| 4 | The 1986 political backdrop
Manuel explained the politics of October, 1986: Chicago Mayor Harold Washington had appointed Jesse Madison Park District Commissioner. Washington was poised to run for re-election against former Mayor Jane Byrne in the February 1987 primary. In 1983, Washington had become Chicago’s first black mayor, narrowly beating Mayor Byrne and State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley in the Democratic primary.
But now after four years in office, Washington had consolidated his political power. He had assembled an unprecedented political coalition of blacks, Hispanics and liberal whites, and was a favorite to defeat Byrne in a one-on-one 1987 primary. However, Byrne had always enjoyed significant support in Hispanic communities like ours, and our alderman, Richard Mell, was one of her biggest supporters and an antagonist of Mayor Washington. So the implications for our playlot were: our neighborhood was a “swing district”; Mayor Washington wanted Hispanic support; therefore, it was an excellent time to ask his administration for playlot improvements.
At Manuel’s suggestion, we set up a meeting with Alderman Mell and got his letter of support for our efforts to improve the playlot. 1 Manuel explained that a letter would enable Mell to claim credit for any later playlot improvements, and that it would put additional pressure on Washington’s Park District to improve our playlot, to avoid giving Byrne a local issue against the Mayor in the election.
1. Appendix p7 (letter from Richard Mell to Jesse Madison)