MY CHICAGO by Jane Byrne


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In an engaging and readable work of history and autobiography, Chicago's first woman mayor reflects on the history of her city and of her tenure. Weaving her own story and that of her Irish immigrant ancestors into the narrative, Byrne devotes much space to the tumultuous story of Chicago from its beginnings as a frontier outpost to its growth into the multiethnic city it has become. She presents her own political rise as part of the tale of the ascent of the city's traditionally despised immigrant groups--particularly the Irish and the Germans. By the time Byrne was entering public life in the early 1960's (as an idealistic Kennedy supporter), Chicago was ruled by such groups through Mayor Richard Daley's celebrated political machine. Byrne joined the machine and became commissioner of consumer affairs. But as commissioner, Byrne claims, she quixotically resisted the pervasive corruption and back-room dealing of the machine. Ultimately, she was fired for attempting to blow the whistle on an illegal taxicab rate-increase. Byrne tells how ""Taxigate"" was the starting point of her successful run for mayor, one in which she dreamed of revitalizing Chicago's slums and neglected neighborhoods. She also tells of how she deferred those dreams once she learned that she had inherited an enormous deficit from her predecessor. Throughout her tenure as mayor, she pressed to reconcile her dreams of urban renewal with financial and political constraints, with her most spectacular success coming at Cabrini Green, a low-income housing project, where she took up residence and exorcised the gangs. In 1983, in a three-way race, she lost the mayoralty to Harold Washington. A compelling account of modern urban politics, from one who was there.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0810120879
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton