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LGBTAs weigh in on Daley
Extended for the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis
2010-09-15

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Windy City Times asked a variety of individuals about what impressions outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley made on them. This is what they had to say:

—Modesto "Tico" Valle, Center on Halsted executive director: "Mayor Daley has always been an ally of the LGBT community, and he wholeheartedly supported the branding of the center corridor along Halsted Street. He brought our community "to the table" and understands how diverse segments of the community contribute to a vibrant and world-class city. Here at Center on Halsted, we are especially sad to see Mayor Daley leave office. He was a leader in getting our community center project off the ground, and his support helped make the Center a reality."

—Tom Tunney, 44th Ward alderman: "He has become one of the foremost spokespersons in terms of marriage equality and LGBT rights. He exceeded all expectations of understanding of leadership on LGBT issues. There really was a fear that Rich Daley would not be supportive of our community [ when Daley was first elected ] . He has blown away, in a lot of ways, that perception."

—Mike Bauer, civic/community leader: "What remarkable political leadership Mayor Daley demonstrated in regard to the LGBT community. Whether it was his words and actions recognizing and celebrating our community as an essential part of the fabric of Chicago or vocalizing his support for full political rights for LGBT persons, including his strong support for same-sex marriage rights, he demonstrated strong political leadership in support of us.

"For those of us who came of age during his 20 years as mayor, how proud we were to have Richard Daley as mayor of our home city. His shoes will be so difficult to fill."

—Jeannie Tanner, Chicago musician: "Good for Mayor Daley—for going out on his own terms and making more time for his family. He was a solid mayor for more than 20 years, and he leaves behind an amazing legacy. I didn't always agree with his policies, but I salute him for the positive impact he had on our great city.

"He brought the Gay Games to Chicago and that was a wonderful way to

embrace our community. It showed tremendous courage, on his part, in the face of so many obstacles. And, we now have Millennium Park, thanks to his administration, as well as tremendous support for the arts that his wife, Maggie, always made sure was a priority.

"I hope that the next mayor will be as open-minded as Mayor Daley has been to LGBT issues and that the efforts to beautify and make Chicago the greenest city in the world, as well as a cultural mecca, will continue!"

—The Rev. Stan Sloan, CEO of Chicago House: "Back when there were widespread AIDS hysteria and homophobia, Mayor Daley was the first elected official to visit Chicago House's hospice and our residence. He has remained a champion of Chicago House; of Sweet Miss Giving's Bakery; and of the issues of HIV/AIDS and homelessness. He will be greatly missed and we wish him the best."

—Lori Cannon, activist: "No one imagined AIDS would really affect Chicago—I mean, it only happened in San Francisco or New York, right??!!! Boy, were we wrong…….

"It was 1985 and our friends were dropping like flies. We'd become medieval people—death was our constant companion. As caregivers we'd feed, bathe and medicate our dying friends. A small group of activists who was 'fighting for their lives' organized to take to the streets of Chicago to publicize the desperate need for AIDS funding ( for direct/basic services ) and were met with hostile, hateful and brutal violence from the Daley administration.

"Back then, Daley and his 'goon squads' just didn't get it. In fact, the problem was Daley was getting all the wrong info—from his so-called inner circle. both gay and straight. It was a living nightmare—the police, the violence, the hatred. It's only because of people like the late Martin Gapshis ( who was known to have Daley's ear ) did things start to change—slowly!

"The correct info was shared: The community formed coalitions to meet with the mayor and, wisely, Daley paid enough attention to see what a political powerhouse the gay community was becoming. In time, AIDS funding increased—thanks largely to the efforts of Alderman Helen Shiller and others.

"I guess what I'm saying is that Daley proved to be a man who was open and willing to learn—and learn he did. Whereas the early days of AIDS activism were painful and wrong, Daley came around eventually to do better, to do the right thing.

"Sadly, so many of the key players died never having seen this change. They deserved better."

—Dori Wilson, PR guru: "Having been a longtime fan of Mayor Daley and his father before him, I was shocked and saddened upon first hearing of his decision to not seek re-election for mayor of the City of Chicago. Those sentiments quickly changed to 'How lucky were we to have him for 21 years!' His love and excitement about the city of Chicago and its possibilities as an outstanding city of the world ... will indeed be hard to match. The city has never looked better ... not only downtown, but there have been incredible improvements in the neighborhoods.

"Of course the City of Chicago will survive. I hope we never return to the former council wars … where various segments of elected officials refuse to work together for the betterment of the city. The latter was always the priority of Mayor Richard M. Daley."

—State Sen. Heather Steans: "Mayor Daley's passion for Chicago is renowned and will be missed terribly. In the interest of improving the lives of all Chicagoans, he welcomed challenges—from taking ownership of the Chicago Public School system to transforming the Chicago Housing Authority, he reveled in risk-taking.

"Mayor Daley has paved the way for other political leaders on LGBT issues as well. He supported the North Halsted streetscape project, was instrumental in building the Center on Halsted, continually fought against all discrimination and supported equal marriage long ago. In his own words, 'Members of the LGBT community have contributed to Chicago in every imaginable way—business, education, arts, neighborhood revitalization and development. They deserve to have the City of Chicago standing on their side and I will continue to do so as long as I am Mayor.' Let's hope our next mayor shares this leadership."

—Michael O'Connor, activist: "My first impressions about the Daley administration were those of caution. As a born on the South Side of Chicago, and as an African-American; and as an openly GB and sometimes "T" person and as someone old enough to remember the first "Pharaoh" his father, I expected the same kind of public-policy treatment that I witnessed in my childhood, even though I was raised in the 8th Ward.

"However, I was pleasantly surprised by several of his administrative and departmental appointments as well as the broader coalition approaches concerning public access to public resources, which greatly differed from previous administrations. Most of the Daley appointee's decisions vastly mirrored what I considered 'progressive' ethnic LGBT politics.

"For example, it was under the Daley's administration that the first organized predominately African-American culturally sensitive "LGBT Pride" annual HIV/AIDS event, commonly known as the "Rocks," became an institution. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the 14th years of tireless effort by retiring 46th Ward Alderman Helen Shiller, who annually made sure that an event like "The Rocks" could exist—long before there was any other kind of organized LGBT Black Pride event in this city."

—State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago: "I will always remember Mayor Daley not just as one of the most powerful political leaders of a generation, but also as a person who cared very deeply about every family in the City of Chicago. He was known sometimes to scold and lecture the media, and I will always remember the lectures he would give on how not every family in every Chicago neighborhood was alike, but that each one deserved to live in peace and safety, have a good home and job, contribute to the community and share in equal rights under the law. He truly valued diversity and how each community and neighborhood in Chicago contributed to a more vibrant and successful City. His outspoken stance on LGBT issues gave courage to other politicians not only in Illinois but across the country to do the right and thing and support equality and fairness, instead of fearing the voices of right-wing intolerance.

"As he always wished every family of a lesbian or gay couple well, I know we all wish Rich and Maggie Daley and all of their family well and thank them for decades of service to us all."

—Jim Pickett, gay men's health advocate: "For all of Mayor Daley's shortcomings—the ongoing, deeply embedded corruption in his administration, ruling by fear and intimidation, tearing up Meigs field in the middle of the night, the whole parking-meter disaster, etc.—I am really going to miss the guy. Daley is a huge friend and ally to the LGBT community here, and has been pivotal to making our wonderful city one of the very best places to live in the nation.

What other city has a Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, an Office of LGBT Health, a gay liaison to the mayor and a city-designated gay district? He has consistently stood with us—passionately—on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues. I am always proud to share this information with non-Chicagoans, especially those who live in cities assumed to be more progressive, and see the shock on their faces, usually on the heels of being dumbstruck over the physical beauty of Chicago. Daley can be thanked for that as well."


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