More than one Daley leaving; what’s next for Lincoln Park?

13 Oct

 

Vi Daley, alderman for the 43rd ward in Chicago, speaks with a journalism class from DePaul University. Daley chose not to run for a fourth term and will retire next year. (Kevin Sherman | kevin@kshermphoto.com)

 

By Courtney Sturgeon

As alderman of the 43rd Ward of Chicago, Vi Daley never has had a problem staying busy in one of the city’s most demanding neighborhoods—a constituency that includes DePaul University.

But now for Daley, 67, retiring after three terms, the next challenge will be how to remain engaged when she leaves office next May. “I’m definitely going to have to find a hobby,” she said. “I just need to sit down and enjoy life a little bit, too.”

Besides her own retirement, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s announcement that he also will be leaving left the alderman, like many Chicagoans, in a state of shock. “He’s going to be missed, he’s made a lot of changes,” Daley said.

Losing two respected Daley’s in Chicago comes at a challenging time for the 43rd ward, which includes most of Lincoln Park. According to Vi Daley, there are many problems facing the district.

“There’s what to do about Children’s Memorial Hospital and pushing people to use public transit could be a problem too,” she said.

Children’s Memorial Hospital went on the market last week in preparation for when it will be leaving Lincoln Park in 2012. It will leave behind many empty buildings anchored near the intersection of Lincoln and Fullerton avenues.

In anticipation of its move, Daley hired urban planners and got feedback from the community at four, well-attended meetings recently. “People were concerned about what’s next for the complex,” Daley said. “We discussed buildings being built higher, turning part of it into housing for low income families or parking, condos or possibly bringing an international market there year around.”

All of the meeting’s discussions were documented, published and can be found on the ward’s website.

“Hopefully anyone who wants to build there will see the concerns of the community,” Daley said. “I think people will realize they won’t be able to get away with much without the support of the community.”

Listening to the concerns of constituents is just one of many tasks Daley has as Alderman. But to her, it has been an essential one.

“You’ve got to listen to people and find out what’s most important to them,” Daley said. “Being a good listener, that’s the most important thing about this job.”

In addition to listening, Daley has devoted much of her three terms serving on the City Council on eight committees including zoning, ethics, budget, technology, finance and landmarks, among others.

In fact, she said, “I’ve landmarked a lot more than probably any other alderman.” Her latest victories having landmarked much of Deming and Armitage streets.

“You’re constantly doing things,” Daley said of being an Alderman. “It’s a 24/7 job.”

Daley recalled one such catastrophic example of being called to extra duty in 2003, when a porch collapsed on Wrightwood killing 13 young adults and injuring dozens more. Daley received the call around midnight that night of June 29.

She immediately rushed to her office on the same street just a few blocks away to open her doors to the Red Cross, fire and police departments in need of a command post where they could handle the crowds of concerned neighbors, families and friends searching for loved ones.

“It was a horrible, horrible experience,” Daley said. “I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

Daley, who has two children, recalled, “One mother came in not knowing where her son was and a fax came in saying he was at the morgue. It was devastating.”

However, “a lot came out of that,” she added. There are now strict guidelines to the city’s porches and it costs a lot more to add one to a building, according to the alderman.

Having had devoted so much of her time as alderman to changing ordinances like that one for the better, Daley said, “I’ll miss the daily interaction with people the most.”

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