Daley's last rounds

PoliticsHeads of StateHealthLincoln Park ZooHealthcare ProvidersRichard M. DaleyElections

As his days as mayor dwindle down to a precious few, Richard M. Daley continues to make the rounds. Just as his father before him, so has the younger Daley ever kept a busy schedule of dedications, parties, funerals, wakes, unveilings, opening nights, ribbon cuttings … the nuts-and-bolts of being mayor.

"He has been here for dozens of events, large and small," says Kevin Bell, the president and CEO of Lincoln Park Zoo since 1995, who last hosted Daley for the June unveiling of the new nature boardwalk along the zoo's lagoon. "He really likes the zoo, I know that, but he is also curious and cares. This manifests itself when, after his formal remarks and the taking of some photos, he'll ask me questions and share the pride he feels in having a free zoo that all Chicago can enjoy."

Many of these visits go unnoticed by all but the usually small circle of people in attendance, but they are vital elements of his job as well as manifestations of his emotional connection to the city. They may not be part of the job but they are part of the way he sees his job.

You can say all you want (and should) about the failings of Daley's tenure but it has always been impossible to doubt his affection for the city. And so, there he was in December making his last official trip to La Rabida Children's Hospital.

"He has visited every year of his administration and given toys to the kids and sung Christmas carols," says Michael Clevenger, La Rabida's vice president for Fund Development .

This visit did not get mentioned in the major daily newspaper. It did not make the nightly news. It was not, on its face, newsworthy. Daley made his perfunctory remarks, saying, "La Rabida Children's Hospital has a long history of volunteers and donors who support the hospital and its mission to maintain an ongoing commitment to caring for children and families regardless of their ability to pay." Photos were taken and the visit was duly, officially, noted at cityofchicago.org.

Exploring that site will give you some idea of the extent of the mayor's local travels. It also helps highlight and remind us of places such as La Rabida, a city treasure that we too often take for granted. Founded in 1896, in a lakefront building that was the Spanish exhibition hall at the Columbian Exposition three years earlier, La Rabida's mission has changed with the times. Started as a place to provide a "medical refuge for sick children" and relief for "tired and weary mothers," it has long had an international reputation for its work in treating chronic diseases, disabilities, abuse and trauma.

Of course, there are much more pressing matters facing the new mayor than where he or she might sing Christmas carols next season. In the coming weeks, we will hear what various candidates think about schools, crime, taxes, and the ways in which he or she will be good for the city.

It's highly unlikely that Lincoln Park Zoo or La Rabida will be mentioned in the ads, the forums or the speeches. But thinking about Daley's final official visit with the kids at La Rabida, and his interactions with them, Clevenger shared this good thought: "I hope the next mayor will do the same for our children."

rkogan@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading