During Chicago's public budget hearings last August, advocates lambasted Mayor Daley for failing the city's mentally ill. They noted that his adminstration had purchased
a high-tech billing system that didn't submit bills to the state for
months, subsequently costing the city $1.2 million in funding. Daley
also neglected to fix the problem promptly, resulting in deeper reimbursement cuts. And to add insult to injury, the city had gradually slashed funding for mental health services in previous years. As these citizens seized a rare opportunity to confront him about the problems, "Daley sat silent, mouth closed with eyes straight ahead. He would not answer," as Steve Rhodes recounted last summer.
We couldn't help but be reminded of that episode when reading Evan Osnos' New Yorker profile of Daley (subscription required). It turns out that, back in the mid-Seventies, he made his first splash as an Illinois state legislator by fighting for the rights of -- you guessed it -- mental health patients:
Daley returned to Springfield, he startled colleagues by sponsoring a
high-profile bill to protect mental-health patients. "He had certainly
never sponsored a major piece of social reform," [John] Schmidt
recalled. Daley convened months of hearings and impressed even his
opponents with his mastery of arcane legal and medical detail. "It was
the first time I think he had ever been involved with something that
had no partisan, no political, no clout element to it," [Dawn Clark] Netsch said. "And I think he realized he enjoyed it."