Carol Felsenthal
On politics

It’s Time to Revisit the Issue of Taxpayer-Financed Bodyguards

In the aftermath of Maggie Daley’s death on Thanksgiving night, the citizens of Chicago have shown just how much they valued and loved her. No doubt about that, but now is the time for Mayor Emanuel to revisit the dicey issue of taxpayer-funded bodyguards for political figures.

Maggie Daley, Rahm Emanuel, Ed Burke

In the aftermath of Maggie Daley’s death on Thanksgiving night, the citizens of Chicago have shown just how much they valued and loved her. No doubt about that—I mourned the city’s former first lady, too. But as I read the news stories and watched the memorial service, the thought popped into my head that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in addition to considering building a permanent memorial to Maggie, will also have to revisit the dicey issue of the former mayor’s security detail.

Last September, as Mrs. Daley’s health was declining, Emanuel told reporters that the Daleys would keep the three policemen—on an “on-call basis” only—who protected and chauffeured them; down from the five that Emanuel assigned them on Rich Daley’s leaving office. The new mayor explained that it was the least the city (i.e. taxpayers) could do, adding that two were devoted to driving the late first lady to her many doctors’ appointments, treatments, and hospital stays. “I made that decision. While we’re a city of big shoulders, we’re also a city of big hearts.” He also noted that Mrs. Daley “has done countless thousands of hours on behalf of the city as a first lady.” The Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman reported him saying, “The former first lady has served this city without any compensation at all for years. It’s the decent thing to do.” 

Those were nice sentiments, but the new mayor was being generous and compassionate with the public’s purse and its policemen. Since the start of this bodyguard flap, the extended Daley family should have stepped up to hire a driver for Maggie. The closeness of the brothers—who have made plenty of money in law, banking, insurance, much of it remarkably enhanced by their paternal and fraternal mayoral ties—could easily have covered the cost. The Sun-Times’ Chris Fusco, Carol Marin, and Don Moseley reported a month ago that the security detail for the Daleys since Rich left office had cost taxpayers more than $184,000.

Which brings me to Alderman Ed Burke. The Sun-Times reporters—and remember, this is more than a month ago—gave the cost for his security as $119,000 since May 16, when Emanuel was sworn in. Yes, Rahm reduced it from four active policemen to two retired ones. And, yes, Burke is chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, but unless there’s something wildly unsavory that Burke knows and the public doesn’t, it mystifies me why taxpayers should supply Burke with security detail. (Is it possible that Rahm just loves the guy? At a breakfast fundraiser at Misericordia Thursday, Emanuel hailed Burke as the reason the city’s financial crisis seems more under control than the state’s:  “…they don’t have a great finance chairman like I have.”)

Just think about it: Burke has had taxpayer-financed bodyguards since 1983 and the administration of Mayor Harold Washington, when the alderman’s role in the Council Wars generated threats. If Burke thinks he still needs a driver and a bodyguard, he should hire them and pay them.

Last September, the Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper, after describing Maggie Daley as “one of the most beloved, admired and respected citizens this city has ever known,” dared to question Rahm’s rationale for her drivers. Roeper asked, “How many cops and firefighters, how many hardworking Chicago citizens, also have a spouse or a child or a parent who is battling a deadly illness and requires fast and comfortable trips to the hospital?”

Yes, Maggie Daley did a splendid job championing the arts and education, and tens of thousands loved her and now her memory, but the public should not have paid for a former first lady’s drivers—especially when her family could afford them. And now, it’s time for the mayor of this cash-strapped city to rethink the use of taxpayers’ money to pay for security for the former mayor and the current alderman.


Photography: (Daley and Burke) Chicago Tribune; (Emanuel) Esther Kang


3 years ago
Posted by pol&pers

Rahm still caters to Daley. It was ridiculous to suggest taxpayer money should be used for private citizens to go to the doctor as a kindness. The Daleys, Burkes, etc are accustomed to services the rest of us never could imagine requesting. Maggie had great class but she was not needy in any way, and she received pay from others for the work she did.

3 years ago
Posted by Orion

Why is everyone so afraid to speak about this elephant in the room ?

First of all, Maggie stole those arts in education programs from Lois Weisberg, whom the Mayor treated like crap after two dozen years of loyal service.

Secondly, what does that say about a man and his children who will not even take the time to drive their own wife/mother they love so much to their doctor visits ? And knowing that his wife is on death's door, but takes on three jobs post mayor life (U of C, which is still a head scratcher; law firm of pal Terry Newman, along with four aides in tow; and own business with son Patrick in the north michigan avenue building). Such greed.

Carol also left off the use of the aides by the Daley daughters, especially Nora, whom often used them (possibly even on the night of the still suspicious circumstances surrounding the beating death of Kloschman by her cousin Vanecko).

As for Burke's financial accumen, every year, the city has been in the financial hole under Burke's reign as Finance Chairman, so I don't get the praise from Rahm on that point.

These perks need to end, however the treatment of the people is akin to the pigs vs the other barnyard animals in Orwell's Animal Farm - "some animals are more equal than others".

We will remember this against the backdrop of speeding ticket cameras turned on around schools and parks as late as 11pm on weekends (supposedly "for the kids" - yeah right); the doubling of waterbills, ostensibly to create 18,000 jobs (the math doesn't work on that number); increased city vehicle sticker fees (originally under the guise that SUV's tear up street, not knowing what any elementary physics student knows - that potholes are caused by snow/salt/plowing/freeze/thaw/melt weather cycle); broken pledge on not raising property taxes (CPS taxes by his appointed Board raised to the max); broken pledge on adding 1,000 new police officers; broken pledge on transparency according to the Chicago Tribune recent report on information relative to speeding cams; less than a year and the list is already long....

3 years ago
Posted by @coffeygrinds

Wow Orion thanks for the catch up..

3 years ago
Posted by soccer

Wow Carol and Orion, well said. Be consoled by a small ray of light through the financial clouds; on the national level it's soon possible that we'll be saying nein, nein, nein to Herman Cain's security detail.

3 years ago
Posted by Orion

It was 1-Dec-11 and two CPD cops took extra precautions tonight at their mediocre paying security side job at the United Center.

The usual violent hip hop concert was back in town. As this Jay-Z kanye concert turned out to be relatively calm compared to past concerts, the disturbing incident actually included Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Mayor Emaunuel has preached fiscal sacrifice to other public officials in reguards to bloated Security details. But the sacrifice does not include him or his own family.
Sitting on stage left three rows up was Mayor Emanuel's middle age son surrounded by a Presidential like Security detail of ivory in a sea of chocolate.
Thats right, the taxpayer was paying so little Rahm could attend his first Hip Hop Concert. The usual Security at the U.C was told to keep an eye on that section as so the big time VIP in attendence was kept protected. W
as it not Rahm Emanuel who preached to Former Mayor Daley and Ed Burke about this very topic. Well my friends who work at the U.C were told by their superiors to keep this hush-hush.

3 years ago
Posted by BUH

It puzzles me that if these people find these jobs so terrorizing, so frightening for them and their family members that they must have police with them 24/7, why do they want the job so badly? Why run if you are so concerned for your security and your family's safety?
Give me a break. Don't run if you're a such a chicken. Or,if you know we cannot funtion without you and you're that afraid, hire some guards.

3 years ago
Posted by Carl Lambrecht

Cost of Threats should be measured.

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