Yesterday, Mayor Richard M. Daley presided over his last official City Council meeting. He will officially leave office soon. He has his legacy.
When Mayor Richard J. Daley died, after sweeping the hapless Jimmy Carter into the White House, Bridgeport was swelled like a tic with genuine mourners and rump-kissers. Rich Daley, an Illinois State Senator, was being painted out of the life political. However, many people took to Rich Daley like Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV Parts One and Two - the guy everyone underestimated, who hung out with thieves and cut-purses in order to learn the motives and machinations of the devious, who learned common touch of the people - ' a little touch of Harry in the night.'
Daley succeeded in besting his rivals with support he had from working stiffs living in two-flats, raised ranches and bungalows, but unlike Prince Hal never became Henry V.
He left the neighborhood that nurtured him and turned his back on the bungalow world of working stiffs and squares, in order to bring about a Chicago touted as a World Class City.
Cows on Parade* seem a fighting icon for that 180 degree turn. The plastic cows evolved out of a sense of corporate culture that paid good money to tell all of us what is important.
The neighborhoods are in his rear view mirror. The shabby genteel and pious working stiffs boarding the Halsted, Western and Devon Ave. buses each morning and evening in order to put in the hours for pay and retun to the two flats, raised ranches and bungalows, pay tuition, taxes, assessments and then somehow find beauty, poetry, music and comfort on the own dimes will not be hanging paintings of Richard M. Daley in Polish Highlander, Knights of Columbus, Masonic and SAC clubs or the handful of neighborhood taverns. They did that for his Dad.
Cows on Parade will be how I remember the Richard M. Daley years.
*Richard M. Daley has placed a high importance on the partnership between private and public arts support since he took office as Mayor of Chicago in 1989. For Mayor Daley, the arts are a personal crusade. When the Cultural Affairs Commission needed a home, he called for the restoration of a beautiful old library where now, in addition to offices, daily events are open to the public in a rotating exhibition and performance center. His leadership in presenting the Cows on Parade sculptures led to numerous cities replicating the concept. Most recently, Mayor Daley spearheaded the creation of Millennium Park, a $450 million cultural mega-project in the heart of Chicago. First planned in 1997 as a way to create new parkland in Grant Park and transform an eyesore of railroad tracks and parking lots, it has evolved into one of the most significant millennium projects in the world. The 24.5-acre Millennium Park is an unprecedented cultural playground that features world-class art, music, architecture and landscape design, interactive public art, ice skating, and free classical music presentations. Featuring accessible fountains, sculptures, and skating rinks, kids and tourists can now visit day and night for free. Mayor Daley, along with his wife Maggie, established the “Gallery 37” program which has been recognized nationally as one the leading arts education programs in the country.