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11th District: This Daley says he wants to continue to provide Cook County Board services

By Joe Boyle

John Daley, the longtime Cook County

Board commissioner from the 11thDistrict,

said he takes nothing for granted as he approaches an election on Tuesday, Nov.

6.

“I’ve always had an opponent,” said

Daley, who has served as a board commissioner since 1992 and is currently the

chairman of the Finance and Audit committees. “So, this is not new. We have had

several challenges to the county, but we were able to pass a balanced budget

this year.”

Daley will have a new opponent this

fall in Republican Steven S. Graves, a real estate broker who specializes in

investment and property taxation, as well as commercial and residential

properties.

Described as someone who can work

well with Republicans as well as Democrats, Daley, 71, said that it is the only

way to get things done. His previous experience as state representative from

1985 to 1989 and the Illinois Senate from 1989 to 1992 provided much needed

legislative experience when he became a member of the Cook County Board.

“It was very helpful working

downstate,” said Daley during an interview last Thursday at the 11thWard Democratic Ward

office. “I served under Michael Madigan, Phil Rock and Republican governors.

They had partisan objectives, of course, but they knew they had to get

something done. I also had a chance to work with (state Rep.) Mary Flowers and

Lee Daniels. We need to compromise and to work with everyone.”

While his years in the legislature

were an asset when Daley was voted into serve on the County Board after Charles

Bernadini resigned, his last name also carries political clout.

His father, Richard J. Daley, served

as mayor of Chicago from 1955 until his death on Dec. 20, 1976. His older

brother, Richard M. Daley, was elected mayor in 1989 and served longer than his

father, 22 years, before retiring in 2011. Before that, he served as Cook

County State’s Attorney for nine years as well as in the state Senate. Bill

Daley, 70, the younger brother, served as secretary of commerce in the

President Clinton administration and as chief of staff for President Obama.

Another brother, Michael, is a prominent attorney.

John Daley said that when his father

came home from work, conversations about politics rarely took place.

“We had a very private life and we

would walk to school just like everyone else,” he said. “My mother deserves

most of the credit for that. My dad would always tell us that don’t think you

are better than anyone else. Just try and help people.”

Daley did recall what was probably

the worst day his father encountered as mayor.

“The worst day when he was mayor was

the Our Lady of Angels School fire,” Daley recalled about the Dec. 1, 1958,

blaze that killed 92 children and three nuns on the city’s West Side. “When he

came in we were in the kitchen. You could smell all the smoke on his clothes.”

Daley said his parents never pushed

any of his brothers or sisters to go into politics. In Daley’s situation, he

said it was his decision to enter the political arena.

“I have three sisters who became

public school teachers,” Daley said. “Teachers are very important and they

affect everyone. We were driven by what our dad did. And for me, I was excited

to go into politics. I knew I would really enjoy this.”

And Daley said he still enjoys being

a Cook County commissioner. He has also served as the 11thWard

Democratic committeeman since 1980, a position he was appointed to when Rich

Daley ran for Cook County State’s Attorney.

Daley’s largest obstacle at times is

conveying to people what the Cook County Board of Commissioners do. Daley

reminds constituents that the board’s priorities are to assure residents to

have access to affordable health services and provide for highway and road

projects.

Board members were drawn more into

the spotlight after the ill-received beverage tax that Cook County Board

President Toni Preckwinkle was able to establish when she provided the

tie-breaking vote for its passage. However, many residents opposed the

ordinance and received support from some board members and unions. Due to the

growing opposition, Preckwinkle abolished the measure.

Daley was initially for the beverage

tax but his office soon received over 1,000 phone calls in opposition. He then

informed Preckwinkle that he no longer could support the measure. The decision

was then made that the commissioners look into other ways of cutting the

budget.

Looking forward to another term,

Daley said that plenty of work has to be done. To cut budgetary costs, Daley

looks at ideas to combine certain offices. He also likes to interact with the

public because that feedback allows him to look into specific projects.

Daley was given a lot of credit to

introducing turning lanes for traffic at heavily congested Central Avenue and

Southwest Highway in Oak Lawn, adjacent to St. Gerald Elementary School. Oak

Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd)

said Daley was able to get the funding to modernize the traffic lights at the

corner that was once dangerous for children walking home from nearby St.

Gerald. He was also able to secure funding for new landscaping along the

school.

“We do a lot of county outreach

development like we did in Oak Lawn,” Daley said. “We worked with Alex and the

mayor (Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury). We have a great relationship with Larry

Deetjen (the Oak Lawn village manager) and (Evergreen Park Mayor) Jim Sexton,

too. You know everything is local. The county likes to work with the

municipalities.”

And that’s why Daley usually answers

his own phone calls. “People are surprised about that,” he said.

Daley admits that the current

situation at the Cook County Board is “unique.” Preckwinkle has announced that

she is going to run for mayor of Chicago. Board Commissioner Jesus “Chuy”

Garcia is considering a run for mayor. And his brother, Bill, has also said he

is going to run for mayor.

Is having his brother running for

mayor going to make working with Preckwinkle awkward? Daley said it will not.

“I have a very good working

relationship with the president,” Daley said “I work very hard with the

president. She understands that. It should not affect our budget talks.”

However, Daley said he would actively

campaign for his brother’s bid for mayor.

Daley and his wife, Mary Lou, have

three children: John, Christine and Michael. He is a graduate of St. Ignatius

College Prep and Loyola University. He is a lifelong resident of Bridgeport and

he said that the neighborhood has a close-knit quality and is more diverse.

If Preckwinkle were to become mayor

of Chicago, would Daley be interested in becoming Cook County Board president?

“It’s always something you would take

a look at,” Daley said. “Right now, I would like to just concentrate on working

on a budget with the president. But if a vacancy would occur then I would

explore it at that time. But that’s a long way off and I would rather

concentrate on working on what we have to do right now.”

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