CITY HALL — A City Council committee moved Tuesday to honor Jane Byrne, Chicago's first and only woman to serve as mayor, by renaming the plaza for her at the Water Tower.
"It would be what the family would very much like," said Kathy Byrne, daughter of the former mayor, who served in office from 1979 to 1983.
Kathy Byrne also asked that the Children's Fountain, a favorite of her mother, who dedicated it in 1982 on Upper Wacker Drive west of Michigan Avenue, be relocated to the Water Tower plaza from its current location just south of the Chicago History Museum.
"That would tie everything up into a wonderful bow," Kathy Byrne said.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) praised Mayor Byrne's commitment to the gay community and said she was the first mayor to march in the Pride Parade.
"The gay community would not be where it's at without Jane Byrne," Tunney said. "She was one crazy lady. We loved her for it."
"She deserves this," said Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), calling her "the toughest cookie we've ever met."
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) cited her initiatives in creating the Jazz Festival, the Blues Festival, Taste of Chicago and her involvement in ChicagoFest, which originally took place on Navy Pier before it was renovated.
"Navy Pier was revitalized because of what she did to bring ChicagoFest there," Fioretti said.
The annual music festival was started by Mayor Michael Bilandic. After Byrne defeated him, she attempted to end Chicagofest at Navy Pier, and instead, use the funding to stage neighborhood festivals. Public opinion forced her to abandoned that idea, she would say in her autobiography, "My Chicago." Byrne credited her daughter with persuading her not to shut down ChicagoFest.
Fioretti also cited Byrne's commitment to gun control and her brief move into the Cabrini-Green housing project while mayor.
Kathy Byrne said her mother frequently took inspiration from looking at the Water Tower as a "symbol of survival," as it endured the Chicago Fire, and she had a view of it from the kitchen of her Gold Coast apartment.
"It would indeed be appropriate," said Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the Finance Committee, which passed the resolution declaring the small park surrounding the Water Tower "Jane M. Byrne Plaza" and sent it to the full City Council for approval. He said it addressed the "long overdue failure to honor one of Chicago's most significant political figures."
Burke spokesman Donal Quinlan said the Council would look into the cost of relocating the fountain as part of the memorial plaza.
Kathy Byrne said her mother suffered a stroke last year, but is doing "fairly well," and her health is stable.
"She's thrilled about it," Kathy Byrne said, adding that "of course" she'd noticed the failure to honor her achievements as mayor, but "it's water over the dam."
The former mayor, now 80, is expected to attend Wednesday's Council session for the final vote on the matter.
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