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What Bill Daley says his brother ‘got wrong’ as Chicago mayor

Bill Daley said Friday there’s a “big difference” between his own style and the way Richard M. Daley ran Chicago and named three differences: He would never have sold the parking meters. He would not have allowed the pension crisis to fester. And he would have closed Meigs Field, but in the daylight.

The parking meter deal is an easy place to draw the line between brothers.

Not only is the deal widely-despised and a symbol of Richard M. Daley’s financial mismanagement, exacerbated by the former mayor’s decision to spend the proceeds to avoid raising property taxes.

Chicago’s parking meter system raked in $134.2 million last year, putting private investors on pace to recoup their entire $1.16 billion investment by 2021 with 62 years to go in the lease.

“He did a lot of things wrong. He didn’t solve the pension problem. I gave you the headline,” Daley said of his older brother, Chicago’s longest-serving mayor.

“He sold the parking meters…The way they did it was absolutely a mistake. When he was faced with allegedly laying off 5,000 city employees, including police and fire, he looked for revenue. [But] they should have done it differently….I would not do that deal.”

Mayoral candidate Bill Daley is interviewed by reporter Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times newsroom Friday, October 26, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Mayoral candidate Bill Daley is interviewed by reporter Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times newsroom Friday, October 26, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Richard M. Daley’s decision to send in bulldozers under cover of darkness to carve giant X’s into Meigs Field’s only runway is also easy pickings. It was a symbol of the former mayor’s arrogance.

“I would have closed it. I would have brought the 40 acres to the people of Chicago. But probably not in the middle of the night….He had a different style than I would have…I would have done it in the daylight,” Bill Daley said.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley. | AP

During a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Daley also suggested that it’s time for the City Council’s most powerful and longest-serving alderman, Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th), to step aside and pave the way for a Hispanic to represent his majority-Hispanic ward.

“Fifty years is a long time to be in any job. And I think that, as a part-time job, it’s probably time, considering the changes that have gone in, that he move on and have a representative from that ward that is of the Hispanic persuasion because that ward is primarily Hispanic,” Daley said.

Burke, who has endorsed his longtime friend and former employee Gery Chico for mayor, could not be reached for comment.

Burke has had a political bull’s-eye on his back since his brother, state Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), was defeated by political newcomer Aaron Ortiz in a primary race dominated by Edward Burke’s property tax reduction work for the riverfront hotel and condominium tower bearing the name of President Donald Trump.

Burke has since cited “irreconcilable differences” for his decision to stop representing Trump. That hasn’t stopped County Commissioner-turned-Democratic Congressional nominee Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and his allies from recruiting a challenger.

Daley was asked whether he believes Burke is in trouble.

“I assume he is,” the candidate said.

Earlier this week, Daley unveiled an ethics plan tailor-made to separate himself from the Hired Truck, city hiring, minority contracting and cronyism scandals that cast a giant shadow over his brother’s administration.

The most pointed break from the past was a pledge to prohibit any members of his family or extended family from doing business with the city while he is mayor, including lobbying, bidding on city contracts or managing public pension funds.

On Friday, Bill Daley repeatedly refused to pass judgment on Daley family profiteering of the past.

“You can write the history book and I’ll buy it…That’s your job to look back. I’m looking forward. I don’t think the public cares to engage in a process about the last 30 or 40 years. They’re hearing from me about what I believe,” he said.

“I never heard a Daley before say there ought to be term limits. I never heard a Daley before say these things.”

Mayoral candidate Bill Daley is interviewed by reporter Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times newsroom Friday, October 26, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Mayoral candidate Bill Daley is interviewed by reporter Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times newsroom Friday, October 26, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

And why didn’t he tell his brother at the time that it was the wrong thing to do?

“Because I wasn’t running for mayor at the time,” he said candidly.

Also during Friday’s free-flowing interview, Bill Daley:

• Said he is not yet prepared to lay out a plan for a $1 billion spike in pension payments.

• Argued that the 970 additional police officers are “probably not enough” to solve Chicago’s violent crime problems, particularly not when the now-pending consent decree and the conviction of Police Officer Jason Van Dyke has police officers laying back.

• Made it clear he doesn’t think much of Elon Musk’s plan to build an underground transit line to whisk travelers between downtown and O’Hare Airport. Not only is he skeptical about the unproven technology. He’s not even sure there’s a market to support it.

“If he wants to do it, that’s fine…But I’m not gonna spend a lot of time and energy on a 12-minute train ride for $50 for a business guy to O’Hare,” he said.

“He’s gonna have to go awfully deep and avoid costing the city or anyone else. Or else, he’ll be liable for a lot of lawsuits if he starts screwing up peoples businesses and livelihood.”

• Argued that the business community that has helped him become the fundraising leader with $1.7 million so far is “very concerned” about stability, taxation and about Chicago taking a sharp turn to the left.

• Said a solution to Chicago’s affordable housing crisis may require stripping aldermen of their iron-fisted control over zoning in their wards.

• Pointed to federal “Opportunity Zones” included in the Trump tax cut bill as the best hope to rebuild South and West Side neighborhoods that still look like war zones.

• Strongly disagreed with Chris Kennedy, whose failed gubernatorial campaign he chaired, that Mayor Rahm Emanuel engineered a “strategic gentrification plan” to intentionally push African-Americans out and “whiten” Chicago.

• Maintained that his decision to run for mayor is “not just some ego move” or capstone on his long career. He truly believes that, after decades of service in business and in government, he has a unique ability to “bring people together to solve problems.”

Fran Spielman ShowIn the run-up to Chicago’s historic 2019 mayoral race, veteran Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman goes one-on-one each Friday with a Chicago newsmaker. You can watch all episodes on the Fran Spielman Show page on the Sun-Times website.