In his typically blunt style, Mayor Richard M. Daley replied Wednesday afternoon to a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency, urging that his city's Chicago River be made clean enough to swim in.
"The federal government should look out their window at the Potomac and figure out what the Potomac is all about," the mayor said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
And then, in true Daley form, "Go swim in the Potomac."
The mayor was responding to a recommendation from the EPA and the Obama administration, quietly filed with a state rule-making panel and uncovered by the Chicago Tribune yesterday.
For decades, the river was a channel of sludge directed away from Lake Michigan, designed to separate the city's drinking water from its waste. But the elder Mayor Daley, father of the current mayor, had a vision for the river: that Chicagoans would fish and play in it.
Then, it seemed like a pipe dream. But thirty years of improvements have made the lake fishable, and kayakers can be seen cruising up and down along the channel.
The Obama administration's recommendations would hold the river to even higher standards of cleanliness. But Daley's outrage over the recommendation stems in part from the government's refusal to fund Chicago river cleanup projects to date.
Daley said it's hypocritical for the federal government to hand down an edict when it has failed to fund the Deep Tunnel project desperately needed to prevent raw sewage from being dumped in the Chicago River after heavy rains.
"We asked the federal government to fund it, but they kept cutting it back year after year. That is one of the major issues. When you have flooding, you need deep tunnels to take care of that water," he said.
The mayor's famous mouth has been in fine form recently. When asked by a reporter two weeks ago if the city's gun ban had been effective, he responded by threatening to put a gun "up your butt" and fire a round there.