Prayers for Jane Byrne; METRA controversy

Prayers for Jane Byrne; METRA controversy
Southwest News-Herald Newspaper Friday, July 19, 2013

Jane Byrne became Chicago’s first woman mayor in 1979, but so many people today don’t even know who she is.

Recent news reports indicate she is having serious health problems. And it’s not fair that people don’t know who she is.

Byrne was the most controversial mayor I had covered as a Chicago City Hall reporter, and I covered all of them from Richard J. Daley through his son Richard M. Daley.

She started out as a reformer who defeated the Chicago Democratic Machine, campaigning against the “Cabal of Evil Men,” who she named as Aldermen Fred Roti, Ed Burke and Ed Vrdolyak.

Byrne was right about Vrdolyak, but it didn’t take her more than a few months before she dumped her ally, Richard M. Daley and his aldermanic allies, including Alderman Bill Lipinski and Marty Oberman.

Fast talker Vrdolyak convinced Byrne that all he wanted was money and power, but that Daley wanted her job. And that’s what started the Byrne-Daley feud.

When Richie Daley finally stumbled into the job of mayor — the Daley’s have a hard time getting power, but once they do, they cling to it forever — his hatred of Byrne never subsided.

Of course, Byrne did the same to Mike Bilandic, one of the nicest Mayor’s Chicago ever had — not the most efficient, though.

Still, Chicago deserves to remember the Byrne legacy. The controversies and the conflicts, and the many achievements including reshaping the Democratic Machine, taking the dead Navy Pier and turning into a showplace, and bringing an array of festivals to the city that helped give the city life. She also put a focus on neighborhoods, which was unique, and opened the doors to new faces and personalities.

Yes, she was a contentious mayor. But she was a good person. She deserves the recognition for what she accomplished in her brief four years in office.

Before outgoing METRA CEO Alex Clifford starts pointing fingers at others, he should justify his outrageous $718,000 buy-out. What an outrageous waste of taxpayer money!

METRA, under Clifford’s leadership, and especially under the leadership of his predecessors, was a (excuse the ugly pun) train-wreck of financial waste. His buyout only reinforces that image.

Thankfully, METRA hired Brad O’Halloran as its new METRA Chairman and he’s doing a great job.

Clifford claims METRA suddenly has become a patronage haven. Really? METRA has been a political patronage haven for years but when it suited Clifford and his pals, he said nothing.

Clifford and his cronies don’t care about METRA. They care about money and clout.

The public should ignore the loudmouths attacking METRA and help the agency refocus on what’s best for the commuters and the taxpayers, people Clifford has ignored. If you care about METRA, Clifford, give the $718,000 back!

Kirk Dillard would have become Governor had he won the Republican primary. Many Democratic voters in Illinois would have supported his candidacy over the spineless phony, Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn didn’t win in 2010 because he was a good candidate. He won because Bill Brady was a weak Republican candidate and too conservative.

Quinn’s decision to withhold the salaries of legislators until they pass a pension bill is purely political, intended to trick voters into thinking the governor is on their side. It’s a political move. Illinois is in last place for a reason called Quinn, a word synonymous with “failed leadership.”

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. You may reach him at and follow him on Twitter at — City & Suburban News-Herald

Categories: Chicagoland Topics

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