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Daley says goodbye to city council

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Richard M. Daley stood before city council for the last time on May 4. Council members honored Daley and reflected on his 22 years of serving as Mayor of Chicago.

All 50 aldermen delivered a speech reminiscing on Daley’s time in office, making the event something between a roast and a retirement party.

“Many few occupants of this century-old building [City Hall] leave voluntarily,” said Ald. Ed Burke, 14. “Even fewer leave without defeat at the ballot box.”

Ald. Burke applauded Daley for establishing his own road to leadership and success instead of taking refuge in the accomplishments and career of his father, former Mayor Richard J. Daley.

“There is an old Irish saying which goes as follows: you have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was,” said Burke.

“And for the past 22 years, no one has demonstrated the wisdom of that adage more than Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“We believe that since April 24, 1989, when many of us gathered on the stage at the Symphony Center, you have provided each of us with a dramatic and powerful demonstration of your commitment to serve this city…You’ve been fair, you’ve been strong, and you’ve been effective; an expression of modern, urban, mayoral leadership.”

Under his leadership, more than 85 miles of landscaped medians and the planting of more than 600,000 trees were constructed were required to meet energy-saving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. New public buildings, including schools and police stations, were also added to the city.

Ald. Bernard Stone, 50, pointed out the transformation of a once “gritty and dirty” city under Daley’s leadership.

“You proved your love by changing the face of this city,” he said.

One of Daley’s greatest triumphs was the building of Millennium Park, which turned an eyesore of exposed commuter rail lines at the foot of Michigan Avenue into a showcase of contemporary art and architecture.

As a token of their appreciation, city council members presented Daley with a crystal bowl, engraved with the city seal, his years in service, and the names of the 129 council members that have served during Daley’s term.

Choking back tears, Daley stood tall to a somber crowd and said that he has enjoyed every minute of public life.

“Public service is a great calling and a great profession,” said Daley. “When I raised my hand to take the oath as mayor for this city, I had a firm belief that this city was going to work together.”

Daley thanked the city council members for their hard work and commitment in moving the city forward, which he called a city of immigrants.

“We are founded by immigrants,” he said. “And immigrants always work together and I always believed that no matter what people said politically … I always believed we could move forward. We had one common goal, [doing] what is good for the city.”

The mayor bid farewell to the familiar City Hall, and officially leaves office on May 16, as his successor Rahm Emanuel is sworn into office, establishing new leadership in Chicago in over two decade.

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Daley says goodbye to city council