A look back at Daley's political career

September 7, 2010 9:28:53 PM PDT
The son of a Chicago political dynasty, Mayor Daley is the oldest son of Richard J. and Eleanor Daley. But for all the talk about his father - "the Boss" - the fact is Richard M. Daley has created an extensive legacy of his own.

Daley has been the mayor of Chicago for 21 years. He was the Cook County state's attorney with the famous Chicago name and when Richard M. Daley was first elected mayor in 1989, our city was still trying to find its leadership footing following the death of Harold Washington, Chicago's first African American mayor.

As Daley took on Mayor Eugene Sawyer in that racially-charged campaign, there were fireworks. In the end, Daley was considered a mayor who brought the people together.

"I'm not interested in running as a white candidate or in serving as mayor for half the people," Daley said at the time.

DePaul Professor and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington said that Daley continued the legacy of Chicago's first African-American mayor, Harold Washington.

"I think he followed in many ways in Harold Washington's footsteps as a mayor who brought people of color, a diverse group of people into his cabinet," said Washington.

Now, after six terms, Mayor Daley says it's time.

The health of his wife, Maggie, who was always a source of strong support for the mayor, has certainly weighed on his mind. Her fight against cancer has tested her resilience as well as his. Over the years, Chicagoans have seen the sensitivity he has for his family-- whether for his wife, his children or the infant son, Kevin, whom they lost to Spina bifida.

Daley has faced political challenges and a recent dip in his popularity. This summer, he has wrestled with handling crime on the city's streets and the deaths of Chicago police officers.

He's fought long for stricter gun control measures, although the city's handgun ban was tossed aside by the Supreme Court. There are city residents still unhappy with his handling of the parking meter lease deal and the increase in fees. There was also the failed attempt to land the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

But for more than 20 years, he has left a lasting impression on our city, in particular as a builder. Millennium Park, although criticized by some for its cost, is now recognized as a jewel on the lakefront.

The redesign of Midway Airport and the on-going expansion project at O'Hare are among his projects. He demolished the general aviation airport - Meigs Field - on the lakefront and turned it into a park called Northerly Island, connecting it to the Museum Campus and the re-built Soldier Field.

Under his tenure, Chicago Housing Authority high rises came tumbling down. His administration is responsible for the 'greening of Chicago,' beautifying the city's famous boulevards and parks.

Just before announcing his retirement, Daley rang in the first day of school for many Chicago Public School students Tuesday. Back in 1996, it was Daley who took over control of that school system.

A hands-on manager, Daley had little tolerance for those who didn't accomplish what he wanted done.

The Daley administration has had its share of corruption allegations; for example, the hired truck scandal five years ago, and the federal investigation of hiring practices at City Hall. However, Daley himself has never been accused of wrongdoing.


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