Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Bill Daley Defends One of Dad's Worst Decisions

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Opinion: Bill Daley Defends One of Dad's Worst Decisions

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Bill Daley told the City Club last week that he’s thinking “seriously” about running for governor now that his big brother is out of the mayor’s office.

Bill, who is smarter, taller, richer, more articulate and better-looking than Rich, is a victim of primogeniture in political families. He would’ve made a better Mayor than his brother, but he was born too late, and had to satisfy himself by serving in subsidiary offices such as Secretary of Commerce and White House Chief of Staff, and becoming a millionaire banker.

The Hyneses failed in their bid for the governorship in 2010. Now, Gov. Pat Quinn is potentially facing a challenge from the two most powerful Irish political dynasties in Illinois: the Daleys and the Madigans. Bill Daley complained about Quinn’s lack of leadership, comparing it unfavorably with his father’s. As an example of the tough decision the first Mayor Daley made, Bill pointed to the destruction of Little Italy to make way for the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. That took guts, he said.

"8,000 residents had to move and 600 businesses had to relocate or shutdown," he said. "Here's what I've learned: leadership takes vision."

Razing Little Italy may have taken guts, but it was not a foresighted decision, according to the Daley biography American Pharaoh. Garfield Park wanted the campus, and had the land, but Daley preferred the Near West Side because it was closer to downtown, and because the campus there would provide a racial barrier between several housing projects and the Loop.

In the end, Daley’s plans for the University of Illinois-Chicago destroyed two neighborhoods. The toll inflicted by the new campus was obvious in Harrison-Halsted, which lost as many as 14,000 residents and 630 businesses. But Garfield Park, which Daley deprived of the campus, was the second victim. The neighborhood’s decline, which was already underway, picked up speed after the decision was made to build the university elsewhere. Middle-class residents put their homes up for sale and, in the familiar cycle, poor blacks moved in. Within years, lower-middle-class Garfield Park became one of Chicago’s worst slums. In 1965, West Garfield Park would become famous as the site of an unfortunate fatality caused by an out-of-control fire truck, which prompted massive riots among the neighborhood’s alienated slum dwellers. The seeds for that unrest were planted when Daley prevented the University of Illinois trustees from building the campus there.

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