An African American clergyman, activist and prominent leader …
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has earned a national reputation for his innovative, community-based programs to address education, public safety, neighborhood development and other challenges facing American cities. Time magazine, in its April 25, 2005 issue, said Daley "is widely viewed as the nation's top urban executive."
A former state senator and county prosecutor, Daley was elected Mayor on April 4, 1989, to complete the term of the late Harold Washington, and was re-elected in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 by overwhelming margins.
Frustrated with the performance of Chicago's schools, Daley assumed responsibility for the Chicago Public Schools in 1995. His new management team closed a $1.8 billion deficit; made homework mandatory; ended social promotion of underperforming students; improved school safety; greatly expanded summer school, after-school and early childhood education programs; and invested more then $4 billion in capital improvements. Recently, Daley has pushed especially hard to improve the teaching of reading and to increase parental involvement in education. Student scores on standardized tests have risen consistently since 1995 and have surpassed national norms in some areas. In 2004, Daley announced Renaissance 2010, a plan to create 100 new schools, mainly in existing buildings, by 2010 to replace low-performing schools, provide new educational options to underserved communities and relieve overcrowding. So far, 37 new schools have been created under this plan. In 2006, he announced Modern Schools Across Chicago, a $1 billion plan to build 24 new schools, using tax increment financing.
Under Daley's leadership, Chicago's community policing program also became a national model, with beat officers working with City agencies and residents to solve problems that foster crime. The police department added 1,500 officers, launched an aggressive anti-gang program and seized and destroyed 10,000 to 15,000 illegal weapons each year, more than any other city. Chicago's crime rate has dropped every year since 1992.
Daley's focus on quality-of-life concerns has led to greater emphasis on the delivery of basic services, from removing graffiti and deteriorating buildings to creating more green space and a citywide recycling plan. Since he became mayor, the City has planted more than 500,000 trees, created 100 school campus parks, built 70 miles of landscaped street medians and spurred the construction of rooftop gardens on major buildings, including City Hall. Daley has organized U.S. and Canadian mayors to protect the Great Lakes.
In 2004, Daley opened Millennium Park, the most ambitious public-private undertaking in Chicago's history. Constructed over railroad tracks and parking lots in downtown Chicago, the widely acclaimed showplace of architecture and the arts features a spectacular band shell designed by Frank Gehry; a popular reflecting sculpture designed by Anish Kapoor; an interactive fountain designed by Jaume Plensa; a garden designed by Kathryn Gustafson; a theater for music and dance; restaurant and ice rink.
Under Daley's leadership, Navy Pier has been renovated and turned into Chicago's most popular tourist attraction. McCormick Place has been expanded and Soldier Field has been rehabilitated as part of a plan that added 17 acres of park land. A project to modernize O'Hare International Airport is underway.
The City and its sister agencies have invested more than $11 billion in capital improvements since Daley became mayor. This includes 45 new and replacement schools and 66 additions an annexes, adding capacity for 42,600 students; street, sidewalk, bridge, sewer and other infrastructure improvements; more than 120 new acres of parkland; new ice rinks, recreation centers and swimming pool upgrades; and 52 new or fully renovated branch libraries.
To improve the business climate, Daley trimmed business taxes; streamlined licensing processes for small businesses; created a business assistance program to support local companies and spur neighborhood development; and offered financial incentives to attract and retain employers.
A landmark ordinance Daley introduced in 1990 guarantees 25% of all City contracts to minority-owned businesses (MBE) and 5% to women-owned businesses (WBE). The City has surpassed those percentages every year since. Daley also 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 to slightly over 1% a year, far below the rate of inflation.
In 1996 Daley headed the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He has been 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. He has received the National Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official from the American Institute for Public Service; the Education Excellence Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice; the Public Service Leadership Award from the National Council for Urban Economic Development; the J. Sterling Morton Award from the National Arbor Day Foundation; the Keystone Award from the American Architectural Foundation; the Martin Luther King/Robert F. Kennedy Award from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence/Education Fund To End Handgun Violence; the Kevin Lynch Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a Lifetime Achievement Award for support of the arts from Americans for the Arts and the U.S. Conference of Mayors; the Catalyst Award for Urban Park Leadership from the Urban Parks Institute; the Education Excellence Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice
Richard Michael Daley was born in Chicago April 24, 1942, the fourth of seven children and the eldest son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and his wife Eleanor. He graduated from De La Salle Academy, 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 and re-elected in 1984 and 1988. 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. Daley and his wife Maggie are the parents of three children, Nora Daley Conroy, Patrick Daley and Elizabeth Daley. A son Kevin died in 1981 at the age of three.