Interview with Jane Byrne

Before we get up to Harold Washington, I want to follow up because he said that there was a point where you called him into his office and said, "Renault, we had a deal. You're screwing that up by coming against my man, Swibel." And I would like to understand a little bit more about the deal and how he crossed you on that.


I had no deal about Swibel. I didn't appoint Swibel. Swibel was one of the holdover commissioners and chairman, and had been for fifteen years under Mayor Daley. Ah, I would grant this to Swibel--he knew what he was doing. He was not a, a humanist in any way, shape or form. But he knew how to bring the federal dollars in to keep it working. And he knew how to go to Washington and get it done because he had been doing it for fifteen years. Ah, there was no conversation between me and Renault Robinson at any given time about "you're going against my man, Swibel." Nothing. Ah, he was embarrassing me as my own appointment to be going to the Grand Jury with all these charges and becoming this crusader, and then always to have them go up in smoke. It was embarrassing. On the other hand, ah, he then went very strongly out front for Harold Washington, which was fine. And I don't blame him in the least for that and he had every right in the world to do it. But two weeks before the election, with every poll in the city of Chicago, every poll--two, five, seven, nine, Tribune, Sun, Times--showing me 22 to 26 points ahead of both of the men. He asked the commissioner of my human resources if he could come and meet with me and make amends. Ah, when the surprise happened and Mayor Washington won, he was the first one to go back. So I don't, you know, I don't like to tell these stories.



Jane Byrne:

They're part of politics, maybe, but the charges were made. There's no doubt about it. But they weren't true. Ah, and the charges that he took twice, I believe, before the Grand Jury were also not true. And the U.S. Attorney refused to even investigate one, because it is impossible to think--let me tell you--that those elevators are going to function. They aren't. And the buildings should come down. And children shouldn't be on the fifteenth floor. And gangs shouldn't have the use of them to break them when they wish so that the police can't get to them. But it had nothing to do with the corporations that put them in. They're a sick place structurally, emotionally, in every way. And you can ride on it if you wish, and you can make political points if you wish, because the people basically are unhappy. And you can use that to further an end.