Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Ed Kelly on Rahm Emanuel: 'He's a Suburbanite,' Not a Chicagoan

The Daley loyalist, 90, sounds off on Chicago's embattled mayor

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Ed Kelly on Rahm Emanuel: 'He's a Suburbanite,' Not a Chicagoan

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Former 47th Ward Boss Opens Up

Ed Kelly was a Committeeman of the 47th ward back in the 70s and has had a front row seat to the politics of Chicago spanning five decades.
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Is Rahm Emanuel "Chicago" enough?

Still spry at 90 years old, Ed Kelly -- the former Chicago Park District Superintendent -- answers in the negative, not holding back when asked about the embattled mayor during a free-wheeling interview with the Sun-Times.

"I feel sorry for Rahm, I really do," Kelly tells the paper. "Rahm had no idea what he was getting into. Rahm’s not a Chicago guy. He’ll never be a Chicago guy. He’s not a street guy. He’s trying to be, but he’s not. He’s a suburbanite. He’s not a Chicagoan, he really isn’t. He’s smart, very smart. I think what he inherited is going to continue on, he’s going to find out more problems, money problems and things."

Kelly was otherwise mum on the subject of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose past financial flubs have contributed to those aforementioned "money problems."

A Daley loyalist, Kelly was axed by Harold Washington -- another ex-Chicago boss -- in 1986 after serving 14 years as Park District super. He owns up to his history of patronage hiring, saying, "When I became superintendent (in 1972), sure there was patronage. Absolutely. Certainly I helped kids. I have letters from kids, they were terrific workers."

Before Washington cut him loose, Kelly faced allegations of ignoring parks in black communities.

"I felt really bad, because I know the guy," says Kelly. "Harold was pretty sharp. The two guys close to him were saying, 'Kelly’s against the blacks; Kelly’s not done anything for the blacks.' ... Harold and I made up four days before he died. He came to slate-making. I was slate-making chairman for 32 years. He came in, gave a hell of a talk, as he got halfway out, he came back up on the platform, he came over said, 'Eddie, we’ve got to be friends, we’ve got to get together.'"

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