April 30, 2011
Because I cover the conflict-ridden fields of architecture and urban planning, I've had more than my share of memorable run-ins — er, moments — with Mayor Richard Daley. None was more revealing than the interview that former Tribune reporter Patrick Reardon and I conducted in Daley's City Hall office in 2008.
We were there to get the mayor's thoughts on architect Daniel Burnham's influential Plan of Chicago in advance of the plan's 2009 centennial. At one point, with an eye toward zinging Daley for his "my way or the highway" style of governing, I asked the mayor why he didn't follow the democratic example of the Burnham Plan's backers. They had put scores of Plan-related bond issues to Chicago voters, winning approval for such significant public works as the straightening of the Chicago River's South Branch.
Daley's brusque dismissal of this idea succinctly articulated the political philosophy that had led to the gouging of giant X's in the runway at Meigs Field.
"You want referendums?" he said. "Go to California."
Blair Kamin is the Tribune's architecture critic.