Wednesday, December 19, 2012

“Stealth” Daley? An “advisor?” Or just a guy who likes to sleep in his own bed

You ask the typical person about the name “Daley,” and you’re probably going to get a lot of cheap rhetoric about Richard.

Cook County Commissioner John Daley at "work" with his South Side county board colleagues. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda
The real old among us will go back to “J.” While the bulk of us will be more likely to think of “M.,” as in the son who actually wound up surpassing his father’s stint as longest-serving mayor by just over a year.

FOR THOSE OF us who like to think we’re a little more politically astute, we’ll probably bring up William – the Daley son (and brother) who has been a presidential cabinet member (under Bill Clinton) and chief of staff (under Barack Obama).

He even likes to talk periodically about how he’d like to run for governor – even though he never seems to have the will to actually put together a campaign and run for the post on Election Day.

It’s only the most hard-core of parochial political geeks who will bring up John.

Yet he was the one who was celebrated on Tuesday.

FOR JOHN DALEY is the political person who serves on the Cook County Board – representing the Southwest Side and some surrounding suburban portions. And now, he’s been in that position for 20 years.

The county board on Tuesday gave Daley the political equivalent of a “surprise party.” They put together a resolution praising him, and arranged for his family to be present – all without him knowing (although he admits he should have suspected something when he saw his wife and daughter leave the house early on Tuesday).

Which led them to give him an emotional shock, then partake in an endless round of “debate” that seemed to be a competition amongst county board members to see who could plant the biggest rhetorical smooch on the Daley cheek.

Personally, I got a kick out of Commissioner Larry Suffredin, of suburban Evanston, calling him the “stealth Daley.”

WHICH IS TRUE enough. His political brothers are the ones who tend to make it onto the front pages. Plus the fact that Cook County government often gets ignored when it comes to the public perception. Everybody seems more interested in what happens on the west side of the block-sized building that houses City Hall AND the county government.

But hanging on to a county board post for two decades (and presiding over the board’s finance committee for 18 of them) is a way to get familiar with the gritty details of how government works.

Where the bodies are buried, so to speak. Although I’m not implying that Daley has buried any of them.

Some got amusement from the irony of listening to Commissioner William Beavers (from the far Southeast Side and suburbs such as Calumet City), who faces criminal indictment these days on federal tax charges.

BEAVERS IS THE one who claims the only reason he’s being prosecuted is because he refused to wear a wiretap for federal investigators to gain evidence against John Daley himself.

On Tuesday, Beavers offered up a brief “congratulations” for enduring the “back and forth” of 20 years at the county building, to which Daley quipped back, “You always try to advise me.”

Personally when I regard the Daley political people, I realize that they’re hard-core Democratic Party types. But I have also realized that these aren’t flaming liberals – no matter what trash-talk the ideologues try to spew.

Which is why I thought it accurate of Commissioner Timothy Schneider of suburban Elk Grove Village to say, “Your left toe leans a little bit right. You always try to reach a compromise on issues.”

PERSONALLY, I FIRST dealt with Daley back at the beginning of my stint as a Statehouse reporter in Springfield – he was still in the Illinois state Senate representing the Bridgeport neighborhood and surrounding communities.

He admits his wife has enjoyed having him back in Chicago, rather than having to live part-time each year in the Illinois capital city.

Although that desire to be “back home” seems to be why John Daley has never sought the higher political offices that his brothers aspired to.

As Daley put it himself on Tuesday why he didn’t run for higher office, “I enjoy sleeping in my own bed.”


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