Monday, March 14, 2011

How many more mayoral “lasts” will Daley do during following two months?

When Chicago threw its official St. Patrick’s Day celebration (the one along Columbus Drive, not any of the neighborhood- or suburban-based festivals that will occur in upcoming days), we got the sight of Richard M. Daley serving as the parade’s grand marshal.
RICHARD M.: His last (fill in the blank).

In theory, that’s not a big deal. Daley has done the honors many times during his mayoral stint, as did his father, Richard J. The idea of a Daley presiding over the “Irish pride” parade ought to be as routine a happening as could occur.

IT OUGHT TO be evidence that city officials couldn’t find anyone better to do the honors I still remember the parade from a few years ago when then-President George W. Bush was grand marshal, and a few years before that when a film crew took images from the parade along Dearborn Street and worked them into the story line of the Harrison Ford film “The Fugitive.”

Yet one of the results of Rahm Emanuel decisively winning last month’s mayoral election and sparing us a runoff on April 5 is that we can now focus a significant part of our attention to the departure of Daley – who just a couple of months ago surpassed his father in terms of time spent in the position of mayor.

We got to see on Saturday Daley’s last St. Patrick’s Day parade as mayor. How many more “lasts” are we going to have to endure in the coming weeks before Emanuel is sworn in as mayor in early May?

He already presented his final budget proposal to the City Council, so as far as official business is concerned, Daley is merely treading water until the arrival of Emanuel on the Fifth Floor. Digging the city’s way out of the financial chaos it faces is Rahm’s problem.

I CAN’T HELP but wonder if Daley will find some excuse to make a public announcement for some municipal program that will benefit the Bridgeport neighborhood, which likes to claim Richard M. as one of their own – even though he and wife Maggie moved out of there over a decade ago.

The neighborhood that likes to claim to be the home of more mayors than any other neighborhood would like to have one last mayoral visit from Daley before he becomes ex-mayor and can officially forget he ever lived any further south of downtown than the South Loop neighborhood.

Let the denizens of the businesses along Halsted Street near 35th Street have one last sighting of a “Mayor Daley” walking in their midst – even though the reality of the neighborhood today is a heavy presence of Chinese and Mexican ethnics, making the Irish ethnics of old a minority.

Or perhaps Daley could give us a more culturally sophisticated finale. How about an appearance at an event of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra? One last public appearance of “Maredaley, the younger,” putting on a tuxedo and trying to look sophisticated, with wife Maggie giving him a nudge if he happens to start snoring in mid-concerto.

IT’S NOT EVEN all classical music with the orchestra, which has an event scheduled for March 25 with jazz musicians Branford Marsalis and Terrence Blanchard.

WILLIAM: Still a Daley in D.C.

I can’t help but think that Richard M. Daley can concoct a reason to make one more out-of-town trip as mayor. If he’s really adventurous, he’ll find a reason to travel out of the country to try to expand Chicago’s international horizons – trying to convince the world that despite our Midwestern U.S. location, we’re not just a larger take on Indianapolis or a more well-scrubbed version of Detroit.

More likely, it will be one last mayoral trip within the United States. Possibly even Washington, where the “Daley” name will live on politically through brother William serving as chief of staff to President Barack Obama.

We’ll also have to have some sort of Daley sightings about town – giving him one last time to be seen there as mayor. Perhaps Millennium Park, that over-grandiose location downtown that never would have been done had Daley not had the ambition himself?

OR, IF DALEY really has some gumption, he’ll venture just a few blocks south and make one final trip as mayor to Northerly Island – the one-time site of Meigs Field. Will he have the nerve to remind people of the airstrip that was a political battleground in the 1990s – a fight that state officials won in the political process, but which Daley ultimately won through the power of the bull-dozer.

There is just so much potential everywhere we look for us to see opportunities for a last “Mayor Daley” sighting. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade will merely be the first “last sighting” that we will endure. The only real question will be how ludicrous and gaudy will the whole "last" thing become?

The one I’m most anxious to see involves baseball. Because while any potential Chicago Bulls basketball championship this season will come on Emanuel’s watch, Daley will still be mayor on Opening Day.

Will we get to see Richard M. marching to the pitchers mound at U.S. Cellular Field to throw out the “first pitch” of the season on April 7, when the Chicago White Sox play their first home game of 2011 against the Tampa Bay Rays. That would be a sight I’m sure many Sout’ Side Sox fans would enjoy.

ALTHOUGH PERSONALLY, I’D get a kick out of seeing Daley venture up to the Lakeview neighborhood for the Chicago Cubs season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Daley at a Cubs’ game may sound ludicrous to some. But when one considers that the Cubs open their season at home on April 1, I’d say April Fool’s Day is the perfect date for Daley to feign interest in what happens at the humble abode of one Elwood J. Blues.


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