Daley 3.0: Richard J. Daley’s grandchildren making their mark

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Originally published June 1, 2008

For more than 50 years, the Daley family has been shaping Chicago.

Now, the next generation of Daleys is making its mark on the city.

They’re working in business and law, education and medicine.

None holds elected office — yet. But many are still in the middle of some of the biggest issues affecting the city:

• The replacement of public housing projects. The oldest grandchild of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley — Robert Vanecko — is helping build affordable housing, financed with city pension funds. He’s also eyeing redevelopment of the neighborhood around the proposed Olympic stadium.

• A private takeover of Midway Airport. Another grandson, William Daley Jr., works for a company that wants to run the airport.

• The proposed state purchase of Wrigley Field. Grandson Peter Q. Thompson is a member of the state board that will make the decision.

• The Chicago Children’s Museum’s proposed move to Grant Park. Grandson Patrick Daley Thompson works for the museum’s law firm.

• The Lollapalooza festival in Grant Park, where rock concerts were long forbidden. Grandson Mark Vanecko is Lollapalooza’s lobbyist.

Members of this new generation also have been caught up in scandal. Two grandsons — Patrick Daley, son of the current mayor, and Robert Vanecko — had a hidden stake in a company with city contracts, deals now under investigation by the city’s inspector general and the FBI.

The late mayor’s 20 living grandchildren are between the ages of 23 and 42. All but one live in Chicago, mostly on the North Side, far from the South Side Bridgeport bungalow where their parents grew up.

And this new generation is stretching the family’s influence, ensuring the Daleys will continue to play powerful roles in politics, government and civic activities, the Chicago Sun-Times has found in a first-ever look at the next generation of the Daleys, Chicago’s version of the Kennedys or Britain’s royal family.

Daley family members have a long history of doing business at City Hall, from insurance to zoning matters. The late mayor refused to apologize for helping his sons in politics or at City Hall.

Most of his nine grandsons have been involved in deals at City Hall, Cook County or the state of Illinois. Those deals have ranged from investing city pension funds to getting liquor licenses for bars.

And all while the current Mayor Daley has ruled City Hall.

On the other hand, most of the late mayor’s 11 granddaughters have gone in other directions. One is a pediatrician. Another is a nurse. One volunteers with autistic children.

But a few of the granddaughters have husbands who work for companies that do business with City Hall or other governments.

Some grandkids are prominent in civic life. They’ve sat on the boards of organizations including Adler Planetarium, Best Buddies Illinois and the Valentine Boys and Girls Club in Bridgeport.

No one has run for public office. But just wait, insiders say.

And if the Daley dynasty does produce a third Chicago mayor, his last name might not be Daley but Thompson — as in Peter Q. Thompson, the eldest son of the late mayor’s eldest daughter.

“Peter is really the prince,” said one City Hall insider. “He’s a star.”

Others point to his younger brother, Patrick Daley Thompson, who owns one of Chicago’s most famous houses — the Bridgeport bungalow of his grandfather, the late mayor.

“Of all of them, Patrick Thompson has the most palpable interest in being in the public,” said one Chicago politician. “He’s the one who’s expressed or has done what he can to position himself as a candidate. I’ve heard speculation about Congress.”

Don’t rule out the current mayor’s eldest daughter, Nora Daley Conroy, says one insider: “She’s the brains of the next generation.”

Only one member of the next generation of Daleys — Peter Thompson — would talk with a reporter long enough to say he wouldn’t talk about his family. Thompson, an ardent Sox fan like his grandfather and uncles, wouldn’t even say if any of his cousins cheer for the Cubs.

Mayor Daley’s press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, suggested some cousins might respond to written questions. But none did.

“I have not heard back, and, quite honestly, I am starting to get the feeling that those who were willing to talk are getting pressure from those who aren’t,” Heard said.

“I know that one of the uncles felt very strongly that none of them should talk, that, if they want to maintain their lives, don’t help sort of foist themselves even more . . . to the spotlight.”

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