WBEZ | mayors http://www.wbez.org/tags/mayors Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en So, why did it take so long for it to be Mayor Jane Byrne's turn? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-why-did-it-take-so-long-it-be-mayor-jane-byrnes-turn-110556 <p><p>Shortly before Chicago&#39;s City Council officially honored former Mayor Jane Byrne by <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/jane-byrne-closer-getting-memorial-110573" target="_blank">naming the Water Tower Plaza after her</a>, her name had been thrown about quite a bit. The political momentum required for July&#39;s up-or-down vote, as well as the effusive praise heaped on Byrne, grew exponentially in the previous months. But that came after decades-worth of radio silence concerning her, the city&#39;s first and only female mayor.</p><p>Perhaps that silence &mdash;&nbsp;which began almost as soon as Byrne left office in 1983 &mdash;&nbsp;contributed to lifelong Chicagoan Shana Jackson stepping forward with our Curious City question. Shana said before the recent hullabaloo over the former mayor, she&nbsp;had&nbsp;never even heard&nbsp;Jane Byrne&#39;s name. That is, until her father gave her a quick quiz one day.</p><p>&ldquo;My parents are former teachers, and so my dad is always quizzing me about things,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Out of the blue, he asked me about the first woman mayor of Chicago. And I said, &lsquo;What woman mayor of Chicago?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Shana said her father, and later her Facebook friends, told her she should be ashamed that she didn&rsquo;t know about Jane Byrne. So then she hit the Internet.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a <em>lot</em> to be learned about Jane Byrne: There&rsquo;s her <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-byrne-story,0,7583194.story" target="_blank">landslide victory </a>in 1979 over incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic (and thus the so-called Democratic machine) in an election held shortly after his administration <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/February-2011/Snowpocalypse-Then-How-the-Blizzard-of-1979-Cost-the-Election-for-Michael-Bilandic/" target="_blank">botched handling a massive blizzard</a>.</p><p>Byrne served only one term, but many credit her as the prime mover behind some of the most recognizably &ldquo;Chicago&rdquo; events: the Taste of Chicago, Jazz Fest and numerous neighborhood summer festivals. Ditto for the physical transformation of the city: O&rsquo;Hare&rsquo;s International Terminal, the redevelopment of Navy Pier and the museum campus, public transportation options to the airport and much more.</p><p>There&rsquo;s also her controversial decision (or PR stunt, depending upon your interpretation) to move into the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1981/04/02/us/chicago-s-mayor-spends-lovely-night-at-project.html?module=Search&amp;mabReward=relbias%3Ar" target="_blank">Cabrini-Green</a>&nbsp;public housing development,&nbsp;as well as the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DCLCX1cqAc" target="_blank">protest </a>that erupted when she held a public Easter celebration there.<a name="timeline"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1gLzQq7ISqUuKt5ufNFfQOVXPTrjL_BBaImlnDBuSTc0/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>But what Shana <em>didn&rsquo;t</em> find is any structure or building or street around Chicago named for Mayor Byrne. That&#39;s despite the fact that she could have found <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-when-it-jane-byrnes-turn-110556#mayors">plenty named in honor of <em>other</em> Chicago mayors</a> &mdash; even some recent ones.</p><p>That led her to ask:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why is there rare mention and no memorials, buildings or streets named after the only woman mayor of Chicago &mdash; Jane Byrne?</em></p><p>Shana&rsquo;s question arrived as Chicago newspapers, local bloggers and columnists, city officials &mdash; you name it &mdash; were debating whether Jane Byrne deserved to have her name affixed on something, and whether or not she&rsquo;s been ignored.</p><p><em>Chicago Sun-Times </em>columnist Neil Steinberg wrote what he called an <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/steinberg/27312474-452/an-open-letter-to-jane-byrne.html#.U8VW35RdV8E" target="_blank">&ldquo;open letter&rdquo;</a> to Byrne ahead of her 80th birthday, where he talked about her legacy, and how she may think she&rsquo;s been &ldquo;forgotten, erased from history.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Sun-Times</em> columnist Michael Sneed, press secretary for Byrne for a short time in 1979, had led the charge. She&#39;d written extensive <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/sneed/27773585-452/sneed-jane-byrnes-daughter-tells-of-fearless-mom-with-incredible-instincts.html" target="_blank">columns </a>about Byrne, listing her accomplishments and pushing for the city to honor its first woman mayor. Sneed wrote that Byrne&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://www.suntimes.com/27761148-761/ex-mayor-jane-byrnes-trailblazing-legacy-unfairly-ignored-sneed.html#.U8VW4ZRdV8E" target="_blank">legacy has been ignored</a> by subsequent mayoral administrations, basically erased during Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s tenure in office, and long overdue for recognition.&rdquo;</p><p>Sneed&rsquo;s columns opened the floodgates for other <a href="http://abc7chicago.com/news/movement-pushes-for-recognition-of-former-mayor-jane-byrne/94032/" target="_blank">media outlets</a> to chase down the story, and for city <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/sneed-proposals-introduced-honor-ex-mayor-byrne/wed-06252014-1053am" target="_blank">officials</a> to weigh in.</p><p>To answer why it took so long for Byrne&rsquo;s name to grace any public assets, it helps to understand how something &mdash; anything &mdash; gets named by the city in the first place. And then, of course, there&rsquo;s the core of Shana&#39;s concern: <em>Why</em> hadn&#39;t Byrne had anything named after her?</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">The process: Naming something after a Chicago mayor</span></strong></p><p>The city of big shoulders has a penchant for slapping peoples&rsquo; names on things. (Just ask <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/4rc83p/signfeud" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a>). But regardless of who the honored may be (<a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/the-scene/food-drink/Charlie-Trotter-Honored-on-Eve-or-Retirement-168088876.html" target="_blank">Charlie Trotter</a>, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-03-08/news/0003080158_1_honor-sinatra-statue-city-of-big-shoulders" target="_blank">Frank Sinatra</a>, or a Chicago mayor), the process eventually involves Chicago&rsquo;s City Council.</p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with city streets. Up until 1984, official street names and the green signs that depict their directions were up for grabs. For example Cermak Road, formerly 22nd Street, was named after Mayor Anton Cermak, who was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/anton-cermak-chicagos-first-boss-105346" target="_blank">assassinated </a>while in office. Same goes for Hoyne Avenue, named after Mayor Thomas Hoyne. (Interestingly, Hoyne has a street named after him, despite the fact that he was <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/795.html" target="_blank">never allowed to take office</a>.)</p><p>But as one former alderman explained to the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> in <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-02-20/news/0002200122_1_street-signs-street-names-renaming" target="_blank">2000,</a> this street-naming process became onerous. It requires permanent changes to maps, surveys and other records. The Honorary Street Ordinance changed the game in 1984. After that, brown honorary street signs began popping up, directly underneath the green signs that identify Chicago&rsquo;s official street names.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><span style="font-size:22px;"><span style="font-size:18px;">What is named after Chicago&#39;s mayors?</span></span></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;">(Click the right margin or swipe to proceed through the slides.)<strong><span style="font-size:22px;"><a name="mayors"></a></span></strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="700" src="http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ag9RbLc9jJ4QdG1fcnlrSUlWNlExc3dDR0lIdDVSX0E&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza said, currently, the process begins with one of the city&rsquo;s 50 aldermen. Any of them can write a resolution or ordinance to name a stretch of street. It then goes before the full council.</p><p>These resolutions pass unless they&rsquo;re controversial. Mendoza says some aldermen in 2006 wanted to create Fred Hampton Way, after a <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/142.html" target="_blank">leader in the Black Panther Party</a>. Another time, an alderman wanted to name a portion of Michigan Avenue after Hugh Hefner, the <em>Playboy Magazine</em> magnate.</p><p>If an honorary street name ordinance passes City Council, the Chicago Department of Transportation creates the requisite brown sign and affixes it to the appropriate post.</p><p>The process works the same way for other structures, too: The council votes on a proposal to name a fountain, building or other public asset after someone. Mendoza says it&rsquo;s most common to wait until after a mayor (or anyone else) dies. For example: Richard J. Daley Center was rededicated and named after him just days after he passed away.</p><p>There are a few ways to name something for a former mayor without the council&rsquo;s purview. Private buildings, naturally, can be named without council approval. DePaul University&#39;s Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley Building is one notable example.</p><p>As for public school buildings, the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education has a written policy that a school can only be named after someone who has been deceased for at least six months. A sitting mayor and the district&rsquo;s CEO can seek special exemptions, however. A CPS spokesman says this was the case for the naming of Barack Obama College Prep.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">So, why was there nothing for Jane Byrne?</span></strong></p><p>When it comes to political history, no single person (or opinion) can tell &quot;the whole story.&quot; That&#39;s especially the case when it comes to why a controversial, so-called &ldquo;machine-fighting,&rdquo; tough cookie such as Jane Byrne had taken so long to be memorialized.&nbsp;</p><p>As for asking the lady herself, she&rsquo;s now 80 years old and is not in great health, after reportedly suffering from a stroke last year. Her only daughter, Kathy Byrne, a lawyer at local personal injury and mesothelioma firm Cooney and Conway, said her mom is &ldquo;doing okay. She&rsquo;s holding her own, she&rsquo;s stable.&rdquo;</p><p>Kathy Byrne was along for the roller coaster ride of her mom&rsquo;s campaign and then election to the 5th floor office in 1979. Despite that, she&#39;s not sure how to answer Shana Jackson&rsquo;s &ldquo;why so long&rdquo; question.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I think sometimes &mdash; what do they say? Politics isn&rsquo;t a beanbag?&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And people take their politics very seriously in Chicago, and I think whether or not anything was intentional, it may just be sort of an effect where if someone perceived that if someone doesn&rsquo;t like someone, they&rsquo;re not going to do anything for the person they don&rsquo;t like. ... I don&rsquo;t know that anything was intentional, I think it may have been a misperception.&rdquo;</p><p>Kathy Byrne was obliquely referring to Chicago lore &mdash; printed in the papers and spoken in bars &mdash; that Mayor Richard M. Daley was behind Jane Byrne&rsquo;s absence from Chicago streets and buildings.</p><p>Several people I spoke with for this story were quick to blame him.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s an old adage, young lady,&rdquo; said Paul Green, Director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s called Irish Alzheimer&#39;s: You forget everything but your grudges, and the Daley family and the Byrne family have been grudging themselves for a long time.&rdquo;</p><p>Green said he believes the battle between Jane Byrne and Daley was &ldquo;personal&rdquo; and that Daley didn&rsquo;t want her recognized for anything. But he said it&rsquo;s also true that there had not been any true grassroots support for Byrne.</p><p>&ldquo;She left not exactly in the blaze of glory,&rdquo; Green said. &ldquo;She needed to be calm about what she was about, because not only was she the first woman, but it was the first time in approximately 70 years that the Democratic organization lost the mayoral primary, so she had to go slow, and she didn&rsquo;t.</p><p>&ldquo;To her credit, she had an amazing number of ideas, but it was more subject with no predicate.&rdquo;</p><p>But others, like Byrne&rsquo;s first campaign manager, Don Rose, blame it all on Daley.</p><p>&ldquo;Richie Daley did everything possible to make the world forget she ever existed,&rdquo; Rose said. &ldquo;They were mortal enemies. He conceived it that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Rose said he and Byrne didn&rsquo;t part on the best of terms, but he stressed that doesn&rsquo;t influence his appraisal of her. He said Daley&rsquo;s should have been the administration that took on the task of honoring her. Since <a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/04/15/1983-mayoral-debate" target="_blank">Byrne had run against Harold Washington</a> in 1983, Washington was likely not in the mood to honor her in anyway during his time in office, according to Rose. By his recollection, a mayor will be honored posthumously, and perhaps one or two mayors down the road. Following this logic, Byrne would have been honored after Richard M. Daley took office in 1989.</p><p>&ldquo;[Daley] was, I have to say, very mean-spirited about Jane Byrne. Of course, I would say, she was mean-spirited about him too,&rdquo; Rose said. &ldquo;If the positions had been reversed, she might have tried to forget about naming anything after him.&rdquo;</p><p>But Ald. Burke &mdash; who served on the Council during Byrne&rsquo;s administration &mdash; said she originally eschewed recognition, and Daley isn&rsquo;t to blame.</p><p>&ldquo;He never, in my presence, expressed any reluctance to have Mayor Byrne honored in any way,&rdquo; he said.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Listen: Jane Byrne on her legacy</strong></span><a name="byrne"></a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160299515&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Kathy Byrne said she&rsquo;s not certain Daley is to blame, either.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t explain anyone&rsquo;s motivation or even if they have motivation,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I would imagine if somebody&rsquo;s running Chicago, they ought to have bigger things on their minds than erasing or not erasing someone else&rsquo;s legacy.&rdquo;</p><p>But one thing is for sure: Kathy said she and her mom have been bothered by the whole thing. She recalled school girls would interview her mother during Women&rsquo;s History Month projects. Jane, she said, couldn&rsquo;t point the girls to anything named after her.</p><p>&ldquo;She could tell them things, like the [CTA] Orange Line, museum campus, but there was nothing that backed up her assertion, and I think that was kind of frustrating,&rdquo; Byrne said.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it was kind of disillusioning, or the worry that it would be disillusioning to little girls that they could do all this work, and have all these achievements and then it might be ignored, and other people would take credit for them.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Jane Byrne International Terminal?</span></strong></p><p>But now, just over 30 years since she left office, Byrne will soon have something to point to: the park plaza around the Water Tower. This was just one of the ideas pitched to the City Council by Ald. Burke.</p><p>The gesture was a far cry from one of the more infamous moments of Byrne and Burke&rsquo;s relationship. Byrne, while on the campaign trail, called out <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Why-Rahm-Cant-Get-Rid-Of-Ed-Burke-120609814.html" target="_blank">Ald. Burke as part of a &ldquo;cabal of evil men&rdquo;</a> who ran the City Council.</p><p>&ldquo;It was the legendary British statesman Edmund Burke who once said that, in politics, there are no permanent enemies, no permanent friends &mdash; only permanent interests,&rdquo; Burke said, referring to a quotation he often uses. &ldquo;I think it is in the municipal interest that a person who achieved what Jane Byrne achieved in our history should be accorded an appropriate honor.&rdquo;</p><p>Burke officially proposed renaming four structures to become Jane Byrne memorials: the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Grant Park; Navy Pier&rsquo;s grand ballroom; the plaza surrounding the Old Chicago Water Tower; and the O&rsquo;Hare International Terminal.&nbsp;</p><p>Kathy Byrne had predicted her mother would be happy with the selection of the Water Tower idea. It&rsquo;s right across the street from the Gold Coast apartment where she lived while mayor.</p><p>Byrne says a Water Tower memorial would be even better if the city could move her mom&rsquo;s beloved <a href="http://chicago-outdoor-sculptures.blogspot.com/2009/07/childrens-fountain.html" target="_blank">Children&rsquo;s Fountain</a> to that site. Jane Byrne, while mayor, originally dedicated the Children&rsquo;s Fountain on Wacker Drive. The fountain was later moved to Lincoln Park, where it sits today.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that would entail, but the plumbing is all there,&rdquo; Byrne said. &ldquo;If they could do that, that would be ideal, &nbsp;if they could name that park Jane Byrne Plaza. It&rsquo;s her neighborhood, it&rsquo;s the Chicago historical landmark of the Water Tower, and it would be a really nice tribute.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Shana Jackson<a name="qa"></a></span></strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shanaJacksonMed.jpg" style="height: 322px; width: 230px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Shana Jackson asked our question about former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne. (Photo courtesy of Shana Jackson)" />Shana Jackson calls herself a total South Side girl. She&rsquo;s been living in or around Chicago for her entire life, except when she pursued a degree from Hampton University in Virginia. She currently resides in the Ashburn/Wrightwood neighborhood.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s why she says she&rsquo;s embarrassed to admit the story behind her Curious City question. &nbsp;</p><p>Her parents are former teachers, and so her dad is always quizzing her on things. During a recent family night, Shana&rsquo;s dad shot her his latest pop quiz question:</p><p>&ldquo;So, what do you think about our only woman mayor in Chicago?&rdquo;</p><p>Shana&rsquo;s response?</p><p>&ldquo;&lsquo;What woman mayor?&rdquo; Shana recalls. &ldquo;And he gave me the weirdest stare ever, because I&rsquo;m super womanist, like &lsquo;yay woman power!&rsquo; And for me to not know there was a woman mayor in Chicago? I was so embarrassed.&rdquo;</p><p>Shana turned things around, though, by doing some Internet research. She said when she couldn&#39;t find any streets or buildings named after Byrne, she came to Curious City to find out why.&nbsp;</p><p>Even then, she couldn&#39;t let the issue go. As she kept up with the news about the proposals, she couldn&#39;t help but believe Jane Byrne deserved some recognition.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that is a travesty,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;How do we as Chicago &mdash; we put our names on everything &mdash; how did we let her down like this?&rdquo;</p><p>Shana is currently pursuing a dual degree in social work and law at Loyola University Chicago.</p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">Lauren Chooljian</a> is a WBEZ reporter. Digital producer <a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda">Tricia Bobeda</a> contributed to this story.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-why-did-it-take-so-long-it-be-mayor-jane-byrnes-turn-110556 12-20-1976: Mayor Daley dies http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/12-20-1976-mayor-daley-dies-104401 <p><p>This was the Monday before Christmas, the last day before winter, and it was cold in Chicago. A few minutes past two in the afternoon, police began blocking off the streets near Michigan and Chestnut. An ambulance had just arrived. Something big was happening.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12-20--Richard%20J.%20Daley.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 328px; float: right;" title="Mayor Richard J. Daley (City of Chicago)" />On the second floor of the building at 900 North Michigan Avenue, Richard J. Daley was dying.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Daley was 74 years old, in his 21st year as Mayor of Chicago. He&rsquo;d been having chest pains over the weekend, and had made an appointment with his doctor. That&rsquo;s where he was now.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The doctor had examined Daley. You have to be admitted to the hospital immediately, he&rsquo;d told Daley. The mayor had phoned one of his sons. Then, while the doctor was busy making hospital arrangements, the mayor had collapsed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So now came the paramedics. Now came the police to set up the barricades. Now came the Daley family. Now came the reporters, and the curious public.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">At 3:50 p.m., the mayor was dead.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The news spread swiftly. There was shock and disbelief. Sure, Daley had been sick before. And like everyone else, he was going to die someday. But now? Why now? And what was going to happen to our city? It felt like Chicago had suddenly become an orphan.<div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12-20--Daley Memorial Book.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 361px; float: left;" title="Daley Memorial Book (author's collection)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The wake was held at the parish church in Bridgeport the next day. As mayor and Democrat Party leader, Daley had gone to hundreds of wakes. Now his citizens were returning the favor. The doors at Nativity of Our Lord stayed open all night as 100,000 people filed past the open coffin.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Jimmy Carter, president-elect, came for the funeral Mass. So did Vice President Rockefeller, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and other men of power. Then Daley left Chicago for the last time, to be buried in the family plot at Holy Sepulchre in Alsip.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Many plans were made to honor Daley. Some wanted to rename Western Avenue &ndash; the city&rsquo;s longest street &ndash; after the city&rsquo;s longest-serving mayor. An unincorporated village talked of incorporating as Daley, Ill. There was a proposal that a 25-foot statue of the late mayor be erected in the Civic Center plaza. In time, the actual memorials would be more modest.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Mayor Daley.&rdquo; The phrase had become so common, so indivisible. A ten-year-old boy was said to have asked his father, &ldquo;Who&rsquo;s going to be the mayordaley now?&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One man died, but Chicago lived on. And eventually got a mayordaley named Daley.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 20 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/12-20-1976-mayor-daley-dies-104401 Plaque to the future http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/plaque-future-100298 <p><p>I have a confession to make. I read plaques.</p><p>I like to think it&rsquo;s because I&rsquo;m a historian. That&rsquo;s better than saying I have an obsessive personality.</p><p>I do know that, when my kids were growing up, it drove them crazy that Dad was always stopping to read what someone had posted in bronze on the side of a bridge or public building or roadside rest stop. Now that my son and daughter are grown, I only drive my wife crazy.</p><p>My subject today is two downtown bridge plaques. The first is on the Columbus Drive Bridge. The key bit of information here is that when the bridge opened in 1982, Jane Byrne was mayor of Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--Byrne%20Plaque.JPG" title=" " /></div><p>I remember Jane Byrne&rsquo;s mayoralty vividly, and I would guess that other Chicagoans my age do, too. Yet an otherwise-knowledgeable local 28-year-old recently asked me, &ldquo;Who was Jane Byrne?&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s first female mayor? Conqueror of the old Daley Machine? To many in the younger generation, she is just a name on a bridge plaque &mdash; which few people bother to notice.</p><p>Now for the second plaque. This one is on the Clark Street Bridge. No, not the big one. The little one under it.</p><p>In 1931, Big Bill Thompson was running for re-election as mayor. Meanwhile, the new bridge over the river at Clark Street was under construction. Even though the work was still in progress, Thompson had his plaque put on the bridge. Show the voters what Big Bill was building for them!</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--Clark%20Street%20Bridge.JPG" title="Dueling plaques on the Clark Street Bridge" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/07-03--Clark%20Bridge%20Plaque%2002.JPG" title="Closeup of the bottom plaque--'Hey! I was mayor, too!'" /></div></div></div><p>Thompson lost the election to Anton Cermak. When the bridge was finished later that year, the new mayor made sure he could claim some of the credit with his own mini-plaque. It&#39;s really sort of ridiculous, and has always reminded me of a &ldquo;P.S.&rdquo; at the end of a long letter.</p><p>The point of today&#39;s post is that we should all take public plaques seriously. Well, maybe not <em><u>seriously</u></em>. Still, for anyone interested in history, they are a neglected window into the past. So from time to time, I&rsquo;ll be visiting some Chicago-area plaques.</p><p>I&rsquo;m on the Board of Trustees of the Park Ridge Public Library. When the voters rejected a plan to build a new library, one of my colleagues joked that we&rsquo;d lost our opportunity to be immortalized on a plaque.</p><p>Is that what politicians are thinking when they propose some massive public works project? I don&rsquo;t know. But we will be reading those plaques here, anyway. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 17 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/plaque-future-100298 Big Bill's rat show http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-04/big-bills-rat-show-97837 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/big bill thompson_schmidt.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><p>Political campaigns aren't what they used to be. Consider what happened in Chicago on this April 6th in 1926.</p><p>The Republican U.S. Senate primary was a week away. Incumbent W.B. McKinley was being challenged by Frank L. Smith. McKinley was supported by most of the party elite, including Fred Lundin. Lundin was a political strategist and power broker, a sort of a 1920s Karl Rove.</p><p>Smith was backed by former Chicago mayor William Hale Thompson–Big Bill. Thompson was looking forward to 1927, when he could try to get his old job back. But Lundin was grooming another candidate for mayor, Dr. John Dill Robertson. That was more important to Big Bill than any Senate race.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/04-06--Big%20Bill%20campaigning.jpg" title="Big Bill Thompson campaigning (Chicago Daily News)"></div><p>The Smith campaign held a rally at the Cort Theatre in the Loop. When it was Big Bill’s turn to speak, he walked on stage carrying a cage, and set the cage on a table. In the cage were two rats.</p><p>Thompson pointed at one of the rats. “This one is Doc,” he told the packed house. “I can tell him because he hasn’t had a bath in twenty years. But we did wash him, and he doesn’t smell like a billy goat any longer.”</p><p>The crowd gasped–then laughed, then cheered. “Go on! Go on!” they shouted.</p><p>Thompson pointed to the other rat. “Don’t hang your head, Fred,” he said. “Wasn’t I the best friend you ever had? Isn’t it true I came home from Honolulu to save you from the penitentiary?”</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/04-06--Lundin.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Fred Lundin (author's collection)">He went on this way for a half hour. The audience loved it. Big Bill told them he’d always lived up to the cowboy code, but that Lundin had double-crossed him. Lundin had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. “When he was associated with me, the best in him came to the surface,” Thompson said. “Since then he has been only evil.”</div><p>Big Bill concluded his performance by telling the crowd that he’d planned to bring six rats–”but Fred and Doc ate up the other four.” That brought down the house.</p><p>Big Bill’s Rat Show became national news. Smith upset McKinley in the primary, and later won the general election. But because of various irregularities, the U.S. Senate refused to seat Smith.</p><p>That didn’t seem to bother Big Bill Thompson too much. In 1927 he completed his comeback, and was again elected Mayor of Chicago.</p><p>No, political campaigns aren't what they used to be.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 06 Apr 2012 06:27:02 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-04/big-bills-rat-show-97837 Richard J. Daley: Republican http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-03-20/richard-j-daley-republican-97168 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-15/daley _chicago daily news.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It's primary day in Illinois!</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-11/03-20--Young Daley.jpg" style="width: 188px; height: 300px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Young Mr. Daley (Chicago Daily News)">And with politics on our minds, we look back at the strange events of an election day in 1936. On November 3 that year, Richard J. Daley--future Democratic boss, future mayor, future father of a future mayor--was elected to his first political office . . . as a Republican.</p><p>The election was for the Illinois House of Representatives from the 9th District. In 1936 the state was divided into 51 legislative districts. Each district sent three reps to the House.</p><p>The two major parties had a cozy arrangement then. In each of those 51 districts, the Democrats would run no more than two candidates, and the Republicans would run no more than two candidates. That way, whichever party wound up in the minority would get at least one-third of the total seats.</p><p>The 9th District was the area around Bridgeport, heavily Democrat. David Shanahan had held the 9th's "Republican" seat without much effort since 1894. Fifteen days before the 1936 election, Shanahan died.</p><p>Shanahan was the only Republican who had filed in the district. His name was on the ballot, and it was too late to print new ballots. So the Republicans picked Robert E. Rogers as a replacement candidate, and organized a write-in campaign.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-11/03-20--State Rep Shanahan.jpg" style="width: 206px; height: 300px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="The late Representative Shanahan (Chicago Daily News)">With Shanahan dead, the Democrat leadership felt free to mount their own write-in campaign for the Republican slot. Their candidate was County Treasurer Joe Gill's 34-year-old private secretary. That was Richard Joseph Daley.</p><p>The Republicans screamed that the "gentlemen's agreement" was being violated. But there wasn't much they could do about it.</p><p>On November 3, 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt won a second term in a landslide. The Democrats were triumphant almost everywhere.</p><p>Buried among the returns were the write-in votes from the Illinois 9th. Daley outpaced Rogers, 8539 to 3321. The <em>Tribune</em> noted that even though he'd been elected as a Republican, "it is understood that Daley will caucus with the Democrats."</p><p>When the Illinois House convened the next January, the Democrats offered a resolution asking that Daley be seated on their side of the aisle. The Republicans were still angry about how they'd been out-maneuvered.</p><p>"I don't care about the resolution!" the Republican leader shouted. "I want to know where Representative Daley wants to sit! Where do you want to sit, Representative Daley?"</p><p>The rookie rep pointed to the Democrat side of the chamber and softly said, "There." Then he walked over to join his new colleagues, and never looked back.</p></p> Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-03-20/richard-j-daley-republican-97168 Happy 150th Birthday, Mayor Dever! http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-03-13/happy-150th-birthday-mayor-dever-97242 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-13/mayor dever.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-13/03-13--Dever.jpg" style="width: 350px; height: 366px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Former Chicago Mayor William E. Dever (collection of John R. Schmidt)">Today is the birthday of William E. Dever, Chicago's mayor from 1923 through 1927. It's not only his birthday, it's his Sesquicentennial. He was born 150 years ago today--March 13, 1862.</p><p>I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Mayor Dever. It was later published as a book, <em>The Mayor Who Cleaned Up Chicago</em>. More than twenty years later, the book is still in print. (Mainly because the first edition never sold out; that can happen with academic works.)</p><p>Why bother with an obscure, one-term mayor? I've already gone into that, and you can read the post <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-03/william-e-dever-mayor-who-cleaned-chicago-92024">here</a>.</p><p>I don't think the city is planning a special Dever Sesquicentennial celebration. As for me, I'm going to have a beer in honor of my man Dever. That's probably the most appropriate way to honor this particular honest politician.</p></p> Tue, 13 Mar 2012 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-03-13/happy-150th-birthday-mayor-dever-97242 Suburban mayors assess impact of city and county budgets for their residents http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-01/suburban-mayors-assess-costs-city-and-county-budgets-their-residents-936 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-01/6058497460_1ea0a0fb44_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The latest budgets from the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en.html">City of Chicago</a> and <a href="http://blog.cookcountygov.com/" target="_blank">Cook County</a> proposed challenging cuts along with new taxes and fees. Both put the squeeze on Chicago’s suburban neighbors in a number of ways.</p><p><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/mayor.html" target="_blank">Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s</a> city budget suggested a 3-year water rate increase to pay for Chicago’s aging infrastructure, which would hit suburbs that buy water from the city. Meanwhile <a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_0_336_226_0_43/http%3B/www.cookcountygov.com/ccWeb.Leadership/LeadershipProfile.aspx?commiss_id=406" target="_blank">Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle</a> wanted residents of unincorporated areas to pay for county police services.</p><p>Edward Zabrocki, mayor of south suburban <a href="http://www.tinleypark.org/" target="_blank">Tinley Park</a>, and Gerald Turry, mayor of north suburban <a href="http://www.lincolnwoodil.org/" target="_blank">Lincolnwood</a>, joined<em> Eight Forty-Eight</em> to discuss the suburban reaction to the city and county budgets.</p></p> Tue, 01 Nov 2011 13:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-01/suburban-mayors-assess-costs-city-and-county-budgets-their-residents-936 October 28, 1893: The murder of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-28/october-28-1893-murder-chicago-mayor-carter-harrison-93519 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-28/worlds-columbian-exposition.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The great Columbian Exposition was drawing to a close on October 28, 1893. The eyes of the world had been on Chicago, and the city was feeling proud. Then came the terrible news--Mayor Harrison had been killed by an assassin.</p><p>Carter Henry Harrison belonged to a distinguished family that had given the country two presidents. In 1855 he arrived at Chicago as a young lawyer. He was active in the Democratic Party and served two terms in Congress. In 1879 he was elected mayor of the city.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/10-28--Carter Harrison.jpg" style="width: 274px; height: 385px;" title=""></p><p>Harrison was a popular, accessible mayor. He often rode through the streets on a white horse, greeting his constituents. After serving four two-year terms, he retired. But when Chicago was chosen as the site for the Columbian world's fair, he ran for mayor once again, and was elected to a fifth term in 1893.</p><p>On this evening, Harrison had returned to his Ashland Boulevard home after a long day at the fair, and was napping in a back bedroom. Around 8 p.m. a man named Eugene Prendergast appeared at the front door, asking to see the mayor. The maid thought she recognized Prendergast and let him in.</p><p>A few minutes afterward the servants heard loud voices, then three shots. They rushed toward the sound and found Harrison lying wounded on the floor. Prendergast was gone.</p><p>The mayor died within twenty minutes. A short time later, Prendergast turned himself in to police. He admitted the crime. His motive? Harrison had refused to appoint Prendergast as the city's Corporation Counsel.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/10-28--Harrison mansion.jpg" style="width: 474px; height: 337px;" title="Crowds outside Harrison's home the day after"></p><p>Chicago was plunged into grief. The closing ceremonies at the Columbian Exposition were converted into a memorial for the fallen mayor. Prendergast was quickly brought to trial, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death.</p><p>Prendergast's brother appealed the sentence, saying that Eugene was insane. The attorney for the appeal was not-yet-famous Clarence Darrow. It was Darrow's first murder case--and the only one he ever lost to the executioner. The appeal was denied, and Eugene Prendergast was hanged on July 13, 1894.</p><p>Four years after Harrison's murder, his son--also named Carter Harrison--became mayor of Chicago. Like his father, the younger Harrison would be elected to the office five times.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 28 Oct 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-28/october-28-1893-murder-chicago-mayor-carter-harrison-93519 Before Rahm: Chicago mayors, fit and unfit http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-09-19/rahm-chicago-mayors-fit-and-unfit-92086 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-19/themayer.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="margin-left: 40px;">"You may say I may be unfit to be mayor, but you can never say I'm an unfit mayor."&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p style="margin-left: 120px;">--Rahm Emanuel</p><p>Triathlete Rahm is probably the most physically-fit mayor that Chicago has ever had. Just for fun, let's take a look at the last century of his predecessors, and see how they measure up.</p><p>In 1911 Fred Busse was completing his single term as mayor. Busse had been a saloon-keeper and was built along the lines of a beer keg--he was fondly known as Fat Freddie. He died at 48.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-16/09-19--Busse.jpg" style="width: 196px; height: 300px;" title="Fred Busse"></p><p>Busse was succeeded by Carter Harrison Jr., returning for a fifth term on the fifth floor of City Hall. I never thought of Harrison as portly, until I ran across the accompanying picture. In any case, Harrison lived to be 93.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-16/09-19--Harrison%20-%20Copy%20%282%29_0.jpg" title="Carter Harrison Jr." width="179" height="300"></p><p>From 1915 to 1931 the city had three terms of William Hale Thompson, sandwiched around one term of William Emmett Dever. This picture from Thompson's first campaign shows him when he was still trim and in fighting shape, before all the political dinners expanded his waistline. As for Dever, his body-type could best be described as "chunky."</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-16/09-19--Thompson.jpg" title="Big Bill Thompson" width="173" height="320"></p><p>Anton Cermak became mayor in 1931, and was killed by an assassin two years later. Cermak was a few pounds heavier than he should have been. But when <em>The Untouchables</em> TV series did a two-parter on the Cermak shooting, the mayor was portrayed by Robert Middleton, an actor with a silhoutte resembling Jabba the Hut. That's the way Cermak is mis-remembered today.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-16/09-19--Cermak.jpg" title="Anton Cermak" width="195" height="288"></p><p>The next two mayors were Edward Kelly and Martin Kennelly. Both of them were in reasonably good shape, so they need not concern us.</p><p>With the election of Richard J. Daley in 1955, Chicago once again had a full-figured mayor. Daley served just under 22 years, dying in office of a heart attack. He was followed by Michael Bilandic, unremarkable in either girth or accomplishment. Then came Jane Byrne, who was actually thin.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-16/09-19--Daley I.jpg" title="Daley the Elder" width="203" height="299"></p><p>Harold Washington, elected in 1983, had been a track star in school. I recall that CPS phys-ed classes were given a poster listing his athletic record, and the students challenged to do better. By the time he became mayor, however, Washington was seriously overweight. Like Daley #1, he died in office from a heart attack.</p><p>Eugene Sawyer--same comment as Bilandic. And you already know about Richard M. Daley.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-16/09-19--Washington - Copy.jpg" title="Harold Washington" width="195" height="295"></p><p>So, does a mayor or any office-holder have to be in shape? We'll close with a quotation from another politician.</p><p>In 1928 Al Smith was backing a physically-handicapped man in the campaign for New York governor. When asked whether his candidate could handle the job, Smith snapped: "A governor doesn't have to be an acrobat!"</p><p>BTW--the candidate's name was Franklin D. Roosevelt.</p></p> Mon, 19 Sep 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-09-19/rahm-chicago-mayors-fit-and-unfit-92086