CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen have recommended the plaza next to the Old Chicago Water Tower be named in honor of former Mayor Jane Byrne, the first such honor the city would give to its first and only female mayor more than 30 years after she left office.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports the City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday endorsed a plan to name the Michigan Avenue park the Mayor Jane Byrne Plaza at the Water Tower.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) said the vote essentially rights a wrong: “A failure to honor one of Chicago’s most significant political figures.”
Byrne served as mayor from 1979 to 1983, but to date has yet to have any parks or buildings named after her, although several other mayors have received such honors, including both Mayors Richard Daley, Harold Washington, and Michael Bilandic.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) noted Byrne also was the first Chicago mayor to participate in the Gay Pride Parade.
“The gay community wouldn’t be where it’s at without Jane Byrne, and her hats, and her craziness, in so many ways, because she was one crazy lady, and we loved her for it,” Tunney said.
Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, who once served as Byrne’s press secretary, spearheaded the effort to have Byrne officially honored by the city.
Byrne’s daughter, Kathy, said the park is a special place for her family, as it’s right across the street from the Gold Coast apartment where her mother lived as mayor.
“It’s a place that my mother always looked at when she was in office. I mean she could look right out her kitchen window, and see that Water Tower park,” she said. “The horses and carriages gathering around it; it’s old and new.”
Kathy Byrne also said her mother would like to see the Children’s Fountain moved from a bus turnaround in Lincoln Park back to the plaza.
The fountain originally was installed in 1982 on Upper Wacke Drive, but was relocated to Lincoln Park after the drive was renovated in 2001.
The full City Council will vote on the renaming the park after Byrne on Wednesday. Aldermen will take Kathy Byrne’s suggestion to move the fountain under advisement.