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The City
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Scandals chip away at Daley
Mayor's approval rating lowest since election in '89

By Gary Washburn, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Jon Yates contributed to this report
Published May 22, 2005


The persistent drip, drip, drip of scandal at City Hall has taken a serious toll on Mayor Richard Daley, eroding his support, cutting sharply into his popularity and making him potentially vulnerable to a challenge by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., according to a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll.

If a head-to-head Daley-versus-Jackson contest for mayor were held today, it would be a tossup, according to the survey of 700 registered Chicago voters.

Daley won every city ward and nearly 80 percent of the vote when he last was re-elected in 2003. But the poll found that slightly less than half of voters now say they would like him to run again, and 39 percent said they would prefer he not try for another term.

While 53 percent of those surveyed said they approve of the job he is doing, it was the worst showing for Daley in similar Tribune polls since he became mayor in 1989. Two years ago, nearly three out of four city voters said they liked the way he did his job.

Daley told members of the media gathered at a party Saturday for Marines returning from Iraq that he was not concerned about his declining poll numbers. When asked whether the poll had him considering not running for re-election, Daley struck a defiant tone.

"You just go ahead. If you get that attitude, then you get into a pessimistic attitude. I've never been defeated in my life," he said.

Daley said he was proud of his record as mayor.

"I work passionately, hard for this, and people can find fault with anyone, they can find fault with me," he said. "But I'll put my record against anyone."

One key to Daley's success as mayor has been his ability to transcend the ethnic and racial divides that had marked city politics for so long before he came to power 16 years ago.

Yet the poll, conducted May 16-18, indicated that the city's black voters have become increasingly uncomfortable with his mayoralty. While 59 percent of white respondents and 56 percent of Hispanics said they approved of his job performance, only 43 percent of African-Americans did. At the same time, four out of 10 black voters said they disapproved of the job Daley was doing.

The racial divide is even more pronounced when it comes to opinion about whether Daley should run again. Nearly 60 percent of white voters said "yes" while 52 percent of blacks said "no."

The overall poll has an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points. The error margin for responses of individual racial and ethnic subgroups is slightly larger.

Daley's fifth term has been marred by scandal swirling around the Hired Truck Program and revelations that firms run by white men have masqueraded as minority- or female-owned, cashing in on millions of dollars of city contracts meant for blacks, Hispanics and women.

The growing voter disenchantment with Daley coincides with broad concerns about wrongdoing in his administration, the poll indicated.

More than half of respondents said they disapproved of the job he is doing to prevent favoritism and fraud in awarding city contracts. The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but 57 percent said Daley should be held personally responsible for the contracting irregularities.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had followed reports of the contracting scandals either somewhat or very closely and nearly four out of five said that cheating is a matter of concern to them.

At Saturday's event, Daley said he should not be held responsible for the scandals.

"I can't be personally [responsible], I just can't," he said. "I work every day very hard, you know that. I'm out here every day working on issues."

Nelson Gonzalez, 37, a juvenile detention counselor, said he is unhappy with "all the corruption that has been going on" since Daley became mayor.

"Every time there is a scandal, he has a scapegoat," Gonzalez said. But "the last couple, it seems, are reaching a little closer to home ... At [my] work, everyone agrees someone has to step forward and start getting their name out there now to stand a chance against him" in 2007

In another troubling trend for Daley, more voters than not said that city schools had not improved or have changed for the worse since he became mayor despite his intense focus on revitalizing a school district once put down by federal education officials as the worst in the nation. And a majority of respondents said that the problem of crime has gotten no better or has worsened despite aggressive efforts to reduce the crime rate and stem an alarming rise in the number of homicides.

With the next election less than two years away, Jackson ranks among the most formidable potential Daley challengers, though the South Side congressman has said he has no intention at this time of seeking the mayor's office.

In a heated response recently to a reporter's scandal-related question, Daley boasted that "everybody supported my campaign" in the 2003 election.

"Everyone knows that," he said. "I won last time by 80 percent."

But the poll found that Jackson would win 40 percent of the vote in a mayoral election held today to Daley's 37 percent, with 23 percent of respondents undecided.

Judy Monegain, 60, an African-American South Sider, said she would vote for Jackson.

"It's not a [matter] of race," Monegain said. "It's whether someone can get into office and get the job done. I would prefer to get somebody else in there and try to do the job rather than somebody who has been in there all this time and hasn't."

Monegain complained about problems in the public schools, contract favoritism, "absolutely raggedy" streets and uneven treatment of city neighborhoods in getting improvement projects.

Fueling speculation that Jackson may have designs on the mayor's office despite his denials is his increasing--and very public--criticism of Daley's performance. In a letter earlier this month to Ald. William Beavers (7th), chairman of the City Council's Budget and Government Operations Committee, Jackson called for audits of Hired Truck and other city functions.

"A smog program of corruption and cover-ups is engulfing the city of Chicago," Jackson declared in the letter. "Reports of federal raids, affirmative action violations, `favors for favor' practices and fiscally irresponsible and unethical programs are dominating the daily headlines."

Local Democrats also view state Sen. James Meeks, a Chicago independent and a Jackson protege, and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown as potential mayoral challengers.

But the list of possible Daley opponents could grow if a perception that the mayor has become beatable takes root.

Because the federal investigation into the Hired Truck Program and other irregularities appears to be far from finished, the headlines that have embarrassed and politically damaged Daley are expected to continue.

So far, 27 people have been charged with wrongdoing stemming from the scandal-plagued program, including Daley administration officials who have admitted taking money from trucking companies in return for city business. Now the probe appears to have broadened as investigators look at allegations of political work conducted on city time and promotions and pay raises that have gone to city employees as rewards for their toil for candidates favored by City Hall.

Meanwhile, contractor and Daley supporter James Duff was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 10 years in prison, in part for falsely portraying his firm, Windy City Maintenance, as female-owned to win city affirmative action contracts. The Tribune first exposed the scam in a 1999 investigation.

Daley has launched an aggressive effort to regain his footing. Last week he appointed Ron Huberman, a former senior police official, as his new chief of staff with orders to "help restore taxpayers' confidence in the integrity of city government."

Despite his declining poll numbers, Daley continues to have strong support in some quarters and, even at 53 percent, his approval rating would be the envy of many other public officials. Another recent Tribune/WGN poll found that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's positive rating has sunk to 35 percent.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to city politics, but I feel things are going pretty well in Chicago," said Christopher DiTeresi, a 27-year-old University of Chicago graduate student. He cited improvements in his Hyde Park neighborhood, a shopping area he visits at North and Clybourn Avenues that didn't exist a few years ago and good parks.

Daley "seems to care about the city," DiTeresi said. "He seems to have a vision about it."
 

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This could just be another cycle which will fade away be the time of the next election. I'd rather have Daley than Jackson to tell you the truth.
 

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Dale is a visionary in making Chicago a globalized city to do business and leisure activities. As for Jackson, I don't know what his vision about Chicago except pushing Peotone airport plan into a reality.
 

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What'u smokin' Willis?
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Daley has been running off the leftover charisma, politcal favors and blackmails of his father his whole political career. It's inevitable that he'll be taken down eventually.

He has done alot of good though, that I won't ignore, but he's also done a lot of stupid stuff too.
 

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^But having Jackson in office instead of Daley or even the other two they mentioned? Meeks or Brown would be better than Jackson considering no one knows those people. I just picture Jackson as clueless as to what to do in front of a delegation of business leaders from Shanghai. Jackson has baggage and little more. Daley has baggage to, but at least he has more than enough accomplishments to offset it.
 

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Chi_Coruscant said:
Dale is a visionary in making Chicago a globalized city to do business and leisure activities. As for Jackson, I don't know what his vision about Chicago except pushing Peotone airport plan into a reality.
Exactly. It seems that Jackson's support would only be from the hate-Daley crowd, and you can't win an election that way.
 

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I wouldn't be against Daley being replaced, as long as it was someone who wouldn't run too far against development such that Chicago's boom was stifled. I think more political openness and a mayor with greater concern for social issues (and public transit) would be a good thing.

That being said, I have no idea how well Jackson would fit the bill.
 

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The City
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
oshkeoto said:
I wouldn't be against Daley being replaced, as long as it was someone who wouldn't run too far against development such that Chicago's boom was stifled. I think more political openness and a mayor with greater concern for social issues (and public transit) would be a good thing.

That being said, I have no idea how well Jackson would fit the bill.

^I think we underestimate Daley's importance.

He has a TON of clout and influence. Sure, much of it has been unveiled with recent corruption scandals, but his "connections" are very good for the city.

I can't imagine any other Mayor being capable of getting over a quarter billion dollars in corporate donations for Millennium Park. Not only that, but Daley has a love for Chicago and wants it to remain a great city. Who knows what Jesse Jackson Jr. wants--perhaps he would only see it as a springboard for his own career.
 

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C.B.P.
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The only graph to look at when considering Hizzoner's reign, is the one attached to his pulse. When his cold dead hands are taken from the reins of power will truly be a sad day in Chicago history.
 

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Like Chicagoans are going to say, "Let's shoot ourselves in the foot and elect another mayor". Sure.

Personally I think it's worth to keep Daley in office just to piss off John Kass (who ain't no Royko)
 

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daley pisses me off as much as the next person, but look at our other options, I'd vote for him again as I think he's done more good than harm (but he's done plenty of both).
 

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Scandal is what a mayor inherits and the people keep returning to office. The mayor has the job of keeping the excesses of greed, graft, and inside deals from bringing down the government. These scandals are really the few brush fires that break out. This is the way governments operate, especially large metropolitan, state and federal ones. The people need look only to themselves to find the true answer to scandals. How many in similar positions would deal otherwise; how many if a personal "friend" of the governor, or mayor, or alderman even, when seeking or being offered a "deal" would never ask or flatly turn away? Human nature and scandals are what they are, and like traffic, must be navigated with as little harm as possible. It's probably more sensible to overlook journalism's stock in trade and keep one's eye on the big picture. Find me another mayor who was so far out front as to ask for the public housing and Chicago schools mess--both third rails for most big city mayors. His public housing initiative alone has radically changed a large part of this city's economic, social, and structual landscape. Is there another mayor of a major metropolitan area who grasped the sea change of his city and who invested multi-millions in creating an environment attractive to corporations, industry, and the middle class--the heart of any successful school system. This requires besides vision and heavy hand and a thick skin from joutnalistic rants and the incessant grumbling of critics--both by-products of significant change for better as much as for worse. This mayor's done most of the difficult preliminary work, the infrastructure work, the least glamorous work, and did so with an eye to Chicago's future and his ultimate legacy. His fate has, does, and always will rest in the ballot box. Just thoughts.
 

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born again cyclist
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jackson jr., with his non-stop push for peotone, is a very frightening character. anyone who loves the city knows that peotone is stupid. i would have great fear for the future of chicago if that clown ever becomes mayor.
 
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