On Friday evening, Mayor Richard M. Daley will leave his 5th floor office in City Hall for the last time as Mayor of Chicago. After 22 years in office, Daley says he has no regrets, and on Monday he will pass the torch to mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.
In an interview with the Associated Press this week, Daley said he is not worried about how history will judge him.
"I really don't worry about history," he said, defending the controversial parking meter privatization deal that infuriated many city residents. He also defended the overnight razing of Meigs Field.
Daley has his fans--and his critics--but one thing both can agree on is that Daley has transformed the look and feel of the city of Chicago. From planting thousands of trees on the city's historic boulevards to building Millennium Park, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said Thursday that Daley's leadership has "transformed Chicago from a rustbelt manufacturing center to a cultural center."
But, as many know, there are some stains on Daley's Chicago legacy. His administration has torn through cash reserves that were supposed to last decades and the city may soon be as much as $1 billion in the red and students in Chicago's public high schools are as likely to drop out as they are to graduate.
And while the city's Loop and surrounding neighborhoods prospered in the past decade, areas on the city's South and West Sides lost population. Roughly 200,000 residents, many African Americans, left neighborhoods that didn't share in downtown's success.
Often compared to his father, the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, he acknowledged his family's history, but wasn't afraid to make changes.
"You don't hand down policies from generation to generation, but you do hand down values," Daley said during his 1989 inaugural address . "As I take the oath my father took before me, I carry with me a love for our city and a zest for public service."
Also, no one could question the love Daley has for Chicago--where he will continue to work as a civilian.
The Chicago Sun-Times, which has run plenty of scathing editorials about Daley over the years, summed up the city's relationship with the mayor on Friday:
... But anybody who has lived long enough and been around enough knows what might have been. The Chicago of 2011 looks a far sight better than the Chicago of 1989. We have found that new sense of purpose, that larger vision.
We have stopped looking backward — enough already with that “City of Big Shoulders” stuff — and forged a forward-looking identity that is the envy of every other Northern Rust Belt city.
Can we say this without sounding naive? Can we say this without denying the enormous difficulties that beset us still?
We grew up together, Rich Daley and the City of Chicago. The man shaped the city and the city shaped the man.
On Friday, Daley continued his Neighborhood Appreciation Tour in Morgan Park on Thursday, and will later join the Chicago Bears to celebrate youth programs at Ogden Mega Park on the South Side, according to NBC Chicago.
"I've done my all," Daley said when announcing that he would not seek another term. "I've done my best. Now, I'm ready with my family to begin the new phase of our lives."