Daley defends Lake Shore Drive response

February 3, 2011 7:14:24 PM PST
Confident in his staff's decisions during the Blizzard of 2011, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley thanked Chicagoans for their ''patience'' and said the city still has ''a long way to go'' with snow removal.

"Less than 24 hours after the storm ended, we're headed back toward normal, but have a long way to go," said Daley.

Daley spoke for the first time since the Chicago area got socked by 20 inches of snow, which stranded hundreds of motorists on Lake Shore Drive.

Lake Shore Drive is now back open after being shut down by Tuesday's historic blizzard. Buses will be running on the road during Thursday's evening rush.

Not only is Mayor Richard M. Daley not taking the rap for what happened on Lake Shore Drive, he insists the city did a good job responding to this week's weather emergency.

He also said his chief of staff and department heads were assigned to keep the public informed during the crisis and that reporters should not read anything into his absence from the public eye during the past 48 hours.

"I'm very confident in all the people behind me. They can speak on behalf of myself or the city of Chicago," said Daley.

Calling the Blizzard of 2011 "the worst" weather event the city has faced during his nearly 22 years in officer, Mayor Daley said his chief of staff and department heads ably handled the crisis.

"I saw fit to have press conferences continually by the chief of staff and each member of the operation. This is not a Daley show," he said.

The mayor praised the police and firefighters and other city employees who battled the elements Tuesday and Wednesday.

"These people worked hard out there. The accidents took place, a number of accidents happened immediately, they closed the drive," said Daley.

Critics note the first responders did not reach over 600 snowbound vehicles on the drive for hours. Many contained drivers and passengers who waited hours in traffic brought to a standstill by weather-related accidents.

On Wednesday, four of the candidates to succeed the retiring Daley called for an investigation or review of what happened.

"Clearly what happened on Lake Shore is going to require an after report so we don't repeat that," said Rahm Emanuel, candidate for mayor.

Since taking office in 1989 Mayor Daley has endured worse crises including 1992's underground Loop flood and in 1995 deaths of over 700 city residents during a several days long heat wave.

The last 16 months have been especially difficult for Daley. The city lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics, his flawed deal to sell the parking meter system is widely criticized, the O'Hare modernization project is in financial and legal peril, the city budget is in record deficit and the mayor's approval rating is lower than ever.

But Daley made it clear that he was not the one who made the decisions regarding Lake Shore Drive.

"I'm one who delegates. I don't sit here thinking I am going to run everything. That's a mistake," he said.

Mayor Daley's last day in office is scheduled for May 16, 2011.

The Blizzard of 2011 ranks third in snow accumulation in Chicago's history.