Mayor Daley took over the reins of Chicago government in 1989 but in almost 22 years, outlasting his father's record in office, what did he really achieve in Chicago? Did he build a new airport? Did he build a new library? Did he build new expressways to ease the increasingly heavy rush hour drives in and out of the city? No, he sold the city's parking meters for fast cash, resulting in outrageous parking and meter rates. In reality, Chicago is still the same place it was when Daley took office. The only thing Daley really did was to help take the focus off the racial turmoil that plagued his father's administration and every mayor after until him. Under Boss Daley, white flight transformed whole neighborhoods in Chicago. Under Daley's successor, Jane M. Byrne, race played a major role in what she thought was going to be a successful rebuff of Boss Daley's son, Richie Daley.
Mayor Harold Washington's election only stoked the fires of racial hatred, dividing the city residents and the City Council under the "Vrdolyak 29," the coalition led by former 10th Ward Alderman Ed "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak. Washington only enjoyed a brief period of calm after winning re-election in 1987, dying soon after, on Thanksgiving. He was succeeded by Eugene Sawyer, the flashy but kind and soft-spoken south side alderman. Sawyer became the patsy of the white majority and paved the way for the election of Boss Daley's son.
Each had their honeymoon and each promised great things to come; great expectations about bringing reform to a city that has, in reality, never been ready for reform. It still isn't.
Emanuel will have his hands full of challenges from the schools to transportation to the city's underfunded pensions and finances. The economically anemic news media may give him a longer pass, but in the end the only thing that counts is what one of my longtime City Hall colleagues Harry Golden Jr. would describe in his gravelly Brooklyn-like accent, saying the public just wants a "good story."
And a good story is never a good story at all, but a story about corruption, scandal, nepotism, crime, theft and all the things that make for Chicago's love-hate relationship with politics.