No, Rahm Probably Won't Meet With You

"Emanuel had hardly met with community groups, social service organizations, or neighborhood activists at all. His predecessor Mayor Daley, hardly known as a paragon of small-d democracy, met with such people all the time."  That's a key quote from Rolling Stones columnist Rick Perlstein, who slams the Mayor and the fawning national and mainstream media coverage of him in a piece called Rahm Emanuel Has a Problem With Democracy. For more on the Mayor's paltry schedule of meeting with community groups, check the Reader story here. For a roundup of media coverage of Emanuel, good and bad, go to a Huffington Post update here. Even for someone who's frustrated with the current school system and impatient for improvements, the Mayor's jump-first, think-later approach to things is problematic.  He's making more problems than he needs to, even if and when he's right.




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  • Now we must wait for 2.5 more years hopefully real Chicagoans will turn out to vote for a mayor more aligned with their own interests next time. The Atlantic Monthly just took an integrity nose dive with Alter's fluff and puff. RS is too soft on Daley though, same cover ups, no transparency, hypocrisy, and patronage. He just had the benefit of urban bonanza.

  • In reply to cklaus76:

    Clearly you are channeling you inner Sarah Palin. Pray tell, who are those "real Chicagoans" that didn't vote? Do they live in the real American that Palin is always on about?

  • In reply to WestLooper:


    I do not pretend to know who voted for Rahm but look
    At who did not .56% of the voters did not vote.Of those that did
    The mayor got a little more than 50% that means 80% of all
    potential voters did vote for the Mayor. Put another way
    he won with 20% or 2 out of every 10.That was the primary
    total. Not exactly a landslide wouldn’t you say.

  • I am sure you all recall that I did not like Mr. Alter's Atlantic article on our Mayor, so one would assume I would like Rick Perlstein's highly critical article about Mayor Emanuel. Not so.

    Perlstein's article is a litany of Rahm horrors, but no discussion of the deep problems that exist in our city that need to be addressed. Issues like the city being profoundly segregated, like minority local politicians controlled by the city's Democratic Party structure being regularly picked up for corruption, like the fact that communities in the near Loop and north side look and feel completely different than poor minority communities throughout the city, like the fact that a significant portion of minority business interests in the city would not exist without minority set aside contracts controlled by the city, or that even some minority churches are dependent on city contracts (although in passing Rev. Watkins paid protestors are mentioned).

    How are protests discussed at length in the essay, no matter how warranted, or the suppression of protests at the G8 events going to address any of those issues? The G8 event will do nothing at all in relation to the big picture issues facing Chicago. Are the speed cameras really a critical issue that merits criticism, I know many of us hate the idea of a Rahm nanny state, but many of us hate speed bumps too, or Mayor Daley's flower pots on major streets, or Mayor Daley's boots for unpaid parking tickets, we hate a lot of the irritations of urban life. Mr. Perlstein's discussion of the longer school day was so superficial it hardly merited inclusion in the article.

    In his last paragraph Perlstein actually got to some substantive issues dealing with social services in the city and Mayor Emanuel's particular hostility to municipal unions. But I hate to say it as a piece of writing Mr. Alter's essay was far better, he at least had a theory. The theory was Mayor Emanuel was the grave digger of Chicago's political machine and a rationalizing force in the city. Apparently Mr. Perlstein thinks it is a revelation that Mayor Emanuel is hooked up with corporate interests. I think the majority of people in Chicago sort of knew that and unfortunately maybe thought it was an asset. Maybe the discussion relating to Mayor Emanuel needs to be a little larger and it needs to relate to the political control over poor people in the city through the Democratic Party be it run by Mayor Emanuel or Mayor Daley that is not in its self in the least democratic. Does it really make a difference if Mayor Daley met with community groups when we can see that the results of the meetings were really pretty small things and Mayor Emanuel chooses not to play that particular game.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod, you say a lot of interesting things, but no, I don't recall your take on the Alter article. You seem like an exceedingly good person, don't let the world o' bloggin' go to your head.

  • here's the link to the alter story and the 49 comments that accompanied it:

  • Jump first-think later. That's a great description of the mayor. It also describes the central office crew. By making quick decisions they expand the problem. Then they have to make adjustments. There are no easy answers as they will learn. In case the mayor and others don't know there are experts in every area of the system. It's not the mayor and it's certainly not the new communications hires. We all have our time. Then we leave. Don't underestimate the low income voters or the teachers. Things always come back around.

  • In reply to sammy:

    "Don't underestimate the low income voters or the teachers. Things always come back around."

    Really? By the end of the decade CTU will be half the size it was in 1990. Apparently there are 11,000 fewer black teachers working today than in 1990. What kind of resurgence are you predicting?

    As fas as "jump first, think later", how many schools have actually changed significantly in the last year?

    There are two long overdue changes happening 1) Teachers effectively losing tenure and entering into a normal employer/employee relationship and 2) Implementation of a portfolio school plan.
    Both changes reduce job security. Both changes have wide public support.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn, you are right about all your observations. As an older worker who spent half his working life the corporate world, and then half again in teaching, it is a nightmarish time for anyone over fifty to even get his foot in the door for an interview in either environment. And this at an age in which we have the least amount of time to recover from this economic downturn. Good luck and God bless to all those who have been laid off through no fault of their own.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn have you seen polling data that indicates the citizens of Chicago support CTU teachers losing all seniority rights? I know Time did a national poll back in 2010 (see,8599,2016994,00.html) where the question was stated as this: "Do you support or oppose tenure for teachers, the practice of guaranteeing teachers lifetime job security after they have worked for a certain amount of time?"

    The response was 66% opposed tenure under the conditions stated. In a poll conducted in Tennessee that asked if people thought tenure makes it hard to get rid of bad teachers - 54% responded that they thought it did. On the other hand 29% thought "tenure protects good teachers from being fired without just cause." (see

    In yet another survey conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance 47 percent opposed the idea of tenure, while 25 percent favored it (see

    Patrick Murray founding director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute reframed the question this way "After working in a New Jersey public school for three years, a teacher is either given tenure or let go. A teacher who gets tenure after this trial period is basically given a permanent job unless they engage in serious misconduct.” In this NJ poll 42% approved of tenure compared to 26% to 28% in the polls that defined tenure as a “lifetime” appointment. (see

    So Donn it is less than clear to me that there is wide support for complete elimination of tenure. It depends more on how the concept of tenure is framed in the poll.

    Lastly please define what you mean by a protfolio school plan? I think I know but I want to make sure I do.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I don't know about a poll, but SB7 plus school change doesn't seem to leave much of what historically has been considered tenure. The almost unanimous vote on SB7 should be one indicator of public sentiment.

    Also consider the numbers of older teachers not working while principals hire new young teachers. Whatever labels are used, in practice job security has certainly been reduced.

    By school portfolio I'm referencing the CPS new schools plan.

  • In reply to Donn:

    To a degree you are over reaching and to a degree you are right about the status of tenure. I don't think most citizens of Chicago understand what tenure is for teachers so I not sure there is wide public support to getting rid of it. That is why I looked at the polling data related to the issue.

    SB7 the law you reference adds the phrase “on the basis of performance” to the grounds on which tenured teachers may be fired. SB7 references a law passed by the prior General Assembly, the process to be used in evaluating performance, PERA. Teachers’ evaluations now result in ratings described in law as “excellent” and “proficient” and “needs improvement” and, as the lowest rating, “unsatisfactory.”

    A tenured teacher receiving two “unsatisfactory” ratings within a seven-year period is a candidate for having his or her certificate revoked by the State Superintendent. (Dismissal for bad conduct can be done more quickly under provisions of SB 7, while due-process protections remain strong.)

    A non-tenured teacher would need “proficient” ratings, on average for four years to get tenure, but could get a contract in three years if the ratings for all three years are “excellent.” A teacher who was tenured in another district would be able to earn tenure at a new district in two years.

    Decisions on filling vacant positions are to be based on “certifications, qualifications, merit and ability (including performance evaluations, if available) and relevant experience.” Seniority “must not be considered” except as a tie-breaker when two or more candidates are seen as otherwise “equal.”

    In relation to deciding who stays and who goes when layoffs are necessary I find SB7 confusing. Basically, teachers are divided into four groups, from the lowest (non-tenured, unevaluated teachers) to the highest (two “excellent” ratings in the last three evaluations; no “unsatisfactory” ratings). Then the best in each group will be retained as positions are identified for elimination in a tight fiscal situation.

    This is the long and the short of the tenure reforms in SB7.
    To some degree an Illinois Supreme Court decision made on February 17, 2012 regarding layoffs and rehiring possibly was more adverse to tenure in Chicago than SB7 was. Effectively, the Court said the School Code, gives laid-off tenured teachers in Chicago neither a substantive right to be rehired after an economic layoff or a right to certain procedures during the rehiring process. The reason for this was because the Chicago Board declined to exercise power to establish rehire rules for tenured teachers that had been granted it by the Illinois General Assembly.

    But the Illinois Supreme Court did not base its decision on popular sentiment against teacher tenure, it was based on their reading of statutes. SB7 did not out law tenure, but CPS by its strategic lack of action may have dramatically limited tenured CPS teachers ability to be rehired after an economic layoff.

    The best simple presentation of the so called portfolio plan was given at the CPS Board meeting on March 28. I don't think it was a very deep plan nor do I think many people in Chicago are even aware of it. It seems hard to argue as you did that it has "wide public support."

    Rod Estvan

  • This is dead on about Central Office... nothing even remotely thought out, mistake after mistake after mistake, and then lies atop of lies atop of lies... everyone is just waiting for the place to implode.

  • Hey Donn
    Let me break it down for you. It's my personal opinion but my comments are meant to express that the recent changes are not well thought out, and a similar version of change has failed during 3 previous administrations. The repercussions have not been addressed. That's why community leaders are opposed. I said the expertise is not present as these decisions are made and the mayor is not an educator. I'm also implying that voters will be smarter when they go to the polls in a few years. It won't be at the end of the decade (ask someone). Further I expressed that the teachers have the ultimate power to negotiate if they use it. Someone said "implode" in their comment. I'm thinking along those lines. Too much change with no expertise leads to that.

  • Even if you get to meet with the Mayor, he'll spend most of the 17 minutes talking, not listening.

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