Transportation Secretary Neil Goldschmidt yesterday handed out $24.8 million in highway money for the Chicago area without once mentioning the name of Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne.He chose as the site for his announcement the office of Democratic Chicago Rep. Dan Rostenkowski.
"I want to leave no doubt in anybody's mind that the affairs of Chicago will continue to get timely and active consideration by the Department of Transportation," Goldschmidt said. He was surrounded by beaming Illinois Democrats, including Reps. Rostenkowski, Marty Russo, Sidney R. Yates, Frank Annunzio and Bennett Stewart.
All of them are apparently trustworthy, because Goldschmidt had told a meeting of reporters Nov. 20 that his department would deal only with public officials in whom he had confidence. He said of Mayor Byrne, "I wouldn't operate on that lady's word."
Goldschmidt made it clear he arrived at that conclusion after Byrne switched her endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination from President Carter to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
The statement then by Goldschmidt was interpreted widely as a threat to cut off discretionary funds the secretary of transportation can spend around the country on airports, roads and transit systems. Goldschmidt pointedly said at the time, however, that his only concern was seeing that the right people got credit.
Yesterday, Rostenkowski got the credit. He had tried unsuccessfully to hold off the Byrne-directed Cook County (Chicago) Democratic endorsement of Kennedy.
Reporters asked Goldschmidt yesterday if he planned to talk to Mayor Byrne about the highway grant.
"No," he said.
Will you talk to her? they pressed.
"If she calls," he said.
Rep. Stewart was asked what he thought of Goldschmidt. "A fine man," he said. Laughter. "He's got the purse strings, doesn't he?"