OPINION: Former mayor Daley left his mark on the city; timing of his resignation, however, was a bit of a surprise

His agenda did not have the support among aldermen that it once did



Former Mayor Jim Daley’s resignation was a bit of a surprise. Given recent events within the city and this version of the Common Council’s resistance to his plans, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Daley did not run for reelection next April, but resigning now (actually June 1) was not expected.

It was, however, understandable, not only because he no longer had the support he once had on the Council, but also because the position requires time and energy that no one including Daley, could sustain given its part-time pay.Yes, Daley is a business owner in the community, but the vagaries of being a business owner are such that having a more stable source of income, which he will get as a member of the Wisconsin Employee Relations Commission had to be attractive.

But Daley’s departure is a loss to the city. While many will find this statement from me to be a surprise, I had a lot of respect for his commitment to the city. It exceeded the part-time nature of the position.

The former mayor and I parted ways on policy issues frequently. I also disagreed with his reliance on closed door sessions and how he often conducted business for the city without involving the Council. A case in point was Daley’s ill-fated attempt to bring Fowler Lake Village to the city. Good idea, but too much of the dialog was closed to the public. I also disagreed with how he handled the acquisition of land on Wisconsin Avenue across from City Beach and the land swap on North Main Street that has given us an incomplete Village Green. And of course we went to war over Thackeray Trail.

But Daley was a strong mayor and he had a strong presence, both of which are required to be effective. He had the ability to quickly grasp and understand the significance of things and during Council meetings–where he was the presiding officer–he worked hard to ensure that the meetings were productive, often using his sharp wit and sense of humor to defuse potentially hostile situations. True, there were times when his comments were biting and at times denigrating when he lost patience with opponents, but he controlled and ran meetings well, no small task. In particular, he always gave people who spoke during the public comment sessions time to speak out, even when they were argumentative, misinformed, or rambling. He was acutely aware of public sentiment during these sessions and did his best to accommodate and even assist those speaking.

His background as an attorney also helped during Council meetings as he was able to provide guidance on issues before the Council that had the potential for legal ramifications. He was careful not to offer legal counsel and he did not step on City Attorney Bill Chapman’s shoes, but he did identify and clarify items for the aldermen using his knowledge of the law.

Daley had a clear vision for the city and it centered on ensuring that the tax base grew enough to allow the city to maintain and grow its services while also keeping down our property taxes. For the most part, he was successful at doing that. And while his tenure was not without controversy–part and parcel of  holding public office–the city is better off today than it was when he took office in 2010. Regardless, given the circumstances, the change in leadership will probably benefit everyone, including the former mayor.

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