Mayor Byrne’s Secret Transition Report

Louis Masotti

Louis Masotti

Because Byrne had run as a reform candidate, after the primary election she quickly sought advice from a panel of knowledgeable experts pulled together from a transition team headed by a Northwestern University professor, Louis Masotti. Masotti had taken a leave of absence from the University’s Center for Urban Affairs and in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, said that the team’s transition report for the new mayor was designed “to assist a fledgling administration to hit the floor running.” Masotti went on to say of his 26-member transition committee:

“What we did was not budgeted; nobody got paid. We had no staff. These were citizens who at the request of the mayor volunteered to spend a hell of a lot of time and energy and put their reputations on the line to provide information to help guide the mayor. The fact that she chose to dismiss it, apparently without reading it or judging it on its merits, was not well received by anyone on the committee. Nor did anyone get any appreciation in any way, shape, or form, including me.”

Tribune Lerner MergeThe report’s principal author was Dick Simpson. It was reported to be 1,000 pages long, 700 of which were made available to the Tribune. Entitled New Programs and Department Evaluations, other transition team members besides Simpson included Bill Singer, Leon Despres from the 5th Ward in Hyde Park, and other well-known opponents of the Regular Democratic Organization.Sun-Times Frontpage

When the Chicago Tribune story on the transition report broke, it had a sidebar by George de Lama and Storer Rowley noting that I had written a section of the report. Years later I don’t recall what part it was, but it may well have dealt with the Chicago Public Schools. I had spent a good deal of my time on CPS matters in my Director of Research role in the Singer mayoral campaign. Singer had made improving the public schools the centerpiece of his mayoral campaign and I had ended up writing most of the lengthy policy study the campaign released.

When Jane Byrne went on to win the general election in April 1979, she corralled 82% of the vote in defeating Republican Wallace Johnson. Shortly thereafter, she and her staff had received Masotti’s transition report. The decision was quickly made to keep it under wraps.