Chicago aldermen gave retiring Mayor Richard Daley a standing ovation at his last City Council meeting.
Aldermen presented a resolution honoring Daley's 22 years in office at Wednesday's meeting and gave him a commemorative crystal bowl.
The aldermen are gave speeches praising Daley and his time in office, calling it a privilege and honor to have worked with him.
“There’s an old Irish saying which goes as follows: you have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was,” Alderman Ed Burke said. “And for the past 22 years, no one has demonstrated the wisdom of that adage more than Mayor Richard M. Daley."
Burke went on to say that Daley made Chicago the most livable city in America.
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel takes over on May 16, along with 13 new aldermen. The aldermen who were either voted out of office or are retiring are also experiencing their last council meeting Wednesday.
"It's over. I loved it," alderman Berny Stone told NBC Chicago. Stone, who has held his seat for 38 years, lost to Debra Silverstein in April's run-off elections.
During Daley's 22 years in office, he has managed to get his way for the most part.
Daley started presiding over council meetings in 1989 after being sworn in following a decade marked by racially-tinged Council Wars. The mayor eventually cemented power, partly due to the fact that he got to appoint so many aldermen who vacated their seats due to corruption convictions, new jobs or retirements.
Carol Marin of the Chicago Sun-Times used a quote by legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko to sum up Daley's time in office. Though Royko's words were meant for Daley's father in 1976, former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, she noted that the words "fit the son like a glove:"
“In some ways, he was this town at its best — strong, hard-driving, working feverishly, pushing, building, driven by ambitions . . . In other ways, he was this city at its worst — arrogant, crude, conniving, ruthless, suspicious, intolerant. He wasn’t graceful, suave, witty or smooth. But, then, this is not Paris or San Francisco. He was raucous, sentimental, hot-tempered, practical, simple, devious, big, and powerful. This is, after all, Chicago.”Watch Daley's Council farewell here:
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Check out some highlights from Mayor Daley's years in office here:
Mayor Harold Washington died in office in December of 1987. Daley ran against interim mayor Eugene Sawyer in the Democratic primaries, and won office in the general election of April 1989.
One of the mayor's early signature policies was mandating that 25% of city contracts go to minority-owned businesses in Chicago. Additionally, 5% of contracts must go to women-owned businesses.
After decades of abysmal performance, the city's schools were a major problem in the 1990s. Mayor Daley's solution -- one that would prove typical to his style -- was to seize control of the schools himself. Rather than having an elected school board and superintendent, those posts are all appointed by the mayor's office. While there have been incremental improvements in the schools since, and the city is experimenting with an expanding charter school program, CPS is still a troubled system: a study in 2006 showed that of 100 incoming freshmen in the Chicago schools, only six would have a bachelor's degree by age 25.
This public-private partnership is an oft-touted accomplishment of Daley's, that has worked over the last decade to bring business investment to the city. Today, its website touts investments from MillerCoors, Ford, United, and Groupon.
In 2002, Daley's wife Maggie was diagnosed with breast cancer. It has since metastasized to other parts of her body, and while it is currently under control, the illness has been a preoccupation for the mayor for many years. His wife's health has been discussed as one of the reasons for Daley's retirement.
After winning re-election earlier that year, Mayor Daley led a very controversial shutdown of the small airfield on Northerly Island. Without approval from the City Council, let alone the FAA, Daley destroyed the runways overnight, leaving planes stranded at the airport. The Tribune called him "authoritarian" for the move; Daley countered that it was for the city's safety. Complaining that the airspace over Disney World had tighter restrictions than Chicago, Daley uttered the memorable line: "Mickey Mouse has a no-fly zone."
One of the signature accomplishments of Daley's administration was the opening of this downtown landmark. It's now the second-biggest tourist attraction in the city, and while it faced problems with budget over-runs and cronyism during construction, it has been widely hailed by critics and adopted as a centerpiece of the city.
In an effort to generate revenue for the city, Mayor Daley leased the Chicago Skyway for 99 years to a private company for a lump sum of $1.8 billion. In exchange, Cintra-Macquarie got rights to the toll revenues, and could raise rates. Supporters in the mayor's camp called it an innovative way to generate revenue. But critics were concerned about the city losing control of its assets. Now, due to budget shortfalls, the $1.8 billion that was meant to last 99 years is more than half gone already.
First revealed by an investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times, this scandal involved private trucks being hired to do city work. The investigation showed that many companies had mob ties; others were associated with city employees or paid bribes to take part in the program. Many high-level officials, including Donald Tomczak of the water department (pictured, right) were convicted of crimes surrounding the scandal. As a result, Daley reformed the city's hiring program. But the scandal reinforced perception of the mayor among his opponents as a perpetrator of insider, pay-to-play politics.
Gun control has been a signature issue for Daley throughout his tenure. In 2006, he was one of 15 mayors to found the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, serving as the organization's CEO. The group, which now has over 500 member mayors, is working for more strict gun control laws and enforcement. He is currently grappling with the ramifications of McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the city's longstanding handgun ban.
Following in the footsteps of the Skyway deal, Daley privatized the city's parking meters in late 2008. This deal has been still more controversial than its predecessor; many argue that the city didn't get nearly as much money as it could have, and higher parking rates and malfunctioning machines have been a perennial headache for Chicagoans.
Daley fought hard to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. He had prepared a number of major construction projects for the city, including a new CTA train line, a massive expansion to O'Hare Airport, and creation of a number of stadiums and venues downtown. Unfortunately, not even a surprise visit to the IOC by President Obama could get Chicago out of the first round of competition, a stinging rebuke to Daley and the city.