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Secrets, Surprises and Signs Missed

  Even Richard M. Daley had to chuckle Tuesday night. 

  His retirement announcement earlier in the day surprised absolutely everyone at city hall.  That includes all the reporters who cover him on a daily basis and the bureacrats, some of whom have worked two decades for Chicago's Mayor.

  Even Hizzoner was amazed at how well the secret had been kept.  Only his immediate family was aware that Daley would, as the SunTimes put it, "turn the city's political world upside down".

  After giving it a few hours thought, it becomes apparent how the Mayor "leakproofed" his retirement plan until after Labor Day:

   He has stopped talking to people.  Even those in his own government.  Not a word to anyone outside of his immediate family.

   Daley stopped trusting the media years ago.  I don't know of any reporter, print or broadcast" with a "source" inside the Mayor's office.  Daley is one of the few politicians I know who doesn't have any "pets" among the journalists.  He gives all of us the same.  Nothing more on the side.  Nada.

  What's troubling is that he also has a low to non-existent trust level with aldermen and members of his own cabinet.  Like the city hall press corps, they were entirely out of the loop Tuesday.  The Mayor actually told his own bureaucrats about his plan after the public announcement.

   Think some more about it and realize that Daley has done business secretly for years, especially when it comes to his most controversial decisions.

   Remember how he called for quick city council votes without debates on selling city assets (parking meters, etc.)?  How about the decision to destroy Meigs field without telling anyone but the guys ordering the bulldozers?

  A few weeks ago, he announced a plans for a nearly $100 million dollar TIF deal to redevelop the abandoned U.S. Steel plant on the South side.   Alderman Sandi Jackson, in whose 7th Ward the project would happen, heard about it from reporters.

  Alderman Anthony Beale (9th) had only a few hours notice before he was named chairman of the powerful City Council Police and Fire Committee.

  The list of unilateral decisions goes on and on.

   So from whom has Mayor Daley been getting his advice in recent years?  His revolving-door chiefs of staff?  Press secretary Jackie Heard, who after 13 years, is his longest-serving aide?  (Even Ms. Heard seemed surprised by Daley's retirement announcement; she says, though, that she was in the loop along with the Mayor's family)

  In any event, the list of mayoral confidants outside of his family is very, very short.

  Which brings me to the final observation:

  How could a person who has become so politically isolated and perhaps resistant to outside advice run a contested citywide election campaign?

  Yes, it was time.





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