Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is conducting his farewell tour before riding off into the sunset. Meanwhile, the city's news media outlets feel compelled to bestow accolades on the same man they have skewered for years. I suppose that is almost akin to a funeral wake where even a man's biggest opponent in life finds something nice to say while the corpse is laying in the casket. So it is, this love-hate relationship that Mayor Daley has had to endure during his long tenure. But, before we get all get weepy about the end of Mayor Daley's reign over Chicago, let us also consider something else. This was a mayor that only a grifter could really appreciate and love.
Chicago politics is a con game and anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't been paying attention to the cast of players who have profited during Da Mayor's reign. All questions of political corruption or general improprieties were always met with a familiar Bridgeport Shrug and a gobsmacked Wha? Wadda Ya Mean? "I'm just the mayor."
So, as we evaluate Richard M. Daley's numerous superficial achievements, let us not forget how his "ideas a minute" impacted the average citizens wallet. Friends, family and political cronies raped the city blind while Daley ran the city.
How this man was able to survive all these years, though, is a remarkable story in itself. Perhaps the reason for his successes is that Mayor Richard M. Daley demanded loyalty in return for his looking the other way. Whenever the heat got too close, there was always someone to take the fall for him. A good example of that loyalty was former head of Streets and Sanitation, Al Sanchez. Sanchez never ratted out the man who provided him with the means to success and power, and in return, Daley stood behind him to the bitter end.
Then again, Richard M. Daley, knows better than anyone on how the creation of the Hispanic Democratic Organization was his political masterstroke.
Of course, some of the corruption woes that dogged Daley over the years was also the direct result of some very greedy people in the HDO. But, hey, I wouldn't feel sorry for King Richie II, because once he gave tacit approval to manipulate the system, he had to live with the results. Once it began,
though, there was just no way of keeping it from getting out of control.
In fairness too, the HDO wasn't the only greedy group in Daley's circle of influence. Everyone wanted a piece of the almighty pie and generally got it.
The Chicago Sun-Times and BGA reported today on how Mayor Daley's name turned up in FBI Files regarding embezzler John F. Duff Jr. As the Sun-Times notes: "In the annals of Daley Administration scandals, the name Duff still ranks high." The Duff family won over $100 million in city business. Sadly, that business was won by claiming that they deserved breaks that were set aside for women-owned businesses. Their bogus claims fell apart when James M. Duff Jr. pleaded guilty in 2005 to fraud and racketeering. In all there were some 33 Federal Charges against him.
Richard M. Daley knew the Duffs. He went to their parties and benefited from campaign fund-raisers they held for the mayor. Yet, King Richie II downplayed his associations throughout. Daley would say that their relationship was nothing special, but even as the press would push further he would simply say "I know a lot of people." Yea, that is true alright. Mayor Richard M. Daley knew a lot of people and many of them received preferential treatment when it came to city contracts.
The bottom line is that Richard M. Daley has rewarded "a lot of people" he trusted. Even his own family wasn't immune to receiving insider information that enabled them to profit from taxpayer money. Again, whenever questioned, all residents got was the usual Bridgeport Shrug and a snarky smile.
But, you know, I do have to wonder what his real thoughts are when it comes to his nephew, R.J. Vanecko and the prospect that he may have gotten away with murder? Could it be that Mayor Richard M. Daley just shrugs that one off too while all the evidence suggests that a coverup took place during his tenure? I guess we'll never know where his humanity is on that touchy subject.
While many will look back at Mayor Richard M. Daley's tenure with admiration for his superficial achievements and beautification efforts, but I believe his legacy will forever be associated with the corruption that was allowed to flourish while he was in "total command."
I suppose, though, that he has been very fortunate that we live in a very superficial world. Chicagoans bought the fluff and ignored the reality as to why those city assets had to be sold to stay afloat. And let us not forget too that most of that money is already long gone. Residents should be prepared to pay even more than their fair share after Rahm Emanuel takes over. Any hopes of the new mayor being any different the old one would be foolhardy, especially when they get the bill for Daley's after-office security staff.
Yea, Richard M. Daley could definitely put a smile on a grifters face.
As I see it, It has been one flim-flam after another.