Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

History is more than Harold

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By Ray Hanania

There is no doubt that a bias exists in the mainstream news media when it comes to Chicago politics.

For example, last week would have been Chicago Mayor Harold Washington’s 100th birthday had he not died of poor health and eating habits on Nov. 25, 1987.

I covered Washington from the day he announced his candidacy on a WBEZ panel, when no one else believed he could win, to his death, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

RayHanania 1

Ray Hanania

Mayor Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor, was a decent person who helped empower African Americans. He had a great sense of humor. Although you might have thought there was always great tension between Washington and the so-called Vrdolyak 29, which stripped him of much of his powers for his first term, the reality was the two sides got along great.

Washington was a politician first who became the iconic black leader as a result of the mayoral election in 1983, when Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley and incumbent Mayor Jane M. Byrne split the white vote.

Chicago was, is and always will be a city of ethnicity and racial identity, no matter how anyone spins it.

But it always amazes me how little time the mainstream news media spends on the legacy left by Byrne.

Byrne was a real fighter. She won the 1979 election by building up a popular vote. Washington won with only a plurality of only 36.28% of the 1.2 million votes cast in the city. Byrne received 33.64% and Daley received 29.65% in the Democratic Primary.

Byrne had to fight for her mayoralty. I know because I was one of the City Hall reporters who actually worked at City Hall every day.

Byrne and I didn’t get along well because I worked for a newspaper based in Daley’s part of town.

Irish politicians were divided between North Side and South Side. Daley talked to me, and Byrne rarely did.

Yet, despite that natural conflict in any reporter’s coverage of a mayor (except recently under the racist Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the incompetent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, where there seems to be little conflict at all), Byrne achieved many, many more things than all of them.

Byrne defeated the Machine, but eventually became the Machine.

She did much, focusing the city on the needs of the neighborhoods, on the schools and the business community. Byrne put the plight of subsidized housing and the poor on the map when she moved into Cabrini Green for a week.

She was the first woman mayor Chicago has ever had, and she is the best. She deserves to be remembered, too.

THE POLITICAL GRAPEVINE: More than 980,000 Americans have died from CONVID-19, including one of the first in Chicagoland, Arab American publisher Mansour Tadros, who died on March 28, 2020 … Bedford Park Mayor David Brady was the guest at the monthly meeting of the United Business Association of Midway (UBAM), urging continued plans for the 65th Street business corridor, organized by Anita Cummings …

ARAB AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH: While the world focuses on war crimes against Ukraine by Russia, few pay attention to the escalating violence by Israel against Palestinians. In the nearly three weeks after three Israelis were killed in Tel Aviv, Israelis have killed more than 24 Palestinians, including 47-year-old widowed mother of six, Ghada Sabateen, shot near Bethlehem and who has many American relatives. She was shopping for Ramadan … The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) hosts an online workshop with the American Arab Chamber of Commerce President Hassan Nijem to help Arab American businesses identify and apply for grants and funds… More than 150 Arab businesses were forcibly closed last summer for four months by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a racist and misguided move to reduce street gang violence. Go to the DCEO Facebook Page to watch … Aldermen Gilbert Villegas and Raymond Lopez will host a public forum on Lightfoot’s racist crackdown on Arab businesses at 11 a.m. May 9 at the Islamic Community Center of Illinois, 6435 W. Belmont.

CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGNS: In the 6th District Democratic race, Sean Casten has raised $1.9 million and spent $667,271 while Marie Newman has raised $1.02 million and spent $557,853. On the Republican side, Keith Pekau has raised $268,413 and spent $98,321 while former ally and popular rival Scott Kaspar raised $177,049 and spent $151,321. In the 3rd District Democratic race, Gilbert Villegas has raised $386,473 and spent $9,418; Delia Ramirez has raised $113,218 and spent $2,774; Iymen Chehade has raised $41,265 and spent $2,418; and Justin Burau has raised $10,540 and spent $10,333.

Check out Ray Hanania’s columns and political podcasts at hanania.com.

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