As the next generation of the Daley clan took a seat in the City Council that could someday lead to the mayor’s office, the older generation took a bow.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley got a rousing ovation during Monday’s inauguration ceremony at the Chicago Theater.
It was noticeably more enthusiastic than the reception Chicago’s longest-serving mayor got four years ago at Millennium Park. And it was louder than the ovation the man of the hour, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, got Monday.
“It makes you feel proud. He gave 30 years of his life to public service, 22 to Chicago. And I would have to say he probably got the best applause of all — except maybe Bill Clinton,” said Bill Daley, the mayoral brother who succeeded Emanuel as White House chief of staff.
“They know what a tough job it is. They’ve seen it. And they know that he gave it his all for 22 years.”
Bill Daley acknowledged that his brother bears his share of responsibility for the $30 billion pension crisis at the city and public schools that had dropped Chicago’s bond rating to the junk status shared only by Detroit among major cities.
“Every person who’s ever been in elected office [and] every business leader for the last 50 years bears responsibility,” the former mayor’s brother said.
“Rich left a great city. When Rahm came in, it continued to be a great city with problems like lots of places have. But if you really look through to the problems of the pension, you could go to Springfield and put more of the jacket on them than Chicago.”
During an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times last week, Emanuel said he doesn’t curse Daley under his breath for the mess the former mayor left behind because he’s not into the blame game.
And besides, the mayor said, “There are a lot of hands on the bloody knife.”
Bill Daley agreed.
“There’s people from the media who ignored it for years. . . . Lots of people have their fingers in it. Or people could run and say it’s somebody else’s problem,” he said.
Patrick Daley, the former mayor’s son, was also on hand Monday to see his cousin, Patrick Daley Thompson, sworn in as alderman of the 11th Ward, the Daley family’s ancestral home.
Not surprisingly, Patrick Daley refused to answer questions on the way into the ceremony.
In 2007, the Chicago Sun-Times disclosed that Patrick Daley, then a U.S. army soldier deployed overseas, and the mayor’s nephew Robert Vanecko had a hidden interest in a sewer inspection company whose city business rose sharply while they were owners.
Their former business partner was subsequently charged with three counts of mail fraud after being accused of engaging in minority business fraud.
An emotional Daley called his son’s investment a “lapse in judgment” and declared, “I wish he hadn’t done it.” But Daley said he didn’t know about the deal until the Sun-Times started asking questions.
Rookie Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) still lives in the Bridgeport bungalow once owned by his grandfather, former Mayor Richard J. Daley.
After Monday’s ceremony, Thompson was asked whether he feels like he’s representing the past, given the Daley family’s political legacy.
“We’re looking at the future. The past is behind us. I’m very honored that my family, the Daley family, has been in public service for many generations and municipal service. I’m very proud of that,” he said.
Emanuel has spent the last four years trashing and changing virtually everything his predecessor and political mentor — including the widely despised parking meter deal — did without ever mentioning Richard M. Daley by name.
The mayor has proposed a seemingly endless wave of ethics reforms as if to turn the page from the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals that cast a dark cloud on Daley’s 22-year reign.
Emanuel also succeeded where Daley failed — by getting Chicago out from under the federal Shakman decree and the costly constraints of a federal hiring monitor.
Sources said all of that has placed a strain on the relationship between the present and former mayor.
On Monday, Thompson was asked whether he’s bothered by the fact that Emanuel — a former Daley fund-raiser who got elected to Congress with help from Daley’s patronage armies — keeps referring to past mistakes, without naming his uncle.
“No, I mean, look. I’m not looking to blame, I’m new to the Council as of an hour ago,” Thompson said.
“I’m trying to come up with solutions to work with the mayor, to work with the City Council. . . . I don’t even think of that.”
Contributing: Natasha Korecki