other concessions. The city’s pension crisis has set the stage for another confrontation.
Richard J. Daley understood the importance of the arts, even if he wasn’t an active participant in the arts scene.
Inspired by hs world travels and his wife, Maggie, Richard M. Daley has elevated public art to a new level, as evidenced by the wildly popular “Cows on Parade.” He also built the Pritzker Pavillion and Music and Dance Theater, welcomed Lollapalooza to Grant Park, embraced movie-making and used $86 million from tax-increment financing to transform rundown downtown movie houses into first-rate theaters.
Maggie Daley turned a hole in the heart of the Loop into an award-winning arts and education program that evolved into After School Matters. The Daleys have done so much for the arts, their picture graced the cover of the September theater Playbill.
Overall, how would Richard J. Daley assess his son’s tenure, William Daley was asked.
“He would say he did a helluva job for 21 years,” William Daley said. “Very different times. Very different system that he had to deal with than my dad’s. He’d be real proud of him, no question about it.”