Mayor Richard M. Daley today used his annual City of Chicago address to acknowledge the "great challenges we face", but also to look to the future with a series of proposals to "keep Chicago moving forward during tough times.
"Although we have accomplished much together and made Chicago a better place to live, work and raise a family, there is still much to accomplish,” Daley said.
"The challenges we face today are greater than ever -- from the worst economic recession in modern times to an epidemic of violence that is needlessly killing our children. But, even though we're facing difficult times, I am confident we will get through them and that Chicago will emerge stronger for it, just as we always have," he said.
Daley spoke before a crowd at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan Av., where he asked attendees to support the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, this year's beneficiary of the event.
"These tough times demand that we roll up our sleeves and redouble our commitment to address our challenges head on," Daley told the audience.
Daley went on to acknowledge that "when we fall short I want us to do better. It's important to me that the people of Chicago have confidence in the way I've run government and that they know we're doing our best to serve them honestly and openly."
The speech addressed five major areas:
Daley said his staff is now working with business leaders and community groups to develop a plan that brings new jobs and opportunities to Chicago. Among its goals are:
Daley reminded the audience that by far the largest single way that good jobs could be created for the future is to complete the modernization of O'Hare International Airport and that the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games would also create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue.
He announced he has appointed Chris Mallette of his staff to coordinate programs to address youth violence.
Daley said he had challenged the Chicago Police Department to continually update their strategies to protect our children and put behind bars the gang bangers and drug dealers who terrorize them and our neighborhoods.
And he said the City must enforce its curfew, keep its children involved in positive activities and better its better coordinate its crime prevention efforts and human services efforts.
He said confiscating guns and pressing for common sense gun legislation at the state and federal levels will continue to be a priority.
Daley said that "it hasn't been easy but without the city's ongoing efforts to cut spending and improve management, things would be far worse today."
He said that even with the cuts in spending that have been and will continue to be aggressively implemented that the city still foresees major deficits for the foreseeable future.
Daley reminded the audience that under his proposal, he and the city's top managers had already agreed to take 15 unpaid furlough days this year.
He challenged "the leadership of each of our sister agencies -- the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago City Colleges, the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Park District -- to do what we've already done at the City and ask their top level executives to take furlough days or make some other financial sacrifice."
He said he has instructed his staff and sister agencies to do all they can to avoid any tax or fee increase this year, and he reminded the audience he has already announced he has instructed his staff to review the parking meter lease to determine how it can be made to work better for the people of Chicago.
The Mayor said he is committed to do whatever it takes for people to have confidence in the actions of City government. He said he has asked his staff to:
The Mayor said Chicago must take its schools to the next level by continuing to open new charter schools and 'optional' schools and improving traditional neighborhood schools, staying focused on teaching the basics in the classroom and doing more to turn around troubled schools, starting with high schools.
The Mayor said there is always more to be accomplished in Chicago.
"I live and breathe Chicago and want only what's best for our city and every person who lives here.
"I've devoted my life to building a stronger Chicago. With your support and the support of our residents, we can accomplish even greater things, neighborhood by neighborhood and block by block," he said.
Mayor Daley's City of Chicago address can be viewed in its entirety on the Mayor's YouTube page at www.youtube.com/mayordaley/