Former Mayor Harold Washington’s birthday–April 15–was declared Harold Washington Day in Chicago to honor Chicago’s first African-American mayor and his impact on city government.
The City Council made that happen Wednesday by approving a resolution that recognized Washington’s role in, among other things, “reducing the widespread practice of political patronage and establishing a functioning affirmative action program for minority businesses.”
Under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, former patronage chief Robert Sorich, former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez and others were accused of rigging city hiring to benefit the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization and other pro-Daley armies of political workers.
And the minority set-aside program was manipulated to benefit clout-heavy whites, including the mob-connected Duff family that claimed $100 million in contract that were supposed to go to minorities.
Ald. Will Burns (4th), who introduced the Harold Washington Day resolution, said he’s concerned that an entire generation of Chicagoans is growing up without a clue about the impact that Washington had on city government.
“What I’m worried about is if people lose cite of what he did and the movement and the effort to get him elected and what he did to fundamentally transform the city,” said Burns, who participated in a panel discussion on the issue this week at former presidential and Harold Washington adviser David Axelrod’s new Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.
“The importance of Harold is not just his election, but the fact that the city of Chicago will never be governed the way it was before he was mayor. Everyone’s gonna have a seat at the table. And we’re gonna have a more raucous and small-D democratic government.”