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Mayor Richard M. Daley Biography

Mayor Richard M. Daley


Tuesday, January 20, 1998

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has earned a national reputation for developing innovative, community-based programs to address crime, public education, neighborhood development and other challenges facing cities in the 1990s.

From community policing to reducing the size of the city bureaucracy, Daley's innovations have become models for cities across the nation and have won him national honors. 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 was president of the United States Conference of Mayors.

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

Frustrated with the performance of Chicago's public schools, 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, launched a $1.4 billion capital improvement program to refurbish aging and overcrowded classrooms and ended social promotion of underperforming students.

Daley has made safe schools a priority, assigning police in and around the schools, installing metal detectors and ordering regular strategy meetings between police commanders and principals. These steps have led to a dramatic reduction in school violence, creating a better environment for learning.

Under Daley's leadership, Chicago's community policing program has become a national model, with officers on regular beats working in concert with city agencies and neighborhood residents to solve problems that foster crime. Daley has added 1,600 police officers, launched an aggressive anti-gang program and seized and destroyed more illegal weapons each year than any other city in the nation.

Daley's focus on quality-of life concerns has led to greater emphasis on the delivery of basic services, from the removal of graffiti, abandoned cars and deteriorating buildings to the creation of more "green space" and a citywide recycling plan. He passed a penny-a-pack cigarette tax to triple the number of available beds for the homeless and has committed record resources to the development of affordable housing.

An extensive community reinvestment program has dedicated a record $1.5 billion to streets, sidewalks, bridges, sewers and other infrastructure improvements in Chicago neighborhoods. It is the cornerstone of Daley's Neighborhoods Alive! program.

To improve the business climate, he trimmed business taxes by tens of millions of dollars, streamlined the regulatory and licensing process for small businesses and created a business assistance program to support local companies and spur neighborhood development.

Under his leadership, Navy Pier has been renovated and the McCormick Place Exposition Center expanded. At the same time, Chicago is experiencing what Crain's Chicago Business called the biggest residential building boom in 20 years.

A landmark ordinance Daley introduced in 1990 guarantees 25% of all city contracts to minority-owned businesses and 5% to women-owned businesses. He has 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 under 1% a year, far below the rate of inflation. In 1995, Chicago's bond rating was raised by Standard & Poor's from A- to A, a distinction shared by no other major American city in this decade.

Richard Michael Daley 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.

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 drunk driving, domestic violence and child support delinquencies. Re-elected States Attorney in 1984 and 1988, Daley was the first Cook County official to sign a decree eliminating politically motivated hiring and firing.

Born April 24, 1942, he is the fourth of seven children and the eldest son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and his wife Eleanor. Mayor Daley and his wife Maggie are the parents of three children, Nora (b. 8/9/73), Patrick (b. 6/10/75) and Elizabeth (b. 11/17/83). A son Kevin died in 1981 at the age of two and a half.

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