Movement pushes for recognition of former Mayor Jane Byrne

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago newspaper columnist has encouraged a movement to get the City of Chicago to honor former Mayor Jane Byrne that is now getting the attention of Gov. Pat Quinn.

A college and library are named after Chicago's first African American Mayor Harold Washington. Michael Bilandic was appointed mayor and never won an election, yet a LaSalle Street state building is named after him. The Daley name is everywhere, including a new park named after former First Lady Maggie Daley.

Missing from any building, street, park, memorial or plaque is the name Jane Byrne.

"She deserves fair and equal treatment, and she also deserves something in her honor," said Don Rose, Byrne's first campaign manager.

Byrne is Chicago's first and only female mayor. She was voted into office in 1979 after a series of snowstorms that paralyzed the city while Michael Bilandic was mayor. Although they parted ways after the election, Rose joins the push by Byrne's former press secretary and Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Michael Sneed to give the former mayor her due.

"If we look at her four years in office, there are a lot of positives which we don't learn about, we have forgotten about," Rose said.

It was Byrne who spearheaded the revitalization of Navy Pier. Many also credit her with Taste of Chicago, O'Hare's International Terminal and the reconfiguration of the Museum Campus. And while her notorious three-week stay at the Cabrini Green Housing Project may have been a publicity stunt, it did result in a new police station.

Yet Byrne was also known for her negatives, including a bitter political fight with former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who Rose and others say is responsible for erasing Byrne from Chicago's memory.

"If she could have been remembered for what she did, and not the style for which she did it, I think it would have been a lot easier to forgive and forget," said Paul Green, author of "The Mayors Chicago."

Gov. Quinn has proposed that the city's Circle Interchange be named in Byrne's honor.

"For decades, Jane Byrne has embodied the heart and soul of Chicago. The one and only woman ever elected mayor of Chicago, she is both a powerhouse and a trailblazer for women everywhere," Gov. Quinn's office said in a statement. "To honor her legacy, Governor Quinn is proposing to rename the Circle Interchange - a critical juncture in the heart of downtown - as the Jane Byrne Interchange. The interchange will remind people across Illinois of Jane Byrne's contributions to the city of Chicago and for her dedication to public service and the people who live there."
Related topics:
near west side
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.