Mayor Daley


The small square man with a large head and florid face slid his glasses onto his nose, squinted at the lights trained on him from the audience, and began to speak softly. "It is an honor to participate in this Law School Forum at a great university," he intoned slowly. Then his voice began to rise, to speed up, and soon he was hurtling through his speech, ignoring punctuation, and catching breath as he needed it. A bell rang behind him in Rindge Tech, his glasses slid down his nose, but the man continued to talk strenuously about what he knows and knows well--the city of Chicago.

The next morning, seated comfortably in the back seat of a Cadillac, Richard J. Daley rode through the swirling snow of Cambridge to take a look at Harvard. An extremely serious man, the Mayor has been called "Buddha" because of his tendency to sit impassively and listen. But at any mention of cities, politics or both, he quickly becomes animated.

Under Daley's leadership, Chicago has introduced modern architecture to its school system. But as he passed the Visual Arts Center, he commented, "I'm against conformity. In fact, I encourage innovation, but I don't know about this."

The model of Harvard in Widener caused Daley to ask, "How many acres?" When no one could answer, Daley cocked his head, appraised the model carefully, and guessed "about a hundred, that's a lot of land you know." And the sight of the Faculty Club set off a series of questions about the "caste system" in the university. What was the faculty pecking order? Who had the power?

Power, says Daley, must be joined with ideals. But first one must have the power, the "clout" as they say in Chicago. The son of a sheet-metal worker, Daley has spent his life on the public payroll and in the "organization," to reach what some consider the third most important elective office in the United States, following the President and the Mayor of New York. After helping Jake Arvey, boss of Cook Country's Democratic organization, boost Adlai Stevenson for the governorship in 1948, Daley became county clerk which, in effect, put him in control of patronage and voting machinery, From this position, he could and did build a machine. By 1955 he was strong enough to buck Arvey and become chairman of the country organization. He achieved a rare position of strength in city politics by fusing the patronage power of party chairman with the administrative power of mayor. Because he can hold both jobs, he could argue, he can do each one better.

Daley sees himself as one of a new breed of bosses, those who use extensive powers for public good. "Good government is good politics," he says, and in the nine years he has been mayor, Chicago has begun the most comprehensive urban renewal program in the United States. But city-wide planning may result in local discontent. Daley's voice sharpens when he discusses a small group of citizens who refused to make way for a new branch of the University of Illinois. "Everyone wants public works somewhere else besides their own block. We have a majority government and a minority shall not hold up a needed project," he asserts.

When he considers the problem of de jacto segregation, however, Daley's tone changes and so do his ideas. He thinks a "betterment of human relations" is the greatest problem facing the city, and looks to a few integrated communities as the examples which others in the city must follow. But government, in this case, must act more cautiously. "If people have made up their minds about the matter, then the city can only suggest and persuade," he declares. "People have the right to decide their own neighborhoods."

The contradiction between his general support of comprehensive planning and his invocation of local decision making in the touchy question of de facto segregation demonstrates Daley's extreme sensitivity to political pressure. Although there does not seem any contradiction to him, his opponents charge that his failure to act on such a controversial question is mere political expediency.

It has often been rumored that Daley would run for the Senate or take a cabinet level post as a Director of Urban Affairs. But as he says, "I could have gone to Washington a long time ago if I wanted to: I like the local level, it's closest to the people, and the opportunities for effective leadership are greater. Besides, Chicago is moving ahead."

An early supporter of John F. Kennedy, Daley still uses his language. But the image of Lyndon Johnson is "impressive out our way." Non-commital about whom he favors for the vice-Presidency, Daley does not think it will make much difference. Johnson will win because he is a "good candidate and a good President." To Mayor Daley it is important that he be both.