Interview with Slim Coleman

First, I'd like you to tell me early expectations of Jane Byrne.


Well I think, ah, we, we had some high expectations. I think that's true especially right after she won the primary. Ah, it was an easy race for the general election against the Republican candidate so she was already assumed to be the mayor. We were real excited. We thought we had beat the machine. Ah, we didn't really know Jane Byrne. Ah, some of us had only talked to her five or ten minutes but we voted for her because she said she was out fighting the machine. Ah, we picked up the newspaper, ah, two days after the primary and found that she was, ah, had gone to, ah, vacation in Miami with a group of developers, ah, who were some of the main financial people for the, ah, ah, machine and then, ah, ah, a week later, ah, she announced that she had made peace with, ah, the evil cabal that she'd campaigned against. So, but even in spite of that we felt that given the fact that, ah, ah, Black, Hispanic and low income White and liberal White communities had really come out in much larger numbers than ever before and had elected her and beat the machine, ah, when she had no campaign organization at all, ah, that she'd be accountable. One of, one of the, ah, first things that we did was set up a meeting with her with about, ah, 25 different housing groups. And we said we wanted a separate Department of Housing. There had never been a Department of Housing in the city of Chicago. And we wanted a Department of Housing, ah, and we wanted, ah, a new Commissioner of Housing and, ah, we wanted to get some action especially on the question of affordable housing. And she set up a Department of Housing, ah, and appointed a new commissioner. It wasn't a commissioner that we had asked for, but, ah, we didn't know too much about him. He was kind of a, somebody who had been in the Department of Planning before at a low level and we didn't know who it was. It turned out he was a really good, strong first ward person with, first ward is where the, ah, ah, organized crime is the strongest in the city of Chicago, and, ah, ah, it took us about a year and a half to find out this was really going backwards, not forwards. But we had high expectations when we set up the department and said she really wanted to work more closely with community groups, ah, and again in, in about a year and a half we found out that, ah, business was probably being done more freely, ah, with the developers behind closed doors, ah, and, ah, than it had been done before.