Remembering Richard J. Daley

Building for Chicago's People

We want to do three things here in Chicago. We want to make Chicago an international city. We want to bring headquarters for companies in here. And we want to build Chicago for its people.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, as quoted by A. Robert Abboud, First National Bank of Chicago, President, interview excerpt, December 3, 2009

Development projects

I think he did a great job of building the city, turning it into a great city, and interacting with the federal government. It was building the city, getting the expressway systems built, getting O’Hare built, getting UIC [University of Illinois Chicago] built, and getting so many of the buildings downtown built. I think he did a great job of turning the city into a world class city.

Robert G. Vanecko, grandson of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, March 5, 2010

Robert Christensen, a former city engineer who served under Daley, explains the building projects the mayor oversaw:

He helped hospitals in their plans for expansion and ways to do things. I would only find out about it sometimes because some CEO of a hospital or someone like that would tell me. “Your father-in-law was very helpful to us, getting these people to come on our board and tell us to go ahead on this.”

Dr. Robert M. Vanecko, MD, son-in-law of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, March 8, 2010

The Loop and downtown

These programs to Chicagoans were part of a larger plan to revitalize the city’s downtown “Loop” area and strengthen its infrastructure.
Both Mayor Richard J. Daley and later his son, Mayor Richard M. Daley (served 1989-2011) contributed to the city’s built environment.

Most of the downtown was developed under his dad. Most of the neighborhoods were developed under Rich. We’re lucky to have the Daleys because I wouldn’t want to be going through a new mayor every four years—things would never get done.

Vince Gavin, Daley Security Chief and Liquor Commissioner, interview excerpt, June 19, 2014

In this audio clip, Joseph Fitzgerald, former Chicago Building Commissioner, recounts how Mayor Daley facilitated the construction of the Sears Tower, now known as the Willis tower:

Sometimes existing regulations required Mayor Daley to come up with creative solutions. A. Robert Abboud, a Chicago business executive, remembers one example:

Urban renewal and infrastructure

Urban renewal and new infrastructure changed the face of neighborhoods. But it came as a cost. In some cases, for example, development required longtime residents to relocate against their wishes. Even so, development also offered greater access to services and thoroughfares and fostered business and employment opportunities.

Finding the money

To pay for those projects and the many services Chicago provided its residents, Daley secured funds from a number of sources. He used the city’s taxing authority when necessary, but he also wanted to ensure Chicago retained control of how that money was spent. That part of his job became easier when the new Illinois Constitution of 1970 granted "home rule" status to the city. Home rule meant that Chicago enjoyed greater discretion of when and how to tax, regulate, and perform certain services.

So the mayor wanted to keep Chicago’s taxing authority and Chicago’s ability to regulate independent of the General Assembly. So rather than trying to pass off responsibility to suburban communities or to county government, he wanted to centralize control in the city of Chicago….He didn’t want municipal functions to be broadened out into the region or the county. He wasn’t trying to save taxpayers money by diverting responsibilities for the various city functions to the broader governmental agencies.

Ray Simon, Corporation Counsel City of Chicago, interview excerpt, June 30, 2010

Federal aid was important. Daley worked with Illinois’s congressional delegation to ensure Chicago received its share of national revenue.

He was very shrewd in his relationship with Washington, D.C. He had a close relationship with Dan Rostenkowski, who was Chairman of Appropriations. Rostenkowski helped get him get the money to build the expressways, like the Dan Ryan and the improvements on the Kennedy. He was very much interested in transportation.

Burton Natarus, Attorney and Alderman from the 42nd Ward from 1971-2007. Interview excerpt, June 16, 2010

This page has paths:

This page references: