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Time calls Daley best big-city chief

Hardly a whiff of scandal as Time calls Daley best big-city chief

April 18, 2005

BY JIM RITTER Staff Reporter

After 16 years in office, the scandals keep piling up for Mayor Daley.

But the mushrooming corruption merits barely a mention in this week's edition of Time magazine, which names "Richard the Second" the nation's best big-city mayor.

"Chicago's imperial Richard Daley . . . is widely viewed as the nation's top urban executive," Time reports.

The magazine credits Daley for promoting "splashy growth," hiring "skilled managers," expanding green space, reforming public schools, relocating CHA residents, luring Boeing to Chicago and overseeing big projects like Soldier Field and Millennium Park.

But there's scant mention of scandals: "Allegations of financial corruption have caught up some of his political allies, although Daley has personally avoided implication."

Daley's Hired Truck Program paid politically connected and mobbed-up trucking companies $40 million a year for little or no work. The Water Department, called a "racketeering enterprise" by the feds, allegedly took in $500,000 in bribes. And contracts that were supposed to go to minority, female and disadvantaged contractors have enriched "rich white guys who are friends of the mayor," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).

In the last 70 years, there has been more corruption under Daley "than any other mayor other than his father," said Dick Simpson, a University of Illinois at Chicago political scientist and former alderman.

Standing tall

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said Time was right to rank Daley No. 1.

"Chicago stands above the rest of the cities, and the mayor has to take credit for that." However, Moore added, corruption "is a blot on his record, and probably should mention more than a passing glance."

Time's other top picks include mayors Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, John Hickenlooper of Denver, Martin O'Malley of Baltimore and Michael Bloomberg of New York.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Time picks Daley 1 of 5 top mayors
Magazine cites role in creating boomtown

By Jennifer Lebovich
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 18, 2005

Focusing on his "near imperial" power and influence in Chicago, Time magazine Sunday named Mayor Richard Daley one of the five best big-city mayors.

The issue, which hits newsstands Monday, says Daley has brought businesses to the city and decreased unemployment.

"[Daley] presided over the city's transition from graying hub to vibrant boomtown, with a newly renovated football stadium, an ebbing murder rate, a new downtown park, a noticeable expansion of green space and a skyline thick with construction cranes," the article says.

Daley holds the distinction, which comes on the 50th anniversary year of his father's election as mayor, with New York's Michael Bloomberg, Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, Martin O'Malley of Baltimore and John Hickenlooper of Denver. The magazine picked Daley from a group of 29 mayors, all of whom lead a city with a population of more than 500,000.

"He's been elected many years for a reason," said Ryan Brown, 30, who lives on the South Side. The mayor has brought more businesses to his neighborhood and helped to improve the roads, he said.

"I like how he's working with the community. He made sure the community is livable and the kids are safe and off of the streets," said Brown, who works for a temp agency.

But some critics say Daley has not done enough to develop a dialogue with community organizations. Diane Limas, who is on the board of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, said her group has been trying to discuss concerns about affordable housing in the city with the mayor for four years.

"He's just very, very unapproachable, and I don't think that's the way a mayor should be," Limas said. "I think the mayor loves the city, but he's missing the boat. A lot of working-class people are moving out to the suburbs because they can't afford to live in the city."

Some longtime Chicagoans praised the mayor's efforts to improve downtown and attract tourism.

"I think he's done a great job," said Jim Damato , 47, who lives in Lincoln Park. "Millennium Park is gorgeous. The whole city seems revitalized over the past 20 years. He seems to have a passion for the city, more so than other mayors in the past."

But Chicago resident Anita Talisetti, 31, gave the mayor a mixed review, praising his efforts to decrease crime and beautify the city but criticizing him for not bringing enough attention to education in lower-income areas.

"I think he's done good that he's attracted tourists, but I don't think he's done well for the lower-income classes," said Talisetti, a physician who has lived in Chicago for two years. "The city is so segregated. I think he could do more to develop poor areas."

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said the mayor's relationship with big business, discussed in the article as one of his biggest strengths, is also his biggest weakness.

"He's surrounded himself with people who know how to make the city work. He has also been surrounded by people who are mired in the culture of corruption and graft that has kept minorities out of City Hall," said Munoz, citing the scandals over fraud in minority business contracts with the city.

Another area where the mayor has drawn criticism is for his handling of the leveling of Meigs Field. In the early hours of March 31, 2003, Daley authorized construction crews to dig up portions of the runway at Meigs Field, making the airport unusable.

Rachel Goodstein, president of the Meigs Action Coalition, said the mayor misused his power when he ordered the airport razed.

"I think the mayor borders on abuse of power," Goodstein said. "I think he could be more collaborative. I don't think absolute power is what's best for democracy or the city of Chicago and its future."

Daley calls his job as mayor "the best job in the world" and is honored to be given the distinction by Time magazine, said his press secretary Jacquelyn Heard.

"I know he would say this could not have been accomplished without the help of all of Chicago," she said. "For those of us who work closely with him, we see how hard he works and how dedicated he is to making this city world-class."


9,194 Posts
Richard the Second

CHICAGO: Daley surveys his domain from the rooftop of city hall

IHe*wields*near*imperial*power,*and most of Chicago would have it no other way. Two years ago, Richard Daley was re-elected to his fifth term with 79% of the vote. His annual budgets are routinely passed with only token opposition. He controls public housing, public schools and the city council. He is cozy with Big Business, is a master at the ward politics of fixing streetlights, and he speaks with a blunt, blue-collar brio that Chicagoans find endearing. "There's never been a [U.S.] mayor, including his dad, who had this much power," says Paul Green, professor of policy studies at Chicago's Roosevelt University. And he's used it to steer the Windy City into a period of impressive stability, with declining unemployment and splashy growth.

From the days of Daley's legendary father, sometimes known as Richard the First, Chicago's national reputation as a bare-knuckle city of backroom deals by the Democratic faithful and their labor-union allies has always held a lot of truth. But Daley has professionalized the city by hiring skilled managers and burnished its business-friendly image by strengthening connections to global firms like Boeing, which relocated its headquarters to town, and to white-shoe industries like banking, financial services and law. Latest News In his 16 years at city hall, Daley, 62, has presided over the city's transition from graying hub to vibrant boomtown, with a newly renovated football stadium, an ebbing murder rate, a new downtown park, a noticeable expansion of green space and a skyline thick with construction cranes. As federal and state dollars flowing to the city have dried up, he has used his influence to persuade corporations and the wealthy to kick in for big-ticket attractions, like the $475 million Millennium Park, nearly half of which was paid for by private donations.

Daley's unchecked power sometimes short-circuits public debate. In 2003, under cover of night, he unexpectedly dispatched wreckers to demolish Meigs Field, a tiny downtown business airport that he called a security risk but preservationists had been fighting to save. Allegations of financial corruption have caught up some of his political allies, although Daley has personally avoided implication.

With so much political capital at his fingertips, the mayor has been able to take big risks. The city is in the midst of knocking down its old high-rise housing projects, which concentrated the poor in pockets of crime and privation. Many of the former tenants are being relocated to better, low-rise housing that blends into existing neighborhoods. Since Daley took over the school system in 1995, he has brought graduation rates up from 51% to 54%, but he's not stopping there. Last year he launched a reform plan in which old, failing schools are to be replaced with new ones that have more autonomy over their curriculums. So far Daley has $24 million in private commitments to fund the program. The best way to minimize crime and poverty in a city, Daley believes, is to keep the middle class from fleeing to the suburbs. "Education is the complete answer to all these other social issues," he says. "The key for all cities is whether you turn public schools around."

Even with his success, few see Daley moving beyond the mayoralty to a higher office. "This is not a job for him. It's a calling," says local political consultant Kevin Conlon. "He's mayor as long as he wants to be." --By David E. Thigpen/Chicago. With reporting by Eric Ferkenhoff

Cynical post-collegiate
937 Posts
Since Daley took over the school system in 1995, he has brought graduation rates up from 51% to 54%, but he's not stopping there.
Holy crap? That's it?! Jeez, I find anything less than 80% almost unacceptable.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the article in the trib announcing it. King Daley is the best despot I've ever known. Long live the king!

721 Posts
simulcra said:
Holy crap? That's it?! Jeez, I find anything less than 80% almost unacceptable.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the article in the trib announcing it. King Daley is the best despot I've ever known. Long live the king!
He is working against a huge power curve for schools. Families who could care less about their children in school. It is a huge problem in Chicago. Same with the gang problems. If you don't have families, communities and Churches backing the city up to stop the problem...then the city can only try to maintain the status quo. Daley isn't Jesus you know.....

Long Live King Daley

4,216 Posts
All Hail Daley the second...

found this article on the iinternet. "He's been called the best mayor in America - not only by guests on our show, but by Governing magazine, American City and County magazine and by Library Journal. He is Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago. His take over of Chicago schools, his groundbreaking green initiatives and his award-winning community policing strategies have made him one of the most admired city leaders in the nation. And he is our guest this week on "Smart City.""

9,194 Posts
Search:** ** * **Go* >> Editorials
Mayors Daley

Published April 19, 2005

Fifty years ago Wednesday, Richard J. Daley's first oath of office inaugurated his 21-year run as mayor of Chicago. This week, as if in serendipitous homage to the nation's first family of municipal management, Time magazine honors Richard M. Daley--"Richard the Second," it calls him--as one of America's five best big-city mayors.
This is a fitting honor for today's Mayor Daley--even if conferred for the wrong reasons.
The Time article is rife with the usual litany of appealing achievements: the current mayor's unrivaled power over public housing, public schools and the Chicago City Council; his seduction of skilled managers into municipal governance; his emphasis on a business-friendly climate to lure and keep jobs. Praise for streetscape flower-planters didn't make Time's cut, but another cliche did: "In his 16 years at City Hall, Daley, 62, has presided over the city's transition from graying hub to vibrant boomtown ..."
All true. All worthy. All secondary.
What truly distinguishes today's Richard Daley from many big-city mayors is his remarkable if impossible-to-complete work to narrow racial chasms that, during the 1980s, threatened to swallow Chicago. He has done that not with anguished speeches or paeans to social justice, but by projecting, over 16 years, a strong sense of fairness in the way he does his job. As a result, he has persuaded many Chicagoans, of many hues, to pull in the same direction: up.
Chicago isn't only about race. But when race is wrong here, when ugly tensions blind this city to its largely cooperative past and its richly promising future, not much gets done.
Daley has not solved those tensions. He has, though, worked hard to diminish their scope and impact. Regrettably, he gets little credit for that. This city's overt racial rancor was so ugly that many of us have put it out of our minds.
As recently as 1983, an angry mob confronted African-American mayoral candidate Harold Washington and former Vice President Walter Mondale at ... a Chicago church. Washington's victory over his white rivals--Daley included--begat "Council Wars," which begat the notorious description of Chicago as "Beirut on the Lake." (If you don't recall bloody Beirut, think Baghdad.)
Washington died in 1987, having started to tame the white fears that fomented that ugliness: His equitable apportionment of city services to all wards and his warm personality--he really did love parading in that green Sons of St. Patrick sash--pushed his approval rating to 67 percent.
Still, after the brief interregnum of Mayor Eugene Sawyer, the current Daley inherited a city still Balkanized by its racial divide. He built on Washington's success, reaching out not only to African-Americans and whites, but also to Latinos who aspired to political prowess commensurate with their phenomenal population growth.
Yes, as Time notes in one lonely sentence, "Allegations of financial corruption have caught up some of his political allies, although Daley has personally avoided implication." Our view is that the mayor should have done much more through the years to root out the culture of clout that unfairly denies jobs and contracts to those who don't play politics at City Hall. But it may well be Daley's wisdom that Chicagoans care less about hired trucks than about the quality of their schools, the razing of high-rise public housing to break up concentrations of poverty, the police cameras that eviscerate street crime wherever they're erected--in short, the municipal functions that truly influence everyday lives.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal two months ago, author Joseph Epstein nailed this essence of the Daley family's long dominion:
"Rich Daley appears to have no theory of government, but merely a boundless appetite for governing. He is a fix-it, a problem-solving, man--treating the city of Chicago as if it were an unending episode of `This Old House'--and he seems to be turning the old heap into a damn stately mansion. But perhaps the real secret behind the Daley family success is the fixed but limited ambition of both father and son. Neither Dick nor Rich Daley ever aspired to rise any higher than Mayor of the City of Chicago."
For 37 of the last 50 years, then, the Mayors Daley--both demanding, both pragmatic, both fanatically devoted to Chicago--have ruled. But the current Daley has had to rely on local resources for this rehab of Chicago: He lacks the gullywasher of urban aid from Washington that his father enjoyed.
With that cash, Richard I essentially built Chicago. Relying more on his own wiles, Richard II has refined his father's city--and helped rescue it from the decline that might have been.
The current mayor has earned his ranking as one of America's best mayors not because his city looks pretty or because the night life charms conventioneers. He has taken risks--on dismal public schools, on high-rise ghettos--that his father dared not touch. More than any other achievement, Richard M. Daley has succeeded as mayor by bridging many chasms that, in painfully recent times, divided an angry Chicago.
And Richard J. Daley, 50 years after taking his oath to Chicago, has posthumously achieved what every father yearns for: a son more accomplished than the man who raised him.
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