In Chicago, A Political Dynasty Nears Its End
In Chicago, A Political Dynasty Nears Its End
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In Chicago, a political transition will soon be under way. Next week, after 22 years in office, Mayor Richard M. Daley will step down, and a new mayor — former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — will be sworn in.
Daley's father, Richard J. Daley, who also served as mayor, was called "the boss." But his son cultivated his own kind of clout and became the city's longest-serving mayor.
'A Zest For Public Service'
When Daley took his first oath of office for mayor, he was quick to acknowledge his family history and to promise change.
Richard M. Daley, The 'Wet' Mayor?
During his 1989 campaign, Daley caused a stir when he reportedly told a group of white voters: "You want a white mayor to sit down with everybody."
Daley's handlers, however, insisted that he had stumbled over his prepared words and said, "You want a what mayor to sit down with everybody." Later, according to several news organizations, Daley's aides muddled things even further by suggesting he had really said, "You want a wet mayor ..."
Whatever Daley actually said, the resulting confusion was just a preview. As he prepares to step down after 22 years in office, Daley leaves behind a sometimes confounding and often amusing linguistic legacy. Here, some of the mayor's more famous Daley-isms.
- "Scrutiny? What else do you want? Do you want to take my shorts? Give me a break. ... Go scrutinize yourself! I get scrootened every day, don't worry, from each and every one of you. It doesn't bother me."
- "Well, you just pick up your face, and you keep on walking."
- "It's just a group of people, yuppies and yippies and hoppies or whatever they call them, I don't know. Who are they?"
- "What is he supposed to do? Say no to people? He's an elected official."
- "Walmart is a good corporation, not a perfect corporation. ... No one's perfect here anyway, in life. And that's why we have the pastors, and that's why we pray."
- "If a rat is on your sandwich, you hope to know it before. If a mouse is on your salad, it's common sense."
- "I am sorry. I did not talk to the flight attendants. I did not talk to the airline pilots. I didn't talk to the FAA. I didn't talk to God about the weather. I'm sorry."
- "What we're saying is, enjoy the great victory, but don't go out and beat somebody up or throw a brick through somebody's window and take something."
- "The state of Illinois funds those centers. We did not cut. They have cut state mental health facilities all over the state. That is state money. Underline that. S-A-T-E money. It's called state money."
- "I've said 'cuckoo' once, I'll say it again: 'cuckoo.' "
- "It's a wake-up call, I said to me."
- "Wha! Wha! Wha! Wha! Wha! Wha!"
- "If somebody takes their tie off, I'm not going to take my tie off. If somebody takes their pants off, I'm not going to take my pants off."
- "Toilet seats are good."
Sources: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Daily News, Daley A Day
"You don't hand down policies from generation to generation, but you do hand down values," he said. "As I take the oath my father took before me, I carry with me a love for our city and a zest for public service."
Daley's victory followed divisive racial politics that played out in Chicago's City Council in the 1980s, during Harold Washington's tenure as the city's first black mayor. That turmoil earned Chicago the dubious moniker "Beirut on the Lake."
Daley, who got only marginal support in the city's black wards, called for racial harmony. Last week, as he presided over his final City Council meeting, he recalled how he worked to win the support of black Chicagoans.
"I went out and campaigned in the community," he said. "I was determined then that, no way — that they were not going to believe that I was not their mayor."
Daley is often credited with making race much less of an issue in Chicago politics as he grew in his role as mayor, and he won his subsequent elections by wide margins.
The Legacy Of 'Boss Jr.'
Earlier this week, hundreds of Chicagoans showed up at City Hall to say goodbye and shake Daley's hand.
"It's a piece of history," said Vernon Esmond — and a chance to take a photo with Daley, or as Esmond calls him, "Boss Jr."
That aura of clout is exactly why Jacqueline Johnson said she wanted to see the mayor.
"I'm a paralegal, and I want to find out where I can find a paralegal position in the city," she said. "Since he's been in office so long and he has a lot of contacts, he may know."
Daley is also known as the "tree mayor" for planting thousands of trees and flowers that have beautified Chicago's downtown. He's widely credited with increasing tourism and attracting new business as other Midwest cities struggled.
Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green says improving the city is Daley's passion.
"There were parts [of downtown] 30 years ago that you wouldn't drive through, let alone walk through, and now they're destination points," he says.
The mayor also took control of Chicago's public schools and revamped public housing. In 2005, Time magazine called Daley one of the best five big-city mayors.
But since then, his approval ratings have plummeted as a huge deficit, scarce jobs and City Hall scandals left their mark. Last September, as his wife continued her battle with cancer, Daley announced he wouldn't seek a record seventh term.
More On The Daleys
A New Era
In the anteroom of the City Council chambers, Alderman Scott Waguespack says part of Daley's legacy that shouldn't be ignored is City Hall corruption that surrounded but never touched him. Nearly 100 public servants were convicted during the mayor's tenure.
"The city inspector general reporter right now, in his quarterly reports, shows that there are many opportunities still where corruption exists, and it needs to change," he says. "I'm looking forward to the new mayor clamping down on that and saying enough is enough."
That new mayor, Emanuel, was also a fundraiser on Daley's first mayoral campaign.
Like Daley, Emanuel trounced his opposition. But while Daley could build and spend during better financial times, the operative word for Emanuel is likely to be "retrench," though he's trying to put a positive spin on it.
"I want people to see a city that is on the move, not scared of its future [but] ready to attack its future with a sense of confidence," Emanuel says. "And the greatest thing I know is that the public of the city of Chicago is ready to join that bandwagon."
Emanuel's inauguration is Monday. Later that day, he'll hold his own City Hall open house, where some Chicagoans will line up again to shake the hand of a mayor who, for the first time in more than two decades, is not named Daley.