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The Daley dynasty to end
by Tracy Baim.
2010-11-17

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Daley. The name has been synonymous with Chicago for decades, during the 21 years Richard J. served as mayor, and during the 21 years his son, Richard M., has been the leader of the city.

The Daley era, however, is set to end May 16, 2011, when a new mayor is crowned, and Daley retires. At that point, Daley will have served the city 22 years and 22 days, while his father made it to 21 years and eight months. Daley sat down recently with Windy City Times to discuss his relationship to the city's LGBT community.

Daley's bold and brash style has angered some, pleased others, and overall helped lead Chicago out of the Council Wars of the 1980s and into a more civil city of the 1990s and 2000s. But not all has been perfect, with critics upset over his handling of education, crime, police brutality and, especially in recent years, the selling off of valuable city assets, such as parking meters, and using those revenues for short-term gain.

Daley has had a mostly positive response from Chicago's LGBT community. But even the LGBT community is not unanimous in its support of the mayor, although the relationship is far smoother than its initial bumpy road.

Flashing back

Mayor Harold Washington, who served as mayor until his death in 1987, was a strong ally of the gay community. During that time, Daley was Cook County state's attorney, working on gay issues in that office. After Washington died, Eugene Sawyer was the compromise candidate to fill his remaining term, and under Sawyer the city's gay-rights bill finally had passed in 1988. At the time, Daley said he did not do behind-the-scenes lobbying for the bill, but now he says that when he was asked, he did push for some aldermen to support the measure.

In 1989, Daley was able to defeat Sawyer and then other candidates in the general election, thus beginning his 21-year career as mayor.

He was confronted early in his first term by AIDS activists—including the outspoken HIV-positive editorial cartoonist Danny Sotomayor—for his lack of leadership on AIDS issues. There was a very heated standing-room-only meeting in November 1989 held at Ann Sather restaurant on Belmont Avenue. Critics attacked the mayor for his lack of response to the epidemic, and Daley walked out of the meeting.

At a meeting of the gay Chicago Professional Networking Association ( CPNA ) , held in early 1992 at the Vic Theatre, critics also lambasted Daley. And in a spontaneous verbal attack on Daley, more than two months later about 40 AIDS activists screamed insults at him April 2, 1992 during a 90-minute a march against anti-gay violence, in response to the shooting of a gay man, Ron Cayote, near the Manhole bar.

Daley eventually capitulated and on April 29, 1992 he supported Ald. Helen Shiller's efforts to increase the city's AIDS funding by $2.5 million to $3.57 million.

As reporter Rex Wockner wrote Dec. 1, 1989, for Outlines newspaper ( which purchased Windy City Times in 2000 ) : "Amidst continuing controversy over the city's new anti-AIDS advertising campaign, which has been 'completely rejected' by a long list of gay and AIDS organizations, Mayor Richard Daley—standing against a backdrop of the ads—unveiled Chicago's long-awaited 'AIDS Strategic Plan' Nov. 1.

"Saying the 'AIDS epidemic is reaching critical proportions in our city,' Daley called the plan 'another landmark in health-care planning for the city of Chicago … . The plan reflects the best of all our communities, including academics, medical professionals, Hispanics, African-Americans, gays/lesbians,' he said."

In an interview earlier that year with Outlines, during his mayoral campaign, Daley was asked about Mayor Sawyer's condom campaign, which did not include gays. Daley responded: "Well, see, my position is that the gay and lesbian community is in the forefront of this ... so you have to look to them for the expertise. That means bringing people together … a task force to sit down and discuss things, not just issue press releases and say, 'We're gonna give everybody condoms out and that's gonna be the answer and solve our problems.' To me, that requires more education, prevention, testing immediately—and a commitment to get more federal and state money, grant money into this system. Just handing out condoms, I don't think that's a complete answer … ."

Reporter Wockner asked Daley about his being viewed as a "late-bloomer" to gay rights, and what changed him, besides being pushed by his friend Ald. Kathy Osterman. Daley said: "About 1980, dealing with crimes in the gay community and making the office more sensitive with training programs to victims and witnesses; maybe that's a late-bloomer, it was almost nine years ago … ."

Fast-forward

Twenty-one years after that 1989 interview, Daley has proved himself to be among the country's most progressive mayors on gay issues. No other city has had a mayor supporting gay-inclusive policies for this many years in a row.

For example, Daley expresses his absolute support for the goal of same-sex civil marriage and his consistent opposition to all attempts to pass discriminatory marriage amendments to the federal and state constitutions. Under the Daley administration, Chicago reconstituted Washington and Sawyer's Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues as what is now known as the Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues and sponsored the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, which is the first and possibly still only municipal project of its type in the country.

Daley's office also sponsors the nation's only government-backed annual salute to LGBT veterans, including a wreath-laying in the Richard J. Daley Plaza. His administration also supported the expansion of existing human-rights legislation to include gender identity ( including "appearance, expression, identity or behavior" ) and honored the "gay district" along North Halsted Street in "Boys Town," an area with numerous gay businesses, by lining it with rainbow-colored pylons.

Daley also became the first sitting mayor of Chicago to march in the Pride Parade, June 25, 1989. He wore a button that said "The issue is human rights: ParentsFLAG." [ Mayor Washington had spoken at the 1986 and 1987 post-Pride Parade rallies, and former Mayor Jane Byrne rode in the parade after she was out of office. ] Daley later made a rule—dictated, he said, by his wife, Maggie—that he would never work on Sundays. Since the Pride Parade is always on a Sunday, he has never been in the parade since. However, he created an alternative Mayor's Pride Reception where hundreds of LGBTs gather each year to honor Pride Month at the city's Cultural Center.

Daley announced his retirement in September, 2010, and a range of potential candidates have surfaced, from pro-gay, to gay, to anti-gay.

As the city prepares for the unknown future under a new mayor, Daley spoke about his relationship to the LGBT community. Following are excerpts:

Baim: What memories do you have of first knowing about homosexuality?

Daley: When I was in high school, a number of my dad's staff [ in the mayor's office ] were gay. I remember my dad … he said they were good people, friends of ours, good employees. You'd never be ashamed just to know them.

Baim: So you don't think your dad ever had an issue with them?

Daley: No, he never did. I never felt that.

Baim: The stereotype would be he would have had problems with that. With gay people.

Daley: Because they worked for him, and he knew them. He felt personally that they're wonderful employees, and in charge of different agencies and departments and he never felt they were any different from anyone else.

Baim: When you were Cook County State's Attorney, that was a time when we were first learning about hate crimes. What did you do …

Daley: I [ wanted ] to make sure the community was represented with the committee in the state's attorney's office. Making sure the investigation was thorough, the prosecution was thorough. Also, understanding some were maybe afraid to come forward at that time, so you had to make sure that you were going to fully protect them under the laws. So they weren't going to have discrimination at their job … coming out of the closet. They were victims of a crime and should be treated as victims of a crime and then dash dash [ whatever else ] . That's what I tried to do, and that required understanding, making sure that the police and even the prosecutors were understanding that. They were citizens and they had to be fully protected under the law. …

Baim: During the 1980s, there were still raids on gay bars and businesses. In terms of the police harassment happening to businesses and individuals, what do you think your role was as state's attorney?

Daley: The Chicago Police Department and the Chicago corporation Counsel did that, I always felt, "Why are you doing these things?" I talked to the Police Department, especially when we had meetings with police departments all over Cook County.

Baim: When the gay-rights ordinance failed under Washington and passed under Sawyer, you were asked if you helped on votes.

Daley: They asked me about helping some people, I said sure and went ahead and called.

Baim: Did you call aldermen?

Daley: Yes, I am very proud of it. I didn't want .. to venture into what other people were doing. Kathy [ Osterman ] asked me, other people asked me, they needed certain votes and I worked with them. I didn't try to get accolades, it was the right thing to do.

Baim: The first couple years of your first term in office, it was contentious with AIDS activists, and Danny Sotomayor …

Daley: Right. They were not just mad at me, they were mad at everybody… the president of the Cook County board, the president of the United States … that was the time. It wasn't personal. It was never personal.

Baim: At some point you worked with Ald. Helen Shiller on increasing AIDS funds from the city of Chicago. That seemed to be the turning point.

Daley: Even before, there was a turning point before that. Everybody has to strike at something. And you're Mayor Daley, and I understood that. It wasn't personal.

Baim: Do you remember Danny Sotomayor?

Daley: Oh sure, I remember all of them. I'd go up and talk to him, say hello to him, hi, how are ya. I said "Don't hate anyone, they'll get back at you." It's the worst thing you can do.

Baim: You changed COGLI [ the Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues ] to ACGLI [ the Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues ] . The advisory council was worried about that perception, that you were weakening the group.

Daley: It worked out all right.

Baim: Do you think you received, from your advisory council, a good relationship with the community?

Daley: Definitely. … We're one of the few cities that have something like that, a committee. … That's really been a very forceful organization.

Baim: What are the historic things you have done in the gay community.

Daley: The community, they make the city better. I could close my eyes, and go to every profession and every job in the city, they're represented. These are wonderful citizens. They have different political philosophies, some are liberal, some are conservative. But they've been very good for the city. You can see it today. … I've been very out front with the community, continually. I remember 2004 in Boston [ at the Democratic National Convention ] , someone asked me a question about gay marriage, and I said I believe in it. Because I've had the privilege of knowing the families, they're having children, adopting children, raising children, these are wonderful families. Don't blame them for all the marriage problems, don't blame them for all the other issues … I went to the convention and all the Democrats got mad at me because they thought I had planted it … I said no, someone just asked me that question and they'd never asked me that question before, and I gave my answer. A lot of them were upset with me because they thought I was stepping on their grounds.

Baim: Some of the things you have done, no city has followed in your footsteps. Like the Hall of Fame.

Daley: The Hall of Fame is very important because it's on cable TV. … It was like educating people. I remember when we put all the [ pylons on Halsted ] up in gay town up there, and people were really objecting, writing me nasty letters. I said for what? The merchants there, the people there, the families, individuals, they're a great part of the city. I sometimes call these people and say, you know who you're writing about? … You know, like their son or daughter … "Well, no, I like them"—so why are you mad about these people? If you put it in a personal way, I think people realize, "Why are you hating people." That's the thing I don't like.

Baim: What about the Center on Halsted, Chicago's LGBT community center?

Daley: I think the Center on Halsted, there was a lot of people who really believed in that. That was a great thing. It made a strong statement. … There are a lot of [ people ] who are not welcome back in their families. Unfortunately, even today. So they have to have a place they feel comfortable, and a place that is part of their home, within the community

Baim: What about the Gay Games in Chicago, in 2006? [ I served as co-vice chair of the Gay Games board and worked on government relations with Daley's team. ]

Daley: That gave us a prelude to the Olympics, our presentation. How well it was organized, and how well it went. It was amazing, all the different events. So that gave us kind of a looking at the Olympics, because it went so well. Everything moved along smoothly, opening and closing ceremonies, and how everybody reacted in the city. It was just a welcoming. That was kind of an inspiration to me to actually trying to get the Olympics.

Baim: You have always appointed gay people to administration posts. When did you know Ron Huberman is gay? Did it play into your decisions? [ Huberman was Daley's chief of staff, then headed the Chicago Transit Authority, and now heads the Chicago Public Schools. He resigned from that post effective Nov. 27. ]

Daley: No. It never played, I knew he was gay. I wouldn't bring it up to him. I never wanted to make the impression I was appointing him because of that. So what, it doesn't matter. It gave a good role model for us to see that, and across the country and the world. I think it is very important for that.

Baim: You were in the Pride Parade, but then never again because of not working on Sundays. Now you have a Pride reception.

Daley: It is to honor men and women in the gay community. It was a reception, and thanking them. Once I took Sundays off—it didn't matter who was coming to town, there is no way they ever saw me do anything on Sunday. Once you break that, then they say, Why don't you come to my parade. I said, Can you change it [ the gay pride parade ] to Saturday? They said no. [ Laughs ] And so I wanted to make sure … the reception was just to thank them. … That is one of the biggest parades in Chicago, that's a lot of work. Again, they're good citizens, that's the thing I was expressing to them.

Baim: What about your friendship with gay people, including gay activist and businessman Martin Gapshis [ who died several weeks ago ] .

Daley: I knew him since I was a kid, and his whole family, his mother and father, and my parents and all that. He was a wonderful guy. What a loss. He was really genuine, kind, not only for the gay community but a lot of other causes. You have to remember, people in the community are involved in a lot of other causes, not just the gay community, but other things that do take place in the city. That's why they become wonderful citizens, they're always giving back.

Baim: You have had several community liaisons: Jon Simmons, Nancy Reiff in a slightly different position, Mary Morten, Larry McKeon and now Bill Greaves. [ Both Simmons and McKeon have since died. ]

Daley: Larry was a policeman. He told me when he was a policeman years ago, he hid it … Larry was a wonderful guy. Very positive about life. He was great, a personal friend.

Baim: Did all of your liaisons serve you well?

Daley: They really did. I really believe that. I think they worked hard at it.

Baim: Bill Greaves is your current liaison.

Daley: Bill is good. I saw him last night, he was at the immigration and refugee committee. He's present, not on the side of something.

Baim: The LGBT community is divided itself. Geographic, race, class, so a lot of the North Side white community has been very supportive of you, but sometimes there's definitely debates within the African-American gay community on education, healthcare, crime, etc. Do you feel you have a good ear into all parts of the gay community?

Daley: Yeah, sure. I do, yeah. I met with a group of youngsters at Night Ministry a couple years ago. A lot of the African-Americans who are gay, are thrown out of their homes, they can't stay in their communities, so of course they come up north. How do we get housing for them? Why should they be thrown out because they're openly gay, and thrown out of their community, their church or anything else? That's really unfortunate, so I talked to many of the young people about where they are in life, and all that. So we try to get housing for them, and good social services, and make sure they become part of the community. But in the end, all the issues are the same, education is the same, crime is the same in different proportions, so I've had a good ear with the African-American community and their issues. The only way we're going to solve these issues with the community, the police are not going to solve these issues … it has to be a culture of nonviolence, it has to be within the community. It can't be somebody else trying to do it.

Baim: How about youth and the failed proposal for a gay high school. With these youth suicides nationally, what is your solution, if not a school?

Daley: I go back and forth on this. If you want to isolate them, they have to go over there. I don't know if that's good. That's the only thing I have a problem with. OK, if you're gay, you go over there. … I don't believe in that. I wasn't afraid of the issue, but … my problem is you're going to say that's the gay school, and every gay person has to go over there.

Baim: My understanding is it would be a choice to go there.

Daley: Yeah, but OK, everybody can say, he's having problems in school, we think he's at risk, for their own benefit we think he should go over there. Then all of a sudden you're dumping everybody over there. … I go back and forth. I have no problems with the concept, but I thought the implementation would be isolation. Some people may differ with me on it. … A lot of people on the board thought the same.

Baim: There are a lot of openly gay and lesbian police officers now, but also ones who still have problems with gay people. How do we deal with this?

Daley: I think people in general have problems, this whole stereotyping of the community. We have to break it down. They're your sons or daughters, your brothers or sisters, your mother or father, your friend, your neighbor. … Anybody in authority, some people have that [ bias ] .

Baim: Is there a solution in terms of education?

Daley: It's a combination of educating them, because if you go in the community, sometimes they're the victim. How do you handle the other one? If you don't handle them with respect and understanding, then they feel alienated, they feel like you have not understood "I've lost my loved one." This is my lover, my friend. And that always has difficulties … and they're all the same, we try to break that down. Make sure the commander, the sergeant, and anybody else understands that.

Baim: Do you count openly gay folks among your close friends or family members?

Daley: Oh yeah. … It's part of Chicago, and it's a good thing.

Baim: Now that you are leaving, are you worried your legacy will be chipped away? That Chicago will go backwards?

Daley: I hope not. I don't think Chicago can go back to Beirut on the Lake, it can't go back to the Council Wars, it can't go back to people screaming and yelling. If it does … we thought we broke the barriers down. … A lot of politicians want to divide people. That's the worst type of politics and government we can have. We have to have everybody in one big tent.

Baim: Do you have a sense that is even possible, for the next mayor? To be able to work with all these constituents, on social issues?

Daley: I hope so, because all the issues are the same. … When you isolate people in politics, it's very bad for society. Your issue is my issue, my issue is your issue. That's how I approach these issues. … A gay victim is a gay victim. It's a victim of a crime. If we don't handle that the same way … we have to have respect and understanding for others.

Baim: Is there something you want to be remembered for, for your legacy?

Daley: When you get into government, if you start to think of your legacy, then you have a road map, and you try to find out you never made mistakes. People will say what it is. I hope civility was brought back in 21 years. Everybody's come together I think more than in any other city. … For example the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Other cities won't let gay people march in the St. Patrick's Parade. What is wrong with them? It's a parade! … That alone makes a statement. That is ridiculous.

Baim: Do other mayors ask you about how you've managed to work with the gay community?

Daley: I say they can be the best citizens you want. They have more of a love and affection for their community, for their family, the whole city … if you don't embrace them, then you're going to isolate them. That would not be good for the city. You'll find out they're great citizens, they're great employees, whenever you want them, they're there, at any cause they're there, not just for the community itself, but the entire city.

Baim: How has Obama done so far?

Daley: This whole issue dealing with the military [ Don't Ask, Don't Tell ] should end as quickly as possible. Because they're my firemen, my policemen, they're every role in government. Why is this somewhere we've isolated them? I've met all the veterans they've served in the different wars, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Second World War, these were heroes, these were men and women that went to fight for their country. We have to do that [ lift the gay ban ] as quickly as possible. They die the same way, they cry the same way, they bleed the same way.

Baim: But how has Obama done?

Daley: I don't want to get into that. I am a big supporter of his. We all say under the circumstances, he's done a lot for the country.

Baim: What will happen in the midterms? [ This interview took place right before the midterm elections. ]

Daley: The recession has hurt people. … This century is going to be a tough century. … You can't have debt in your house … then you see the government doing this? … You can't spend to get out, then you keep increasing taxes and people can't afford to pay? … I have to balance my budget. … I think people would rather see tough decisions and then move on, rather than just lies.

Baim: What about your gay support over the years?

Daley: If you look at the skyline, if you take every profession on that skyline, you take all parts of the community, they've been involved in every aspect of improving [ these past ] 21 years. They've never, ever been excluded.

Baim: Any final regrets or things you want to get done?

Daley: When you say regrets, not really, because once you start doing that, then you start questioning yourself. … The time when I took on the Board of Education, the Chicago Housing Authority, and … realizing the gay community … they've been isolated, and now to bring them into the mainstream. That was the issue, in the city, let's move on, this country is great and can be greater with them, not without them.

Baim: How is Chicago going to be fiscally?

Daley: I think we're going to leave the city in a good shape. The economy is tough. We lost over a billion dollars in four years on the revenue. So we balanced the budget … we're going to report to the next mayor, each department, and we're going to have an outside audit. … I'm not leaving the city in debt.

NEXT WEEK: A Windy City Times 25th anniversary special, the original interview between Mayor Harold Washington and Tracy Baim, published September 1986. What did Washington say about the gay-rights bill? AIDS? Rumors about his own sexual orientation? Pick up next week's Windy City Times for a special reprint of this 1986 Windy City Times exclusive.

Also please see: Daley's last GL Hall of Fame www.windycitymediagroup.com/ARTICLE.php

And: A look back: Mayor Harold Washington discusses gay rights, by Tracy Baim 2010-11-24 at www.windycitymediagroup.com/ARTICLE.php?AID=29552

And: New 23rd District Police Station opens, photos www.windycitymediagroup.com/ARTICLE.php?AID=29498

Captions:

# 1- 4 Mayor Richard M. Daley at City Hall Oct. 10, 2010, speaking with Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim. (The interview was also videotaped by M.J. Rizk and Martie Marro and will be online at chicagogayhistory.org in the next few weeks.)

#5. Daley at the 1989 AIDS Strategic Plan press conference. Photo by Rex Wockner.

#6 Daley riding in Chicago's 1989 Pride Parade. Photo by Rex Wockner

#7. Daley speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Gay Games July 15, 2006 at Soldier Field. Photo by Steve Becker.


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Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.