Editor’s note: The Chicago City Council this week named a park for former Mayor Jane Byrne. We thought you might like to read — or reread — this original Sun-Times editorial, first published on March 1, 1979, celebrating Byrne’s historic victory over the Chicago Democratic machine.
Jane Byrne has shown that Chicago’s “invincible” Democratic machine can be beaten when it loses touch with the public.
City Hall’s ineptness at snow removal was the key issue, but that’s not as superficial as it sounds. The blizzard cracked open the machine and laid bare its weaknesses: incompetent leadership, phony consultant contracts, inadequate planning — by-products of government by clout and cronyism.
Mayor Bilandic should have pledged, clearly and unequivocally, that he would reshape the political organization, making it responsive to the people. He hinted that in the final days of the campaign, but his words were too feeble and too late.
Thus, the promise he showed in his early months in office was snowed under.
Byrne was there — unchallenged by others in the primary and skillfully managed by campaign chief Don Rose — to benefit from an unexpectedly high voter turnout (about 55 percent) and 2-to-1 support from blacks.
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