In Chicago, A Political Dynasty Nears Its End Richard M. Daley, the city's longest-serving mayor, leaves office next week after 22 years on the job. His father, who served 21 years as mayor, was called "the boss." But his son cultivated his own kind of clout.
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In Chicago, A Political Dynasty Nears Its End

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In Chicago, A Political Dynasty Nears Its End

In Chicago, A Political Dynasty Nears Its End

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(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Unidentified Man: Ladies and gentlemen, Mayor Richard M. Daley.

CHERYL CORLEY: It was 22 years ago when Richard M. Daley took his first oath of office for mayor. He was quick to acknowledge his family history and to promise change.

RICHARD M: You don't hand down policies from generation to generation, but you do hand down values. 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.

CORLEY: 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 of Beirut on the Lake. Mayor 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, Daley recalled how he worked to win the support of black Chicagoans.

DALEY: I went out and campaigned in the community. I was determined then, that no way - that they were not gonna believe that I was not their mayor. And I pledged to myself, that every day - that every day, the block clubs, the community organizations, church leaders, that I was going to make sure that I was their mayor.

CORLEY: Daley's 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.

Unidentified Woman: Right over here. Thank you.

CORLEY: Earlier this week, hundreds of Chicagoans like Vernon Esmond, showed up at City Hall to say goodbye and shake Daley's hand.

VERNON ESMOND: There's a piece of history.

CORLEY: And a chance to take a photo with Daley, or as Esmond calls him:

ESMOND: It's with the Boss, Jr.

CORLEY: After Daley's father, The Boss. That aura of clout is exactly why Jacquelyn Johnson said she wanted to see the mayor.

JACQUELYN JOHNSON: I'm a paralegal and I want to find out where I can find a paralegal position in the city. He says he's been in office so long that he has a lot of contacts, he may know.

CORLEY: 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 Mid West cities struggle. Roosevelt University political scientist, Paul Green, says improving the city is Daley's passion.

PAUL GREEN: There were parts of downtown that 30 years ago, you wouldn't drive through, let alone walk through. And now they're destination points.

CORLEY: The mayor also took control of the Chicago Public Schools and revamped public housing. In 2005, Time magazine called Daley one of the best five big city mayors. His approval ratings have since plummeted though, as a budget with a huge deficit, scarce jobs, and city hall scandals left their mark. Last September, as his wife continues to battle with cancer, Daley announced he wouldn't see a record seventh term.

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.

SCOTT WAGUESPACK: The city inspector general right now, in his quarterly reports, shows that there are many opportunities still where corruption exists, and it needs to change, and we haven't changed that. And I'm looking forward to the new mayor clamping down on that and saying enough is enough.

CORLEY: That new mayor is Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff who 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 will likely be retrench, though he's trying to put a positive spin on it.

RAHM EMANUEL: I want people to see a city that is on the move, not scared of its future, ready to attack its future with a sense of confidence. And the greatest thing I know, is that the public of the city of Chicago is ready to join that bandwagon.

CORLEY: 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.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

INSKEEP: By the way, the outgoing mayor of Chicago made his own contributions to the English language and you can read a few of his more famous Daley-isms at npr.org.

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