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Question of the day

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

The Sun-Times commemorates tomorrow’s 30th anniversary of Richard J. Daley’s death by reprinting a story from the time and a Mike Royko column. Here’s Royko:

…In some ways, he was this town at its best — strong, hard-driving, working feverishly, pushing, building, driven by ambitions so big they seemed Texas-boastful.

In other ways, he was this city at its worst — arrogant, crude, conniving, ruthless, suspicious, intolerant. […]

And if somebody in City Hall saw a chance to make a fast bundle or two, Daley wasn’t given to preaching. His advice amounted to: Don’t get caught.

But that’s Chicago, too. The question has never been how you made it, but if you made it. This town was built by great men who demanded that drunkards and harlots be arrested, while charging them rent until the cops arrived.

Some things never change.

What do you think is Richard J’s greatest legacy?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Squideshi - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:22 am:

    Patronage and machine politics.

  2. - anon - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:41 am:

    Keeping the downtown area strong. Many people thought the neighborhoods suffered because of this but in reality it is what has actually kept the city alive and their property taxes lower. The added property and sales tax along with the jobs, transportation, nightlife, etc. were vital to the city. Look at what happened to other older cities (Detroit, Cleveland to name a few) and you can see how important this was.

  3. - jerry - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:43 am:

    For better or worse, I’d say the expressways and the University of Illinois at Chicago, not to mention O’Hare.

    Of course there are many legacies of the old…ummm…dude. Some good, others bad. The housing projects, ‘urban renewal’, and the 1968 DNC stick out as some of the worst.

  4. - jerry - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:46 am:

    and, anon, patronage and machine politics existed well before Daley, and will likely exist well beyond Richie JR.

  5. - jerry - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:47 am:

    anon should be squideshi. my bad.

  6. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:50 am:

    There is so many great things done by this man. He loved the city and raised his family to serve it too.

    As a mayor, he was outstanding. While other mayor consolidated and centralized city services, he was the first to decentralize city services while keeping decision making within city hall. He saw the real world. He recognized that suburbia and white flight would destroy Chicago, so he brought the collar counties into the Chicago orbit via transportation, jails, hospitals, and taxes. As a result, Chicago’s collar counties help pay for a great deal of the city’s costs. As St. Louis, Detroit, NYC and so many other major cities sank under centralization and taxes, Daley strong-armed Chicago’s goo-goos into accepting an economic view of city politics that kept the city alive.

    He kept business in Chicago. He made deals within his power structure to keep union costs down and keep businesses in town. He stood against crime and disorder. Under Daley’s watch, the Chicago Police were respected and feared. He brought expressways through the red tape and civic oppositions to keep The Loop alive and businesses healthy.

    Daley took full responsibility for everything that happened in the city. He was Chicago and no one loved it more than he. He would kill for us if he had to.

    Today, the “enlightened” politicos look back at the man and see only his hard edges. Like the old guard dog that kept the burglars away, today’s Care Bear Liberals want to believe that neutered, declawed kittens can do the job. Instead of a leader, they seek consensus. Instead of a decision maker, they seek a salesman.

    It is no wonder why Daley is studied in university classes on city administration. He showed how to do it right. But it is too bad that Daley is also slandered in university classes on Pandering and Butt Kissing 101.

  7. - Snark - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 10:04 am:


  8. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 10:37 am:

    His sons are getting rich at the trough. M is doing agood job overall.

  9. - grand old partisan - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 11:18 am:

    His greatest legacy is Mayor Richard M Daley, which has provided the justification for County Board President Todd Stroger, County Commissioner Robert Steele, Alderman Marcel Beavers, Comptroller Dan Hynes, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Congressman Dan Lipinksi, and countless others.

  10. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 11:29 am:

    Ummm…VM–St. Louis is one of the most decentralized metropolitan areas and cities–it’s even more ward based than Chicago. The general point isn’t bad, but the example is a problem.

    That Picasso:
    ” But why not? Everybody said it had the spirit of Chicago. And from thousands of miles away, accidentally or on purpose, Picasso captured it.
    Up there in that ugly face is the spirit of Al Capone, the Summerdale scandal cops, the settlers who took the Indians but good.
    Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible.
    It has the look of the dope pusher and of the syndicate technician as he looks for just the right wire to splice the bomb to.
    Any bigtime real estate operator will be able to look into the face of the Picasso and see the spirit that makes the city’s rebuilding possible and profitable.
    It has the look of the big corporate executive who comes face to face with the reality of how much water pollution his company is responsible for and then thinks of the profit and loss and of his salary.
    It is all there in that Picasso thing the I Will spirit. The I will get you before you will get me spirit.
    Picasso has never been here, they say. You’d think he’s been riding the L all his life.”

  11. - Snidely Whiplash - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 11:37 am:

    Perpetuation of monarchy in Chicago and Cook County. Oh, and lots of pretty trees and flowers. And the bean … can’t forget the bean. And cows and other artsy statues all over the place. Wow! Chicago really IS Versaille on the Lake! And we even have Louis XVI (ok, Richard II) to go along with it!

  12. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 11:41 am:

    St. Louis didn’t have a Daley during the 1950s. Instead it enacted taxes that impacted only the city - not the suburbs. St. Louis has lost more population as a percentage than any other city in the US. It didn’t decentralize until it was too late. Daley decentralized Chicago 40-50 years ago, not when it was too late.

  13. - Niles Township - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 12:32 pm:

    Racial division and neighborhood segregation through city planning whose effects we still deal with today (read American Pharoah for a decent analysis of this).

  14. - Robert Zimmerman - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 12:33 pm:

    The Days of Rage riots occurred in Chicago over a 4-day period beginning October 8, 1969 after 287 members of the militant group, the Weathermen, converged on the city to confront the police in the streets after protesting the trial of the group that was commonly referred to as “The Chicago Seven”.

  15. - scoot - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 12:37 pm:

    After reading “Boss” I would have to say his legacy is building the jewel on the lake up there. Also, building all the skyscrapers that make Chicago what it is today. Of course there was probably more bad then good, but what a magnificant city he built.

  16. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 12:37 pm:

    Richard J. did some great things, but overall, the major housing projects will be the legacy.

    The idea was good — low priced housing — but the execution was absolutely miserable and the mayor has to take the blame.

    It is interesting that the one real lasting impact of Richard M. will be the dismantling of those same projects.

  17. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 12:47 pm:

    ===St. Louis didn’t have a Daley during the 1950s. Instead it enacted taxes that impacted only the city - not the suburbs. St. Louis has lost more population as a percentage than any other city in the US. It didn’t decentralize until it was too late. Daley decentralized Chicago 40-50 years ago, not when it was too late.

    St. Louis has always been one of the most fragmented metropolitan areas as was the Center city. Gary Miller wrote a book on this over 20 years ago. The problem of St. Louis losing population was that it is landlocked to boundaries from the 19th century and so the areas of Clayton, U City, Maplewood, Shrewsbury, Webster Groves and other near inner ring suburbs would be a part of the central city in any other metropolitan area. St. Louis was decentralized by design from the very beginning. It has lost over half of its population since the 1950s because the areas left in the city were the areas of the most obsolete housing. Obsolete housing leads to poor people moving in and then a situation as Wilson would describe where the neighborhoods lost their positive role models as individuals moved out when they got the ability leaving behind the worst off.

    South City only recently turned around that trend and North City continues down the same path.

  18. - scoot - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 2:28 pm:

    Wait a second…hands down his greatest legacy was being elected a a Republican!!!!! to steal the election

  19. - Punley Deiter Finn - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 2:45 pm:

    Transportation is our legacy: Abraham Lincoln left us the IC and Chicago as a national rail hub, Mayor Kelly left us the CTA, Governor Stratton gave us the Interstate and Tollway system, Mayor Daley gave us O’Hara. President Obama and Mayor Daley will knit it all together before the 2016 Olympics, when we will become the crossroads of the World. See ya later New York. Adios LA.

  20. - Garp - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 2:46 pm:

    Reading those words you printed reminds me how much I miss Royko.

    Daley’s greatest legacy is the political machine he built that still calls the shots throughout Illinois and even beyond.

  21. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 2:53 pm:

    St. Louis died for a number of reasons, claiming that old housing stock did it in overlooks poor policies that enacted a city tax on income, a refusal to admit that the industrial age ended, a destruction of it’s one-of-a-kind historial buildings and river front, rampant municipal corruption and vote fraud, the nation’s worst crime rate, and one party rule.

    Daley avoided these pitfalls. He knew wealth was leaving for the suburbs, so he got creative - spinning off costly city services while retaining decision making. He was staunchly pro-business and anti-crime. His power allowed him to reach out and annex vital part of the city, such as O’Hare. Without Daley, Chicago could have gone the way other Democratically ran cities went - downhill. Fortunately, he was a dead serious conservative accountant Democrat, with clout. While other cities played with “progressive” policies, Chicago focused on work. That era ended when he died in 1976. He would not be surprised at how inept the city is ran today - he foresaw how “progressive” political mentality would cripple a city’s economy and growth by driving cities away. If Daley was mayor, Chicago would be Walmart’s HQ.

    Obsolete housing and restrictive boundaries describes all cities. To claim that this was the downfall of cities such as Detroit, Hartford and St. Louis gives poor city management and poor city policies an excuse for their continued failures.

  22. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 3:20 pm:

    OK, I love you both - truly I do - but can we please move off of St. Louis? Thanks.

  23. - scoot - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 3:47 pm:

    Garp, you’re right on.

  24. - Mike Williams - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 4:58 pm:

    probably his son.

    You can’t blame machine politics on him. If you really want to know and/or read something on that, read about Anton Cermak. He was the founder of the modern day political machine. Before that, study Thompson or the old first ward (McKenna and Coughlin).

    Whoever said Richard J. took full responsibility for things is nuts. Only if they went right did he take responsibility. It is reported that privately he was shocked at the police behavior during the 1968 convention but said nothing publically. Nor did he do anything when African Americans moved into Bridgeport and his neighbors threw rocks in the windows. Granted, times were different then, but he could have shown more leadership on those issues than he did.

    One more thing: he was much greater than his doofus son.

  25. - Honest Abe - Wednesday, Dec 20, 06 @ 8:01 am:

    Empowering the First Ward Democratic Organization, enabling the West Side Bloc, and allowing Congressman Bill Dawson to maintain Chicago’s status as mob influenced, corrupted municipality.

  26. - HappyToaster - Wednesday, Dec 20, 06 @ 11:31 am:

    Staying on top of the heap for 20+ years.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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