Mayor for Life? Apparently Not

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I don't doubt that Mayor Daley has done himself a favor, and his ailing wife a favor, by deciding that 22 years as mayor are enough and the term that ends next spring will be his last. But he's also done the right thing for Chicago. If politics were more reasonable in this city we'd be looking back on the Daley era already.

For the first time since since Richard J. Daley became mayor more than half a century ago, a Mayor Daley has decided not to run for reelection. Chicago will just have to grow up a little and find somebody with a different last name who can do the job. If Richard M. wants out because the city's broke in more ways than one and, as the Tribune puts it, "dissatisfaction abounds" — that's a wonderful reason. Things are lousy everywhere, and in more normal jurisdictions that's why politicians are voted out and voted in, take early retirement or answer the call to public service. If Chicago's broke, let somebody else fix it. Only the worst demagogues can't imagine anyone but themselves correcting their own mistakes.

UPDATE: My quick, dirty perusal of Chicago history tells me the city's last mayor to leave office voluntarily was Edward Kelly in 1947, and that was only in a matter of speaking. The Democratic Organization told Kelly it intended to slate a reformer, and Kelly went along with it. Eight years later, the Organization turned on that reformer, Mayor Martin Kennelly, and backed Cook County party chairman Richard J. Daley for mayor. Kennelly ran anyway in the Democratic primary and was crushed. The idea of Richie Daley deciding he's had enough after only 22 years on the Fifth Floor is as healthy a precedent as George Washington serving two terms as president and going home.

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