Mayor Richard J. Daley Inaugural Address, 1971

Richard J. Daley Biography

Inauguration date: April 21, 1971

This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and misspellings in the original document have not been corrected.

In my first Inaugural Address, and in every one since, I made one commitment that has priority over all others, that as Mayor of Chicago “My employer is all the people of Chicago, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, of every economic group, of every neighborhood.” The result of the April 6th election was especially gratifying because it demonstrated that the voters not only approved our record in office, but more importantly, agreed we have kept our pledge to serve all the people of Chicago. It is in this spirit that I have taken this Oath of Office and pledge to you my total dedication and my unstinting labor to serve the people of Chicago.

It is difficult to single out priorities in an urban society, for almost every activity of government is related to, and affected by another. We do have a measure however, our priorities should attempt to meet those needs which most people have in common.

In a real sense this is what makes a community, a gathering of people who have common interests, goals and desires. This City Council serves two kinds of communities, two constituencies, the city and the neighborhoods. We hold the belief in a democracy that what is good for most of the people is good for all the neighborhoods. We also believe that in order to have a good city, we must have good neighborhoods.

From this community viewpoint we arrive at fundamental priorities. We must have neighborhoods that have sufficient order and safety to allow freedom of movement, we must have communities in which people can work, shop, attend school and church and enjoy leisure, and in which we can associate with our fellow men to achieve those objectives that serve all of us.

To that end, we must constantly improve our police and fire departments and expand patrol duty in every neighborhood. We cannot tolerate children being intimidated in any neighborhood. Foot patrols in all areas of the city will be expanded by the use of portable radios carried by policemen. Two hundred and seventy-five recruits were graduated last week, after seven months of intensive training, and will be equipped with this latest design in personal radios for use in foot patrol.

The police have recently instituted a pilot program in two districts in which beat patrolmen work on a team under the direction of a team sergeant. This system will provide several more unified squads working in coordination on each watch.

Another important program to be undertaken this year will enable police officers to issue citations for court appearances in lieu of arrest for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct. In a large number of cases this will eliminate physical arrest, prisoner transportation, detention and report writing. This will relieve police officers of time consuming tasks and make more time available for the primary mission of preventing serious crimes.

The additional personnel, the increased sophistication of radio technology, the team police concept and the use of the court citation will make it possible to provide more extensive coverage and increase safety for our citizens on the streets of our city.

The police alone, however, cannot bring safety to any community. Essential is the direct participation of every citizen to assist and help the police in making every neighborhood a good place in which to live.

We must seek to reduce poverty and the effects of poverty by supplying health care to all who need it.

In recent years the Chicago Board of Health has expanded its services to meet the needs of those families who do not have their own physicians, nor the resources to pay the high costs of private hospital or clinical care. The private medical sector has not been able to meet these needs.

The infant mortality rate in Chicago has dropped from 33.6 deaths per thousand live births in 1965, to 27.7 in 1970. This is a city-wide average. Among blacks, the reduction has been even more dramatic, with a drop from 44.8 in 1966 to 35.9 in 1970. This infant mortality rate will continue to be reduced through a number of programs.

Seven new comprehensive medical care centers will be built. New programs, public and private, will make it possible for more doctors to be available in the areas where they are most needed. Currently fourteen of Chicago’s leading hospitals are participating in Board of Health programs for high risk mothers and infants. The infant mortality rate in this program is 17.1 per cent per thousand live births, much better than the nation-wide average for all patients, this program will be expanded.

We must eliminate slums and provide housing to both low and moderate income families. We will continue to build housing for senior citizens. This year ten neighborhood not-for-profit corporations will build 2300 units for moderate and low income families. A typical neighborhood corporation consists of a dozen neighborhood organizations including church groups. The city is now working with other community organizations to sponsor similar projects and we look forward to a genuine increase in the housing supply through this community participation.

More than five hundred scattered vacant sites, which have been acquired by the city through its program of removing hazardous buildings, will be made available to community groups and to the Chicago Dwellings Association for housing.

We will explore new methods of rehabilitation and expand our programs of supplying large four and five bedroom apartments which are needed urgently. We will undertake to launch programs to encourage better tenant-landlord responsibility and to provide greater opportunity for home ownership.

In longer range plans, the City Department of Development and Planning has been analyzing sites for new towns in town, which will provide thousands of new housing units with virtually no relocation.

The housing shortage of Chicago and other cities, particularly for the low income family which cannot find accommodations in the private market, will not be solved until the Federal Government makes the same kind of effort it has made in other areas, in developing atomic weapons or placing a man on the moon.

We have not seen that kind of national commitment from Washington but I am confident that public opinion will make it happen, and soon. With national and city resources we will lead the nation in providing a decent home for every Chicago family in a suitable living environment.

We must give our total support to improving the quality of education in every neighborhood. We must call for the allocation of additional resources to those communities which need it the most.

We must reduce and prevent the pollution of our environment. We are now making real progress and to further improve our environmental control program, I recommend that the council hold hearings for the preparation of an up-dated industrial waste ordinance.

We must preserve and improve our mass transportation system. This is a responsibility not only for Chicago and other municipalities but for the state. Legislation to provide operating subsidies to the CTA is essential for the economy and welfare of the entire metropolitan area.

We must maintain our excellent economic growth, our high employment rate, and expand job opportunities to everyone who wants to work. These, for the most part, are the basic priorities. They are not new. They arise from the common needs of people. They are functions of government which make the city viable, a place in which people can enjoy living.

This administration and this city council, with the support of the people, have carried on programs that have laid a foundation for us to move forward to achieve these goals. The performance of the city’s basic housekeeping services have reached high standards. We have underway programs, such as model cities, urban opportunity, comprehensive health care and consumer protection. These seek to meet the personal needs of people. We have a well-balanced public works program. Our financial structure is on a sound basis.

The record has demonstrated that this administration and the city council, with public support, have taken positive action to meet the problems of urban life. We have made progress, but we are not satisfied. There is much to be done. There are areas in which we have made a great deal of progress, in others our success has only been moderate, and in some, our experience has been disappointing.

Many of the programs were new and carried on during times of social stress. But each year, all of us have learned a little more, and from our experiences those of us in government and the people in the communities have become wiser.

The city’s greatest resource is its people and without their active participation there can be no real progress. There are many kinds of participation. There are those who cry out against injustice and hold before us ideal goals. Certainly it is important to focus on goals and define problems but their continual repetition alone cannot bring about their accomplishment. They mean little unless they are accompanied by action, programs and plans.

There is another kind of participation. This is the participation of responsibility, which call upon people and government to act constructively, to bring their convictions, their goals to reality. They are willing, after debate and discussion, to accept alternative realistic solutions.

Example of this forward looking kind of responsible participation is where neighborhood not-for-profit organizations are building urgently needed housing in cooperation with government. We have the same spirit of responsible participation by the residents and their leaders in the model cities program, the conservation boards, and urban opportunity councils.

Chicago has more community organizations with trained staffs and well planned activities than any other city.

From these and other experiences we have developed a greater understanding and a new strength. We now share a clearer recognition of our common goals, a better understanding that we can work together, a common recognition of the magnitude of the problems and the magnitude of the challenges that face us.

I am convinced that we will make far greater progress in the next four years because there has developed an atmosphere of genuine cooperation, an atmosphere of mutual responsibility.

We also begin this new administration with a new State Constitution. It has broadened our home-rule powers and provides us with opportunities for better government that we have sought for many years. It is our responsibility, a responsibility we welcome, to use these new powers to make a better city, and better neighborhoods.

Chicago always has been a testing laboratory for new programs and for new approaches to urban living. We expect to continue proving our methods to answer the problems we face, recognizing that these are not local problems alone, but national in scope. Poverty, ignorance, disease, and discrimination require a national commitment with Federal and State funds.

I have confidence in the future of Chicago. No city in America is as strong as Chicago. No city has the spirit that Chicago has. No city has more skilled labor. No city has more enlightened management. No city has more aggressive and dynamic neighborhood organizations. No people have demonstrated that they have as much vision and determination to do those things which need doing, to put into practice the motto of Chicago “I Will.”

Whatever success, whatever progress, we have made has only been possible because Chicago is all these things. We must have the continued responsible participation of the people in all the neighborhoods. There is so much to be done and it can only be done with the active support and help of every citizen.

Tonight, as I look back upon sixteen years as Chief Executive of this great city, I feel just as I did when I first took office. I knew then that the Mayor’s office was no ivory tower. Its problems could not be solved with a slide rule, that there were no miracles, there were no bargains in government as in anything else.

But I had faith in the city and its people. Because I live in a community and work with my neighbors, I knew their dreams, hopes and aspirations, that their determination to make a better life for themselves and their children were shared by the residents of all neighborhoods. Sixteen years ago, nothing meant so much to me as to serve the city I love, and nothing means so much to me today.

Tonight, I rededicate myself to maintaining the fabric of urban life in Chicago and to make our city a rewarding place in which to live and work.

And now, I want to thank the membership of the City Council for their help in making the record of our administration. I know full well the contributions of the people in the neighborhoods and of the many private agencies as well as public bodies, who have worked with us. I thank the city employees and all other citizens, who have given of their own time and their full support so that this city could make progress, so that we can expect an even better city tomorrow for ourselves and our children.

I think it is appropriate on this occasion to reflect on the words of Sir Thomas More. He was writing in the 16th Century, but his advice has deep significance today, he wrote:

Suppose wrong opinions cannot be plucked up by the roots, and you cannot cure as you would wish, vices of long standing, yet you must not on that account abandon ship of state and desert it in a storm, because you cannot control the winds. But neither must you impress upon them new and strange language, which you know will carry no weight with those of opposite conviction, but rather you must endeavor and strive to the best of your power to handle all well, and what you cannot turn to good you must make as little bad as you can. For it is impossible that all should be well, unless all men are good, which I do not expect for a great many years to come.”

In the words of Sir Thomas, I pledge that I will strive to the best of my power to handle all well.


  • Chicago City Council. Journal of the Proceedings, April 21, 1971, p. 5–7.
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