Inaugural Address of Mayor Michael A. Bilandic
June 22, 1977
This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and misspellings in the original document have not been corrected.
This is a solemn and historic moment in the life of our City. It is fitting that this inauguration is being held in the Richard J. Daley Plaza. In many ways this open space in the heart of the central city symbolizes much of what Mayor Daley sought to preserve and achieve for his beloved Chicago.
This soaring architectural structure—this court house representing a dignity and respect for law—the flags and the eternal memorial flame—the simple fountain—the Picasso, a great work of art, with its description in braille—and the beautiful trees—reflect the vision we all share.
It is the sight of people using the Plaza that means the most to us. This is the scene of groups presenting samples of their ethnic culture—military reviews for visiting heads of foreign countries—young people exhibiting their talent to the people in the square—and many similar events.
This Plaza is the product of leadership and foresight—it was the inspiration for the development of more open spaces—of great sculptures with trees and fountains throughout the central area where hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans work and shop. The plazas are attractive. They are Chicago’s showplaces of art and entertainment-free for public use and enjoyment.
We just completed a period in our history when the Nation was beset by the consequences of war, recession, unemployment and inflation. The last decade was one of extreme ferment caused by an almost revolutionary shift in basic values.
Cities were particularly vulnerable to the onslaught of national problems and Chicago was no exception. Cities were faced with deficit budgets.
Many cities were forced to cut essential services, forced to increase local taxes, and compelled to cut back on capital improvements.
There was a loss of confidence in the future of cities—a pessimism and a sense of futility.
But not in Chicago—the difference was in the quality of political, business, labor, religious and governmental leadership and the indomitable “I Will” spirit of our citizens.
The challenge and responsibility that I accept as Mayor of Chicago is to move forward to a greater city.
We have become a nation of cities. Over 75 percent of our population lives in cities.
The health of the national economy and the health of the nation’s cities are interrelated. Secretary of Commerce Krebs acknowledged this fact last week when she told the United States Conference of Mayors: “As the cities go, so goes the nation”.
Since the vitality of our national economy is directly affected by the vitality of our cities, it is imperative that we continue our policy of cooperation between the national, state and local governments. In Illinois, we have demonstrated that cooperative efforts by our state and city officials, working with the Carter administration and with our bi-partisan leadership in the Congress, can be beneficial to the economy of our nation, state and city.
I agree with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Patricia Harris that “The day of national urban policy being conceived in Washington, directed from Washington, and controlled by Washington is over … We are committed to building a partnership with you.”
President Carter has stated on many occasions that his administration is committed to an intergovernmental partnership between the cities, states and federal government in which the resources and authorities of each are utilized.
On behalf of this administration, I want to respond by saying that we are committed to building a partnership with the national and state government which will best serve the public interest.
Although the problems of our cities are difficult, we can face the future with the confidence that there are many factors that favor long-term viability of central cities, such as:
- increased energy costs are making relatively high-density, resource-conserving city living more efficient and less costly;
- the cities already possess facilities and services which would be extraordinarily expensive and wasteful to duplicate outside the city;
- much high-skilled service employment is being retained in the older urban centers; and
- the amenities of urban life are becoming more appealing.
We have learned much from the experiences of the past to add to our resources for the making of the future. As Mayor—I look to the coming years as years of opportunity for leadership.
Leadership—to launch programs that will maintain and create employment. We will take full advantage of every program to put people to work as quickly as possible. We will do everything in our power to cut red tape and bureaucratic delays.
Leadership—to continue to expand city services and increase productivity.
Leadership—to expand programs which give aid and opportunity to our senior citizens, to provide more health care and medical services to the young and old, to continue unabated those programs that direct themselves to the personal needs of our citizens.
Leadership—to improve our environment.
Leadership—to continue to enforce and improve standards that protect the consumer.
Leadership—to initiate projects, programs and developments in every neighborhood and business district of the City which will improve communities and stimulate the economy.
Leadership—to convert plans into reality, to utilize local, state and federal funds to improve the neighborhoods of our City—to provide better transportation, to rehabilitate and conserve housing, to create parks and malls as well as to extend water and sewer facilities.
Leadership—to move ahead to complete existing and pending projects and to launch new public works essential to the progress of the City and its neighborhoods.
Leadership—to retain the confidence of investors in the City by upholding its sound fiscal and financial position.
Our goal must be to provide a community of people who respect one another and are willing to work together for the common good.
I am committed to working closely with business, labor, and other groups in the interest of all Chicago residents. It is this working together that has done so much to make Chicago a viable city.
Our purpose is to maintain Chicago as the city of good neighborhoods—for all people—regardless of heritage, culture or any other distinction. We are all Chicagoans and as Mayor I am the servant of all the people.
At this solemn moment, I seek the cooperation of the City Council in the months and years ahead. I will work with you in the same cooperative spirit in which I did as one of your members.
I ask for the help of our greatest resource, the people of our City. For my part, I shall rededicate myself to the task for which you have selected me. I feel this honor very deeply and I shall devote every waking moment to deserve your trust.
We face immense problems in the days ahead, but we in this City are blessed with hard working men and women of talent and ability and above all with the “I Will” spirit that has kept Chicago in the forefront of the Nation.
It is with that assurance that I am optimistic about the future and with your prayers and help, I pledge myself to do all in my power to improve the quality of life in the City we all love.
- Chicago City Council. Journal of the Proceedings, June 22, 1977, p. 5453–54.
- Municipal Reference Collection files.