By Crusader Staff
Former U.S. Commerce Secretary William “Bill” Daley wants to be Chicago’s next mayor. With incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s surprise decision to not seek re-election and despite the city having been under Daley leadership for 63 previous years, the business leader says he is the right choice to move this city forward.
Daley’s father, Richard J. served from 1955 to 1976 and his brother Richard M., served from 1989 to 2011. If successful, Bill Daley will become the city’s 46th mayor.
In an exclusive interview at the Crusader office, an excited Daley discussed a variety of concerns he has about the direction of the city, from jobs to economic growth, to crime and the controversy involving the Obama Presidential Center soon to be constructed in Jackson Park.
In a crowded field of announced candidates that includes African American leaders such as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, philanthropist and millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, and former Police Board President Lori R. Lightford, Daley said he isn’t ready to concede he won’t attract the Black vote just yet.
“[Preckwinkle] has the name and people assume she also has the vast majority of the African-American community,” he said, “but that’s an assumption right now. I met with her and told her what I’m doing. My brother [John Daley] works for her. She said she has all of labor and progressives and she will win. I also have the support of labor, business and people who know my long history of trying to bring equality to this city. I’m not conceding anything right now.” In addition to Preckwinkle and other high-profile African-American contenders, at least three other African Americans have announced their intent to secure a spot on the February 26, 2019 municipal ballot: anti-police activist Ja’Mal Green, public policy leader Amarya Enyia, technology executive Neal Sales Griffin, and Principals Association President Troy LaRaviere.
With a slew of other announced candidates, including former Chicago Board of Education President Gary Chico, former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas, among others vying for the slot, many observers note the election will probably result in a run-off—and Daley intends to be one of the two left standing.
“I understand the optics,” he said. “My brother only got 2 percent of the [Black] vote when he first ran against Harold Washington and [Eugene] Sawyer, but the last time he ran he got 90 percent of the vote and won all 50 wards. He did that by being fair to people. So, I don’t concede I won’t attract African Americans to my campaign. I think when people get to know me, and what I’ve done, and also hear what I’m about, they’ll be more confident in showing support.”
Daley spoke candidly about the skepticism some Chicagoans expressed about having another Daley on the Fifth Floor of City Hall. Noting that many African Americans expressed dissatisfaction at Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, he said people should simply switch focus.
“That guy (Mayor Emanuel) is out, so we can sit and talk about him all day or we can talk about moving this city forward,” Daley said. “As far as having another Daley in charge: Well, there will be some who bring up my brother’s leadership, but first of all I’m Bill Daley—not Rich. He did some great things for Chicago and then he did some things that weren’t that great. My dad’s been dead 40 years and in my opinion it’s time to let him rest. He was good to his family and he was a good mayor, but times have changed.”
Daley noted that of all the new contenders who have announced campaigns for the seat, he is the only one who understands how to continue Chicago’s economic growth while working to ensure underserved neighborhoods will get the investments needed to improve the quality of life of their residents.
“It makes no sense that within two blocks of the United Center there’s disinvestment,” he said. “If I’m lucky enough to be mayor, my job would be to figure out how do we get successful people across industry to figure out how to be helpful in these blighted areas—not by giving money but by investing it.”
When reminded of current City minority set aside programs and other mandated initiatives already in play for the private sector, the business leader noted “The government can’t force people to invest—-if you try to force them through government regulations or laws they’ll just leave town,” Daley said. “The trades remain mostly white—why haven’t they invested in training centers on the South and West Sides? You need someone to sit down with these guys to work these things out.”
It should come as no surprise that this mayoral candidate firmly believes in market-driven solutions. Daley has worked in law, telecommunications, finance, and government. Career highlights include serving as vice chairman and then President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank of Chicago. As Special Counsel to President Clinton, he helped pass the North American Free Trade Agreement. During this time, he also practiced law with the Chicago firm of Mayer, Brown, and Platt.
While serving as U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1997-2000 he worked to expand minority business development programs and oversaw a wide range of economic initiatives during one of the strongest economic periods in American history, adding an estimated 23 million jobs.
Daley became President of SBC Communications and later became Midwest Chairman of JPMorgan Chase overseeing the bank’s corporate responsibility program. In 2011, he served as President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff and helped shepherd into law three major trade agreements.
He serves on the boards of the Chicago Community Trust, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Innovation Foundation, Third Way, and several corporate boards. He is also a founding board member of Advance Illinois, which has helped reform public education funding and improve schools.
“We have to be careful with policies that force the closing of the divide,” Daley said. “The minimum wage is now $13 per hour and we’re creeping to a higher rate. That’s well and good, but we have to ensure that the increase is also sustainable for small businesses. We could call for $25 per hour but will small business owners be around if we force that sort of equalization?”
Though he refused to comment on the ongoing murder trial of Police Officer Jason Van Dyke who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014, he said he would take an aggressive approach to dealing with the city’s crime problems.
“It’s out of control and it’s everywhere, not just in three or four police districts,” Daley said before noting that he supported the need for a federal consent decree. “We need more aggressive policing, not disrespectful policing.”
In terms of public schools, when asked what he would do to ensure teachers, whose labor contract expires next year will not strike, Daley joked, “You tell me? I have three sisters (one passed away) all were teachers, my daughter was a teacher, the other graduated as an education major though she didn’t teach,” he said. “I get the teachers and I respect them. I also get the difficulty of CPS and the financial problems. But we have to remember this is tough for everyone. The most important thing to do with the teachers—and I get what the union is doing—but we have to be upfront, direct, honest and respectful.”
Surprisingly, the former Obama administration official didn’t shy away from weighing in on whether or not the Obama Foundation, University of Chicago and City of Chicago should sign a CBA with neighborhoods impacted by the upcoming center.
“[The Obama Foundation has] gotta work it out with the community,” Daley said. “I get the national importance or opportunity the [former] president has of bringing this center/library to the South Side but there’s got to be a coming together. He was the ultimate organizer. We don’t want this to go to New York. The mayor should be an honest broker between the center and the people, and not leave it to the center and the people who are fighting, to make all of the decisions.”