The Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals cast a giant shadow over former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 22-year administration.
So did the steady drumbeat of contract cronyism benefiting Daley’s friends, political allies and members of his own family.
That included money-losing pension deals that lined the pockets of Daley’s nephew, his son’s hidden interest in a city sewer deal and the emergence of his brother’s law firm as Chicago’s preeminent zoning firm.
On Thursday, mayoral candidate Bill Daley unveiled an ethics plan tailor-made to separate himself from his older brother’s tenure and prove to Chicagoans his election would not bring more of the same.
The most pointed break from the past is Bill Daley’s pledge to prohibit any members of his immediate or extended family from doing business with the city while he is mayor — no lobbying, no bidding on city contracts and no managing public pension funds.
The family ban also would apply to local government agencies under the mayor’s control.
“I’m not commenting on the past or what happened. I’m laying out a proposal that, when I’m mayor, I believe is the right thing for not only my administration, but for the office of mayor and the city of Chicago. That’s what it’s about,” Bill Daley said.
Implied, but not stated, is Bill Daley’s belief that his brother did the wrong thing by allowing family members to benefit from his administration.
“That’s your opinion and that’s fine. You can state that. I’m just talking about the future. I’m trying not to keep going back to 40, 50, or 60 or 12 or 30 years ago. This is what I believe in 2019 … should be my position on a number of issues that have been raised over many years,” he said.
“This is a different day. These are the proposals that, I think, will address some of the concerns that I’ve heard,” he added. “I want to operate on behalf of the people.”
The family ban is only one part of Daley’s sweeping ethics plan.
Daley also vowed to swear off political contributions from registered lobbyists, prohibit members of his campaign staff from lobbying the city and suspend all fundraising activities during his first three years as mayor.
If elected, Daley said, he would propose yet another change in the city’s ethics ordinance to make it consistent with the executive order placing a $1,500-a-year ceiling on contributions by lobbyists and city contractors.
He proposed a two-term limit for the mayor and suggested members of the City Council agree to a somewhat longer limit — but a whole lot shorter than 50 years.
That’s obviously a reference to Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th), who celebrated 50 years in politics earlier this year.
Instead of grappling with a new ward map at a time when the black exodus from Chicago demands a dramatic reduction in the number of African-American wards, Daley said he would work to convince aldermen to put the political hot potato in the hands of an independent redistricting commission.
He can’t force the issue. Only the City Council can do that. But, he believes it makes sense, just as it did at the state level, even though that effort fell flat.
“There’s a way to do it that’s sensitive to the history of the city — the racial, geographic, demographic and ethnic make-up of the city — and do it in a fair, independent and more transparent way than the way it has historically been done,” Daley said.
“Just because you did it in the past doesn’t mean you have to do it in the future. This is the 21st Century. Things change. We ought to be open to change and not thinking the world will end as we know it if we change.”
In 2007, the Sun-Times disclosed that Richard M. Daley’s soldier son Patrick, then 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.
Daley sang a similar tune after the Sun-Times disclosed his nephew’s risky real estate venture involving $68 million in city employee pension funds.
The mayor insisted he had tried to get his nephew out of the deal nearly two years earlier, only to be ignored.
“I love my nephew. It’s difficult for me to have my disappointment in him made public,” Daley said at the time, offering an explanation that was difficult for many Chicagoans to swallow.
Bill Daley unveiled his ethics plan as he padded his formidable lead in the mayoral fundraising sweepstakes by reporting $446,000 in new contributions — in addition to the $1.32 million he had previously raised.
The largest contribution — $250,000 — came from insurance magnate Pat Ryan, who chaired Chicago’s failed 2016 Olympic Committee.
Ken Langone, founder of Invermed, gave Daley $100,000. Other sizable donations include: philanthropist Gary Brinson ($25,000); public relations magnate Richard Edelman ($15,000); former FCC Chairman Newton Minnow ($10,000); Bloomberg executive Josh Steiner ($10,000); William Goodyear ($10,000); and attorney Allen Muchin ($10,000.)