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updated: 5/11/2011 7:48 PM

Daley wants mayoral library display for him, dad

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  • Richard M. Daley's final term as Chicago mayor ends Monday after 22 years in office.

      Richard M. Daley's final term as Chicago mayor ends Monday after 22 years in office.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley envisions an exhibit, possibly inside one of the city's public libraries, to honor his family's longtime civic commitment.

      Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley envisions an exhibit, possibly inside one of the city's public libraries, to honor his family's longtime civic commitment.
    Associated Press

 
By Deanna Bellandi
Associated Press

Former presidents get presidential libraries, but retiring Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has something smaller in mind for after he leaves office Monday.

Daley told The Associated Press in a Wednesday interview that he envisions an exhibit, possibly inside one of Chicago's public libraries, to honor his family's longtime civic commitment to a city where his father also was mayor. The late Richard J. Daley was the city's political boss for 21 years until he died in 1976 and his son is retiring after 22 years in the office because he didn't seek a seventh term.

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The mayoral exhibit would display pictures from his time in office as well as his father's, along with mementos and possibly his father's desk, which the younger Daley used at City Hall.

"It's not a mayoral library, it'd just be maybe a room this big," he said gesturing around one of the rooms in his fifth-floor City Hall office suite that's dominated by a long conference table where he spends much of his time.

In just a matter of days that mayoral real estate will be turned over to President Barack Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who will be sworn in to office Monday.

Daley has spent the last few weeks on a farewell tour throughout the city and that includes exit interviews with the Chicago media. He reflected on his time in office and said he has no regrets, but he didn't want to dwell on some of the blemishes that mark his tenure like political patronage and city hiring scandals.

He also steadfastly refused to offer any public advice to Emanuel as he gets ready to step into the job leading America's third largest city. Emanuel's transition team estimates the city faces a $700 million budget deficit next year.

"It's not appropriate," Daley said. He also won't say whether he planned to leave behind a note for Emanuel as is the tradition with outgoing presidents and their successors. "If it is, it'd be a personal letter," Daley said.

One thing Daley definitely won't leave behind is his gigantic aquarium with a few yellow fish swimming around in it. "You can't leave this behind ... here, I leave you three fish," he joked.

But Emanuel is familiar with giving fish as gifts: He once sent a dead fish to a Democratic pollster he was mad at.

Daley said he's not worried about how history will judge his time at Chicago's helm: "I really don't worry about history," said the mayor, whose record includes taking over Chicago's troubled school system in 1995 and then the Chicago Housing Authority a few years later. There's also Millennium Park, a popular tourist destination along Michigan Avenue, and the city's unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

He defended his unpopular decisions to lease the city's parking meters, which drove up rates, and to dig up the runway at a lakefront airport in the middle of the night so he could turn the prime real estate into a park.

Of all the presidents, celebrities and world leaders he has met, Daley said former South African President Nelson Mandela made the biggest impression.

"Here's a man that was put in prison, never came out bitter, mad and mean, hatred. That is a special, special man," Daley said.

Daley won't say what's next for him as a private citizen but don't expect him to sit around.

"I have to work," he said.

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