Building for Chicago's People
The City That Works
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We want to do three things here in Chicago. We want to make Chicago an international city. We want to bring headquarters for companies in here. And we want to build Chicago for its people.
Mayor Richard J. Daley, as quoted by A. Robert Abboud, First National Bank of Chicago, President, interview excerpt, December 3, 2009
I think he did a great job of building the city, turning it into a great city, and interacting with the federal government. It was building the city, getting the expressway systems built, getting O’Hare built, getting UIC built, and getting so many of the buildings downtown built. I think he did a great job of turning the city into a world class city.
Robert G. Vanecko, grandson of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, March 5, 2010
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A city engineer discusses building projects. Click on image to play video.
Video: Robert Christensen, Executive Director Public Building Commission, interview excerpt, September 8, 2003
He helped hospitals in their plans for expansion and ways to do things. I would only find out about it sometimes because some CEO of a hospital or someone like that would tell me. “Your father-in-law was very helpful to us, getting these people to come on our board and tell us to go ahead on this.”
Dr. Robert M. Vanecko, MD, son-in-law of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, March 8, 2010
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Providing services and programs to Chicagoans was part of a larger plan to revitalize the city’s downtown “Loop” area and strengthen its infrastructure.
He always believed that if you kept the core of the apple strong, the apple would stay strong. So the downtown, even though he took a lot of heat for protecting the downtown and keeping that strong, and [was] told always he was ignoring the neighborhoods, he thought that if he didn’t keep that core strong, the Loop, then the apple would turn bad.
William Daley, son of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, January 12, 2009
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Both Mayor Richard J. Daley and later his son, Mayor Richard M. Daley (1989-2011) contributed to the city’s built environment.
Most of the downtown was developed under his dad. Most of the neighborhoods were developed under Rich. We’re lucky to have the Daleys because I wouldn’t want to be going through a new mayor every four years—things would never get done.
Vince Gavin, Daley Security Chief and Liquor Commissioner, interview excerpt, June 19, 2014
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A former building commissioner reflects on the decision to build the Sears Tower. Click on image to play audio.
Audio: Joseph Fitzgerald, Chicago Building Commissioner, interview excerpt, July 24, 2014
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Sometimes Mayor Daley found creative solutions to the city’s building challenges. Click on image of A. Robert Abboud to play video.
Video: A. Robert Abboud, First National Bank of Chicago, President, interview excerpt, December 3, 2009
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To pay for Chicago’s services, Daley secured funds from a variety of sources. He used the city’s taxing authority when necessary, but he also wanted to ensure Chicago retained control of how that money was spent. That part of his job became easier when the new Illinois Constitution of 1970 granted home rule status to the city. Home rule meant that Chicago enjoyed greater discretion of when and how to tax, regulate, and perform certain services.
So the mayor wanted to keep Chicago’s taxing authority and Chicago’s ability to regulate independent of the General Assembly. So rather than trying to pass off responsibility to suburban communities or to county government, he wanted to centralize control in the city of Chicago….He didn’t want municipal functions to be broadened out into the region or the county. He wasn’t trying to save taxpayers money by diverting responsibilities for the various city functions to the broader governmental agencies.
Ray Simon, Corporation Counsel City of Chicago, interview excerpt, June 30, 2010
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Federal aid was important. Daley worked with Illinois’s congressional delegation to ensure Chicago received its share of national revenue.
He was very shrewd in his relationship with Washington, D.C. He had a close relationship with Dan Rostenkowski, who was Chairman of Appropriations. Rostenkowski helped get him get the money to build the expressways, like the Dan Ryan and the improvements on the Kennedy. He was very much interested in transportation.
Burton Natarus, Attorney and Alderman from the 42nd Ward from 1971-2007. Interview excerpt, June 16, 2010