Chicago Mayor Richard Daley

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Richard M Daley
Mayor of Chicago
By Josh Fecht

27 May 2003: Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has earned a national reputation for his community-based programs to address education, public safety, neighborhood development and other challenges facing American cities.

Latest profile on Mayor Daley

Mayor Monitor for Richard Daley: Assess his performance

A former state senator and county prosecutor, Mr Daley was elected Mayor on 4 April 1989, to complete the term of the late Harold Washington, and was re-elected in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003.

Frustrated with the performance of Chicago's public schools, Mr Daley obtained unprecedented control over the schools from the Illinois General Assembly in 1995. His new management team, composed of experienced political, business and academic leaders, closed a $1.8 billion deficit by imposing fiscal discipline; made homework mandatory; ended social promotion of underperforming students; improved school safety; greatly expanded summer school, after-school and early childhood education programs; and invested $3.6 billion in capital improvements.

Student scores on standardized tests have risen consistently since 1995 and passed national norms in some areas in 2002. But Mr Daley has challenged students and teachers to do even better. Recently, he has pushed especially hard to improve the teaching of reading, to increase parental involvement in education and to expand after-school and summer programs, as well as early childhood education.

Under his leadership, Chicago's community policing program also became a national model, with beat officers working with city agencies and neighborhood residents to solve problems that foster crime. The police department added 1,600 officers, launched an aggressive anti-gang program and seized and destroyed 12,000 to 15,000 illegal weapons each year, more than any other city in the nation. In a nationally acclaimed effort to stem the flow of guns into Chicago, the City and Cook County sued the gun industry for $433 million in 1998, accusing it of creating a public nuisance. Chicago's crime rate has dropped every year since 1992.

His focus on quality-of-life concerns has led to greater emphasis on the delivery of basic services, from removing graffiti, abandoned cars and deteriorating buildings to creating more green space and a citywide recycling plan. He tripled the number of available beds for the homeless and committed record resources to the development of affordable housing.

Under Mr Daley's leadership, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, the Board of Education and the Public Building Commission have invested more than $7 billion in capital improvements since 1989. This includes 1,500 new classrooms serving 45,000 students; street, sidewalk, bridge, sewer and other infrastructure improvements in Chicago neighborhoods; more than 120 new acres of parkland; new ice rinks, recreation centers and swimming pool upgrades; and 41 new or renovated branch libraries.

To improve the business climate, he trimmed business taxes by tens of millions of dollars, streamlined regulatory licensing processes for small businesses; created a business assistance program to support local companies and spur neighborhood development; offered financial incentives to attract and retain employers, and began a Technology Development Initiative to attract high-tech businesses.

His landmark ordinance, introduced in 1990, guarantees 25 per cent of all city contracts to minority-owned businesses (MBE) and five per cent to women-owned businesses (WBE). The City has surpassed those percentages every year since. Mr Daley has also increased the number and percentage of minorities in the city's workforce, created an Office of Sexual Harassment to investigate complaints and stiffened penalties for hate crimes.

By turning over some 40 city functions to private contractors and holding city employees more accountable, he has saved taxpayers more than $50 million a year and held city-levied property tax increases to slightly over one per cent a year, far below the rate of inflation. The nation's three major rating agencies rate Chicago's credit among the highest of any city.

Chicago's Mayor has won a number of awards. In 1997 he was named Municipal Leader of the Year by American City and County magazine; a Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine; and Politician of the Year by Library Journal. In 1996 he headed the US Conference of Mayors.

Richard Michael Daley was born in Chicago on 24 April 1942, the fourth of seven children and the eldest son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and his wife Eleanor. He graduated from De La Salle Academy and earned undergraduate and law degrees from DePaul University and began his public service career in 1969 when he was elected to the Illinois Constitutional Convention. From 1972 to 1980 he served in the Illinois Senate, where he led the fight to remove the sales tax on food and medicine, sponsored landmark mental health legislation and established rights for nursing home residents.

Mr Daley was elected State's Attorney of Cook County in 1980. He pushed successfully for tougher state narcotics laws and raised the conviction rate dramatically. He helped overhaul Illinois' antiquated rape laws to obtain more convictions and developed programs to combat drink driving, domestic violence and child support delinquencies. Re-elected States Attorney in 1984 and 1988, he was the first Cook County official to sign a decree eliminating politically motivated hiring and firing.

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