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Daley 'the boss' to Daley 'the manager'


NOTE: As readers of this column have learned over the years, I am a great fan of Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade. I believe it is the best historical vehicle to compare Chicago's new mayor Daley with his illustrious father on the anniversary of the former's first year in office.

On a cold St. Patrick's Day in 1956, Richard J. Daley led his first parade down State Street as mayor of Chicago. Walking next to him was "hizzoner's" version of an urban rainbow coalition various leaders from the city's ethnic communities marching side by side showing their respect for St. Patrick, Chicago's Irish and, most important, the mayor.

The parade would wind its way through the Loop ending up at Old St. Patrick's Church, the city's oldest Irish parish, where Cardinal Stritch would hold a special mass for the marchers. Later that night, the mayor and the city's Irish Fellowship Club would host a special dinner featuring a relatively unknown guest speaker from Massachusetts, Sen. John F. Kennedy.

Observing all of these political festivities was the mayor's teenage son Rich. Some might call it Irish destiny; others might suggest blind luck, but 34 years later the son, Richard M. Daley, would have his chance to lead his first St. Patrick's Day parade as mayor of Chicago.

Though a new but similar-looking generation of pols would march alongside Daley II (some, like the mayor, would be sons and daughters of past political leaders) and much of the St. Patrick's Day hoopla would remain nearly the same, not so for the lifestyle and politics of Chicago. Times along Lake Michigan have changed dramatically since the elder Daley's first parade.

Demographically, Chicago is no longer an ethnic town filled with diverse neighborhoods of different European origins. Blacks and Hispanics together comprise a solid majority of city residents, with Asian-Americans, percentage-wise, the fastest growing group in the city.

Richard M. views himself as more of a manager than a politician. . . . and is not embarrassed or angered when he is described as a reformer

Economically, Chicago has traded its blue-collar broad shoulders for pinstriped narrow ones. A thriving service economy has muscled aside Chicago's manufacturing/industrial image, and today the city's downtown Loop and "Super Loop" (the area surrounding the central city) is exploding with new office buildings, restaurants and the dreaded "yuppie" codeword "cute shops."

Educationally, Chicago's once proud

42/June 1990/Illinois Issues

public school system is in shambles. A business-backed reform movement is now attempting to decentralize educational administration as a last-ditch hope to turn around elementary and secondary school performance. Unlike his dad in 1956, Daley II has little control over the fortune or policies of the school board or the nearly 600 elected "local school councils."

But the biggest change of all in the span of time between the two Daleys is in the city's politics. Back in 1956, Richard J. said, "A political party is a machine only when you oppose it." The elder Daley, as the Democratic party chairman, was the party pointman for all elections and the unquestioned boss when it came time for political endorsements or party slatings. Richard M. views himself as more of a manager than a politician. He refuses to involve himself overtly in party battles. He appears more comfortable administering budgets than discussing election returns and is not embarrassed or angered when he is described as a reformer.

Party loyalty was everything to the elder Daley. His first mayoral election victory in 1955 was a party triumph of powerful local ward organizations, white and black, which used their muscle and discipline to put him over the top. Young Daley's 1989 mayoral victory was a coalition of ethnics, Hispanics, Asians and various lakefronters (economic liberals, gays, yuppies, political conservatives and good government advocates). Unlike his dad, Rich Daley won with his own personal organization and ran on a platform that might have brought chills to many of those old pols who marched with his father in the 1956 parade.

During the decade of the 1980s reform winds swept across Chicago mayoral politics. Bashing party politics and politicians has become a popular spectator sport for media types, so-called political "progressives" and assorted academicians. It is indeed an irony of history that the one individual who has benefited most from these anti-party developments is a man named Daley. The age of reform in Chicago will likely produce another long Daley era in the city, and though much has changed, the parade goes on.

Paul M. Green is director of the Institute for Public Policy and Administration, Governors State University.

June 1990/Illinois Issues/43

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