WBEZ | Jane Byrne http://www.wbez.org/tags/jane-byrne Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Jane Byrne to be honored http://www.wbez.org/news/jane-byrne-be-honored-110573 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Jane_Byrne thing_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago&rsquo;s first and only female mayor is getting something named for her after all.</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago City Council voted Wednesday to honor Jane Byrne by renaming the plaza surrounding the historic Water Tower building on Michigan Avenue after her.</p><p dir="ltr">The council earlier this week had considered four related resolutions that would rename landmarks for the former mayor: Navy Pier&rsquo;s Grand Ballroom; the O&rsquo;Hare International Terminal; the Buckingham Fountain; and the Water Tower Plaza. The plaza idea won the day.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em><strong>Backgrounder</strong>: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-when-it-jane-byrnes-turn-110556">Why it&#39;s taken so long for Jane Byrne to have a Chicago site named after her</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Byrne&rsquo;s only daughter, Kathy, had testified at a Tuesday hearing, telling aldermen that her mother would most appreciate the Water Tower Plaza, as it&rsquo;s across the street from the apartment her mother lived in while mayor.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Whatever the trouble was in the city, whatever crisis was brewing, she could look out and see that Water Tower and say, &lsquo;Well, you survived the [Great Chicago] fire and there was no city left, and you made it,&rsquo;&rdquo; Byrne said. &ldquo;So whatever matter was before her, she knew that everyone would be alright.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Kathy Byrne said she didn&rsquo;t want to be &ldquo;presumptuous&rdquo; by choosing one of the proposals over the others, but generations of her family had lived in the area surrounding the Water Tower, including her great-great grandfather &mdash; the first of Jane Byrne&rsquo;s forebearers to come to Chicago. Kathy Byrne said he lived there during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Water Tower is a survivor, and my mother is a survivor, and Chicago is a survivor,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And I think that would be a tremendous way to honor her.</p><p dir="ltr">Kathy Byrne suggested Tuesday that the City Council could improve the plaza proposal by moving her mother&rsquo;s beloved Children&rsquo;s Fountain. The fountain was dedicated during Byrne&rsquo;s administration, and is displayed on the cover of her book, <em>My Chicago</em>. It&rsquo;s currently located in Lincoln Park. Kathy Byrne said the Children&rsquo;s Fountain could replace the small fountain that&rsquo;s situated by the Water Tower building.</p><p dir="ltr">Finance Committee officials Tuesday said that wasn&rsquo;t part of their proposal. They said if the current proposal&rsquo;s passed by the full council, the Chicago Park District would be responsible for deciding whether or not to move the Children&rsquo;s Fountain.</p><p dir="ltr">Many aldermen support the naming of a public asset in honor of Jane. Several spent a good portion of this week&#39;s Finance Committee hearing to reflect on their time serving under Jane Byrne, who lost her reelection bid in 1983. Ald. Tom Tunney (44) reflected on her influence and support of the gay community, and her revitalization of Taste of Chicago.</p><p dir="ltr">Ald. Carrie Austin (34) called Jane Byrne an icon for women to go further than they are today. &ldquo;Maybe there will be another female mayor,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but we are grateful for all that she imparted to all of us in so many different ways.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="377" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1gLzQq7ISqUuKt5ufNFfQOVXPTrjL_BBaImlnDBuSTc0/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/jane-byrne-be-honored-110573 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 The Great LSD Gridlock: Blizzard of 1979 redux? http://www.wbez.org/blog/best-game-town/great-lsd-gridlock-blizzard-1979-redux <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/LSD Tim Brown 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img title="Cars stranded on Lake Shore Drive (Flickr/Tim Brown)" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-February/2011-02-02/LSD Tim Brown 1.JPG" style="width: 507px; height: 380px;" />&nbsp;</p><p>The City of Chicago saw the arrival of one of the nastiest snowstorms in its long history on Tuesday. &nbsp;But it also saw something else: Emergency services unequipped to deal with the volume of motorists and severity of conditions on Lake Shore Drive.</p><p>Not since the infamous Blizzard of 1979 has the city been so crippled by a storm - and city services so unable to cope with its impact on commuters.</p><p>Hundreds of cars and their drivers were stuck on Lake Shore Drive on Tuesday evening and well into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, most along the northbound portions of the Drive.</p><p>The problems began when a massive snowstorm arrived in the Chicago area just before rush hour, making travel treacherous and road conditions difficult. &nbsp;But the situation intensified after 7 p.m., according to city officials. &nbsp;That's when a series of cascading accidents blocked lanes and brought traffic to a standstill.</p><p>As a result, the City of Chicago closed Lake Shore Drive at 7:50p on Tuesday evening. &nbsp;The closure shut down ramps in both directions, but it also left cars stuck on the Drive at the height of the blizzard, in many cases for hours.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="375" width="500" title="Cars stranded on Lake Shore Drive (Flickr/Tim Brown)" alt="Snowdrifts on Lake Shore Drive (Flickr/Tim Brown)" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-February/2011-02-02/LSD Tim Brown 2.JPG" /></p><p>The gridlock on Lake Shore Drive recalled memories of the Blizzard of 1979, when traffic ground to a halt as snow piled up throughout city. Chicago's mayor at the time, Michael Bilandic, was heavily criticized for his response to the storm and for not having city crews better prepared to deal with its impact.</p><p>The snowstorm took place just weeks before the 1979 municipal elections. &nbsp;Conventional wisdom holds that voters were so angry with Bilandic's handling of storm that they shoveled him out of office and voted Jane Byrne in. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The Politics of Snow have never been the same since. &nbsp;Just last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/nyregion/31snow.html">blasted for his handing of a major storm that dumped on his city</a>, prompting widespread media coverage and <a href="http://www.npr.org/2010/12/30/132478152/Political-Lessons-From-Old-Chicago-Blizzard-Still-Linger">comparisons to Chicago</a>.</p><p>Thus far, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has been largely able to avoid such snowballing crises, real and political. &nbsp;But last night's situation on Lake Shore Drive was different. &nbsp;</p><p>City emergency officials say they closed the Drive so they could clear it of snow and accident scenes. &nbsp; In addition, meteorologists were predicting 60 m.p.h. winds would generate waves off of Lake Michigan that could make the road surface icy and even more dangerous. &nbsp;All of those concerns prompted the closure, according to the City of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management. &nbsp;</p><p>By early Wednesday morning, the Mayor's Chief of Staff Raymond Orozco had publicly apologized for the inconvenience. &nbsp;&quot;While we wanted to get people quickly, we needed to get to them safely,&quot; he said.</p><p>But that was cold comfort to the hundreds of motorists stranded in their cars for hours. &nbsp;Radio call-in shows, Facebook walls and Twitter feeds hummed with a mixture of confusion, anger and exasperation. &nbsp;Many wondered what was taking so long. &nbsp;Others wondered why the city didn't shut down Lake Shore Drive much earlier.&nbsp;</p><p>Still others wondered whether the incidents on Tuesday night bode poorly for Chicago's next mayor. &nbsp;After all, can he or she expect to be as powerful or as prepared as Mayor Daley has proven to be during 22 years of winter weather?</p><p>Good questions. &nbsp;</p><p>It's long been taken as political gospel in the Windy City that &quot;Job One&quot; for any mayor is efficient snow removal. &nbsp;For better or worse, it's the yardstick by which municipal effectiveness is measured. &nbsp;</p><p>But the Blizzard of 2011 is also&nbsp;a reminder that even in Chicago, the most powerful figure in the city isn't the Mayor. &nbsp;It's Mother Nature.</p><p><em>Photo credits: (Flickr/Tim Brown Architects)</em></p></p> Wed, 02 Feb 2011 14:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/best-game-town/great-lsd-gridlock-blizzard-1979-redux Political Lessons From Old Chicago Blizzard Still Linger http://www.wbez.org/story/atmospheric-sciences/political-lessons-old-chicago-blizzard-still-linger <p></p> Thu, 30 Dec 2010 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/atmospheric-sciences/political-lessons-old-chicago-blizzard-still-linger