Mayor Daley’s Party


By Sam Garfield

March 6, 1958

(City Hall)-I went to a birthday party this week at City Hall. Chicago, at age 121, threw itself a grand celebration, and our first-term mayor presided over the festivities like a proud parent. I didn’t know what to bring –what kind of gift do you give a one-hundred-and-twenty-one year-old? –so I asked Mayor Daley.

“Just bring yourself, Sam,” he said.

“Walk into City Hall empty-handed?”

“Sure, we’re all friends, and we’ve got plenty of party favors to go around,” the mayor told me.

Plenty of party favors.

The festivities started in the newly refurbished City Council, a $500,000 gift from taxpayers. Each alderman, you’ll want to know, sat in a $160 red leather chair. And the legislators’ walnut desks, arranged in three semi-circles, included satin bronze microphones. From my seat in the public balcony, I tried to see where they kept their rubber stamps, but I had no luck. Also, indirect lighting and freshly painted green walls provided a quiet, calm atmosphere as Mayor Daley took his place behind his rostrum.

“The record of our city is a great story, the story of immigrants from all nations of the world who came here and were given opportunities,” Daley said, as he stood in front of a floor-to-ceiling marble wall behind a huge walnut desk. “It is a city of all people, all race and all creeds.”

Adlai Stevenson received a standing ovation when he said Chicago’s future will be even greater than its past. “I fully believe Chicago is destined to become the greatest city in the western world, if not the whole world.” Stevenson’s party favor, to be sure, will be a ringing endorsement from Daley should he want to run for the presidency again.

Like any good party, there was a cake. The party-goers moved from City Hall to a luncheon at the Sherman Hotel, where an ornate eight-feet-tall, six-hundred-pound birthday cake stole the show. Mayor Daley’s All-Chicago Citizens Committee sponsored the affair. Some five hundred civic, business and political leaders attended. Would there be enough party favors to go around? I wondered. It took time, but before I left all the cake was gone, cut up for bankers, real estate developers, construction bosses, union chiefs. Like Mayor Daley told me, there were “plenty of party favors to go around.”

Too bad most of you didn’t get a chance to line up for your piece of cake, your party favor. After all, last June your votes made that giant cake possible. You voted in this cake; it came in the shape of thirteen general obligation bond issues totaling $113-million. Mayor Daley said it would help make the city “a better place to live and work.”

And I believe he’s right. There’s nobody better at cutting a cake than Richard J. Daley. He knows who should get what piece, and how big. It’s how he learned to do business. This big birthday cake, it’s about to give our city a one-hundred-and-twenty-one year face lift.

Daley has a bold, new plan for Chicago. And he has the muscle to get the job done. Unlike his predecessors, Daley enjoys a centralized power from his fifth-floor office at City Hall. Because he, not the City Council, controls Chicago’s budget, he also dictates where the money goes; who gets what piece of cake. He steamrolled the bond proposals through the Planning Commission, through the City Council, and onto the ballot.

Where did he first learn such political muscle? At a small, wooden-framed cottage in Bridgeport, in the Hamburg Irish neighborhood. The Hamburg Athletic Club, a long-time incubator of political power and hangout of the 11th Ward Democratic Organization, is where a young Dick Daley learned about life, about loyalty, about muscle. About party favors. In 1923, when he started work toward a law degree, he also cut his political teeth as a precinct captain for 11th Ward Alderman “Big Joe” McDonough, his mentor. He learned enough to become president of Hamburg, and from there, he never looked back.

Today, it’s his vision –and his ability to cut cake–that will spell out Chicago’s future. He has grand plans for Chicago, how to spend this $113-million bond issue, including airport land acquisitions to make O’Hare jet-ready; super expressways; modern fire and police stations; urban renewal efforts; and a host of other city improvements. His people say this summer he’ll reveal a twenty-two-year plan to modernize the Loop, including a lakefront convention area to attract businesses from across the nation. And Daley’s aides also say he’s sold on developing a lakefront high-rise plan to stem the exodus of Chicagoans to the suburbs.

Big plans.

At next year’s birthday party, when Daley will be seeking a second-term, I bet the cake will be even bigger. In 1959, I won’t arrive at City Hall empty-handed. But I’m sure I still won’t leave with a party favor.

Copyright © 2011. John Theodore — All Rights Reserved. Text may not be reproduced without permission.

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