What's next for Mayor Daley? | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

What's next for Mayor Daley?

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley will chair what's expected to be his final city council meeting on Wednesday morning. Daley passes the mayor's office to Rahm Emanuel on May 16th.

Then what? What's a retired mayor to do while making a life in the city he used to run?

Daley has owned that mayor's office since April 24th, 1989 - more than 22 years ago. Before then, he served about eight years as Cook County State's Attorney and, before that, about eight in the Illinois Senate. You have to go all the way back to January 1973 to find a time when Daley was not an elected official.

And he's not all that interested in talking about his post-political plans.

DALEY: I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do May 16th.

But he has talked about it, at least a little. Daley has been picked by the U.S. State Department to help lead an advisory council aiming to get more American students to study in China. That's a country he's visited at least five times as mayor.

Just don't call him "ambassador."

DALEY: No, I'm not an ambassador. No, I'm not. We have ambassadors appointed by the secretary of state. I'm not an ambassador of goodwill - no way.

The first meeting of that State Department committee is next Tuesday in Washington. Also, in his new life, Daley will give speeches. Of course, he gives lots of speeches now. But as a private citizen he's signed on with...

DALEY: Harry Walker Agency, that does speaking for both public and private people who left their business or are in business, involved in business.

He'll employ that speaking skill as other Harry Walker clients do, people like President Bill Clinton, TV weather personality Al Roker and U2's Bono.

DALEY: And talk about leadership, talk about government, talk about decision-making.

Daley could get up to $50,000 a speech, according to his press secretary. On top of that, the mayor will draw a pension, beginning right after he leaves office: totaling about $180,000 a year.

He's also kept up his Illinois registration as an attorney, so he could join or start a law firm. And he could always write a book, as so many politicians have.

CIANCI: Daley could write a heck of a book. I mean he's had a lot of experience. He's had an awful lot of interaction with different people and dignitaries.

Buddy Cianci is a former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island...

CIANCI: For 22 years over the course of four decades.

That math doesn't add up exactly because Cianci had two separate stints as mayor. Each one ended in legal troubles - the most recent ended with a prison sentence for racketeering conspiracy. He's out now - living in Providence, where everybody still knows his name.

CIANCI: Mayor. They call me 'Buddy.' They call me 'your honor.' You know, this title always kind of sticks. Depends on how friendly they want to be.

And they tend to be friendly, Cianci claims, when he goes around Providence and sees evidence of his time in office.

CIANCI: And I'm sure Richard will do the same thing. You can drive around the city and you've got great memories of things that you did and projects you were a part of or led and that people enjoy today. And that's a very, very satisfying feeling, at least it is to me.

So that's the upside to living where you once ruled. Then there's the downside.

CIANCI: You get frustrated sometimes when you see things happen. Sometimes I'll be driving around the city and I see a pothole that's been there for like two weeks or I see streetlights that don't work. Then the fiscal situation today at least in my city is frustrating.

Unlike most former mayors, though, Cianci has an outlet to air those frustrations. He's the "chief political analyst" on a local TV station and hosts a daily radio show - which he says keeps him "sane."

CIANCI: I think it's a nice balance to stay in the public eye but not have any of the responsibilities as far as governance is concerned.

That's a different strategy than has been taken by another longtime mayor. John Coyne headed Brooklyn, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, for more than a half-century.

Now 94 years old, Coyne says he spends most of his retirement at home and with family. But he still gets irked by local politics.

COYNE: I get very, very upset. But I keep my mouth shut. Yes.

This was hardest to do right when he first left office.

COYNE: I was anxious to know what was going on, but only once in all the years since I left office did go into city hall. I went to the senior citizens fairs a couple times. And like they used to say, old soldiers never die, they just fade away.

Coyne did not leave office on his own terms. He was defeated back in 1999 after 52 years in office.

So that's one thing Mayor Richard Daley has going for him that many longtime mayors - like Coyne and Cianci - do not: He wasn't forced out. Daley got to pick his retirement day.

Music Button: James Farm, "If By Air", from the CD James Farm, (Nonesuch)

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