Emanuel offers dispassionate response to William Daley’s ‘big-boy pants’ blast

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he was simply being honest when asked a question about city finances and giving an answer that appeared to blame his predecessor, Richard M. Daley. | Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday offered a dispassionate response to William Daley’s emotional demand that Emanuel “put on his big-boy pants” and stop blaming former Mayor Richard M. Daley for tax increases needed to solve Chicago’s $36 billion pension crisis.

“Within the first minutes of becoming mayor, I praised Mayor Daley at my inaugural. … I know he loves the city. And I believe that. And I still believe he cares about it,” Emanuel said after announcing yet another strategic deployment “nerve center,” this time in the Chicago Lawn police district.

“In answering the question of what it takes to right the ship fiscally and on the pensions, I was actually and, I still believe, dealing with the situation up-front, handling what was handed to me and the city and making sure we didn’t run away from it, but dealt with it up-front. And that is the truth.”

Emanuel said he meant no disrespect to his predecessor and political mentor.

“I believe…the mayor loves the city and served the city. But, we had a situation, given what was happening on both the education front, the finances at the schools [and] the fiscal condition of the city that explained why we had to address what we had to address to….stabilize our finances, stabilize our pensions, which created an environment for unprecedented corporate and business relocations in the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.

“It’s unseemly to keep blaming the previous administration, which has been gone seven years,” William Daley told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Come on. Put the big-boy pants on, and move on. It’s kind of sad.” | Rich Hein / Sun-Times files

“It’s unseemly to keep blaming the previous administration, which has been gone seven years,” William Daley told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Come on. Put the big-boy pants on, and move on. It’s kind of sad.” | Rich Hein / Sun-Times files

Last week, long-simmering tensions between Emanuel and the Daley family boiled over, with William Daley rising to the defense of his older brother.

The final straw was Emanuel’s decision to blame Chicago’s longest-serving mayor for the avalanche of tax increases needed to solve the pension crisis.

William Daley was so incensed by Emanuel’s attack, he called the Sun-Times twice to unload. The first time was unsolicited to talk about how “unseemly” it all was. The second time he called to draw the contrast between Daley’s silence and Emanuel’s finger-pointing.

“It’s kind of like Obama blaming Bush after seven years and saying, ‘I’ve got this problem in the Middle East and George Bush did this.’ Come on. Put the big boy pants on and move on. It’s kind of sad,” William Daley said in mocking tones.

William Daley was not appeased by Emanuel’s decision to lay the blame at Richard M. Daley’s doorstep without ever mentioning the former mayor’s name.

“He didn’t mention his name. OK, fine. [But], there’s only one person he’s talking about. You and I know and he knows: The previous administration that was there for 22 years,” William Daley said.

William Daley said he “appreciates the difficulty of the job” Emanuel has to do.

But that’s no excuse for disrespecting the former mayor, whom William Daley said has shown “class” by not sitting in judgment of his successor.

“Rich believes in the dignity of the office. He’s left office and he’s not gonna be commenting. He’s shown class. That’s a real contrast between the two styles,” William Daley said.

“I watched my brother for 22 years and my dad for 21 years deal with issues in a tough way. But, seven years in, I don’t think my dad was blaming Mayor Kennelly. And Rich, seven years in, wasn’t blaming Gene Sawyer and Harold Washington.”

William Daley did openly acknowledge his brother’s failure to solve the pension crisis. But he argued that Richard M. Daley and the aldermen who supported his budgets “did the best they could” after weighing “decisions on raising taxes in the middle of an economic crisis [with] homeowners stretched.”

He added: “Did Rich Daley do everything perfect for 22 years? Of course not. Did he solve the pension problem? You’d be an idiot to say he did. He didn’t. Did he do incredible things for the city over those 22 years that obviously some people want to forget any of it and, when there’s positive, take credit for that and, when there’s negative, blame the last guy? It’s kind of unseemly.”

Emanuel points with pride to having identified dedicated funding sources for all four city employee pension funds.

But, William Daley said, that didn’t “solve the problem.” All it did, he added, was “buy time until 2023.”

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