CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) – As he prepares to conclude his 22 years in office, Mayor Richard M. Daley kicked off a kind of “farewell tour” of Chicago’s neighborhoods with a stop on the Near West Side Thursday.
As WBBM Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, Mayor Daley was in Union Park Thursday morning for dedication of the Women’s Treatment Center, across the street at 140 N. Ashland Ave.
Daley said the treatment center is one of the few substance abuse programs in the nation that can accommodate children for residential treatment. But the treatment center has suffered from cuts in state funding over the past few years.
“It’s really interesting – we keep cutting a program like this, more people end up in prison,” Daley said.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
Daley stood in front of a banner that read, “Thank you, Chicago,” and he talked about being honored to serve.
He also tallied accomplishments on the West Side.
Two decades ago, many parts of the Near West Side were stagnant, rife with abandoned buildings and shuttered manufacturing facilities. Since then, rebuilding has occurred – in particular the now-trendy Randolph Street corridor, and the area around Old St. Pat’s Church, Daley pointed out.
At one time not so long ago, Daley said, the area was as far from trendy as one could imagine.
“After Canal Street, start moving west into the old Madison Street, which was known as Skid Row for many years, because you know why? That was the answer to homelessness. That was the answer to alcohol and drug abuse. That was the answer to problems – let them live in flophouses,” Daley said.
But this view was misguided, Daley said.
“That was not the answer. Treatment centers, SRO houses, supportive services – rebuilding their lives and moving forward. But unfortunately, America turned their back on many people and left them in the flophouses. Now today, we’re rebuilding everyone’s lives and doing a better job.”
He also singled out the construction of the United Center, bringing the Democratic National Convention to the venue in 1996, as factors that helped uplift the West Side.
As to what it will take for incoming Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the new City Council to get things done, Daley didn’t hesitate.
“You have to have leadership, and you media – you don’t like leadership! You want weak people! You want people to be weak about things!” Daley said good-naturedly as a crowd laughed. “You have to have leadership. And yes, you have to be able to take criticism as a mayor, but move the agenda forward.”
Several community leaders and others praised the mayor, and his office says he’s going to try to hit all of the city’s 50 wards before he leaves office next month.
“I love the city. I think the greatest job in America is to be mayor of the city of Chicago. That’s why they come back from Washington – they all want to come to Chicago,” Daley said, making a crack about Mayor-elect Emanuel.
The mayor continued: “I’m a public servant. I’m not an entitled servant. I work for you.”