Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daley “local legacy” tour ought to wind up in far south 10th ward to honor past

I wonder if Richard M. Daley has any sense of history, or irony. For if he does, I can already picture where his “Neighborhood Appreciation Tour” ought to end.

Will the son follow ...

At Mann Park, in the Hegewisch neighborhood at the far southeast corner of Chicago, where the city limits meet up with Hammond, Ind., on one side and Al Capone’s old suburban hangout in Burnham on another.

MY REASONING FOR wanting Daley to end his farewell tour of the city in the 10th Ward is because that is where his father, Richard J. Daley, made his final public appearance as mayor.

Of course, there is one big difference.

Richard J. showed up at the park for the dedication ceremony of a new fieldhouse on the morning of Dec. 20, 1976, and even dribbled a basketball and made a couple of shots for the television cameras. A few hours later, he dropped dead while visiting his doctor for a medical checkup.

I’m sure Richard J. fully intended to keep on living, and governing, for a few years longer, had his body not given out.

RICHARD M., BY comparison, is voluntarily stepping down from office. So his neighborhood appreciation tour that will take him to all 50 wards during the upcoming month is fully planned.
The mayor's preferred final moment in the Pilsen neighborhood. Photograph provided by Mayor's press office.

It is meant to create the impression that he is continuing to govern, and provide projects that will be of benefit to the neighborhood. Such as his Monday visit to the Pilsen neighborhood, where Richard M. donned a helmet, grabbed a shovel, and turned a bit of dirt to help break ground for construction of a new police station for the Monroe District.

Or his weekend appearance in the Lake View neighborhood to mark the renovation of the playground at Sheil Park, 3505 N. Southport Ave.

Or the fact that he has already come close to the far southeast 10th Ward when he appeared in the South Shore neighborhood for a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Adam Clayton Powell Elementary School at 75th Street and South Shore Drive.

NOW I DON’T have any special knowledge of the mayor’s scheduling, or intend, or what his purposes are in this tour that is solely meant to create one last positive image in each neighborhood – bolstering the idea that Richard M. is some sort of local guy who cared about our neighborhoods, and that we ought to be eagerly awaiting the next Daley family member who decides he wants someday to be mayor.

Maybe son Patrick. Maybe one of the Vanecko nephews. I’m not sure which one at this point.

But it would be perfect if father and son were to wind up their public appearances at least in the same ward, even if not at the same park.

Besides, for the amount of times that 10th Ward residents think they get ignored by the rest of the city (that’s what happens when you’re tucked away by Lake Calumet and can claim proximity to all those Hoosiers), it would probably be the perfect touch for the ward to get the last moment of Daley “glory.”

IT ALSO WOULD be perfect in one other sense.

For back in the early days of the Daley mayoral administration, it was the 10th Ward that would have received what could have been the dominant project of his time as a public official – a Lake Calumet Airport.

Back in the days when Daley tried to undermine the process of building a new Chicago-area airport by insisting he would only support it if it were built within the city limits.

His plan would have located an airport within the 10th Ward, with neighborhoods such as South Chicago and the East Side becoming the new neighborhoods whose residents complain because the airplanes fly oh, so close to their homes as they land and take off.

AND AS FOR Hegewisch, that would have been the actual airport site. The whole neighborhood would have disappeared, along with much of adjacent suburban Burnham, because Daley only wanted an airport built on his terms.

Ultimately, the political people who actually had a hand in locating a new airport killed off Daley’s dream, and he quit caring about the project to the point where now, some two decades later, we still don’t have the new airport that the Chicago metropolitan area really needs.

Perhaps Daley’s final appearance ought to be in the neighborhood that he was more than willing to obliterate in order to maintain the concept that aviation of the Chicago area (and, in fact, the Midwestern U.S.) is somehow an issue that must be under the political control of the Chicago Department of Aviation – whose director is a mayoral appointee.
... the mayor's farewell lead?

It would be a perfect symbol of how partisan politics has managed to interfere with a needed project, even though I’m sure Hegewisch neighborhood residents enjoy still having their homes standing erect.

AND WHO’S TO say. Perhaps we could even get Daley (who on Monday let it be known that he’s going to be in charge of a federal government program meant to send more U.S. students to China) to dribble a basketball and shoot hoops for a bit while in the 10th Ward.

At least we could compare the video of his final mayoral shot and compare it to the basket his father made on that winter day nearly 35 years ago.


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