Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced he is not running for reelection. Some in the local news media saw this coming. Many were in shock.
Emanuel must have known deep in his soul that the next election would be bruising and his chances of winning it were not worth the punishment. He did not take this decision lightly. You have to admire a person who knows their time has come. As he said, it was the job of a lifetime, not a lifetime job.
There are twelve people slated to run for mayor. More may be entering the race. If they survive the petition process, they all have a real problem. They cannot run against Rahm Emanuel. They cannot criticize him, demean him, or punish him. They cannot run on his past.
The candidates must run on the future. They must develop policy positions on issues affecting the whole city.
"Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war." Chicago politics is warfare. Brutal, dirty, combat in the trenches.
The candidates must prove to Chicago they can handle the myriad problems facing this city, today and in the future. They must convince voters in all the neighborhoods that they are on their side.
Former mayor, Richard J. Daley, loved a good political fight. The tougher the fight, the more he relished it. He has to be looking down now, wringing his hands with glee and cackling in that Chicagoese Irish lilt he was famous for.
The battle for Chicago will be a battle to get stay on the ballot. A battle of hearts and minds. It will be a battle for the neighborhoods. A battle to get voters out. A battle against worthy and unworthy opponents. A battle to get the support of aldermen during the election and after. One battle after another. Open warfare on all fronts.
Chicago is a tough town. In politics, only the toughest survive. The rest are forgotten.
Chicago is a wary town. We are used to broken promises. We are a town suffering from the rampant and brazen gang and drug violence. The poor, mostly people of color, are suffering from lack of economic development. The middle-class homeowners are suffering from high property taxes.
Chicago, since its days as a swampy trading post on the banks of the river and shores of the lake, was always a hustling bustling city moving forward. We became the beating heart of America. When other cities failed, we survived. We survived man-made and natural catastrophes. We survived deadly pandemics. We survived economic panics, recessions, and depressions. We kept moving forward.
The next mayor needs to prove he has the survivors vision and capacity to move Chicago not only forward but beyond.
Mayor Emanuel inherited a city on the brink of fiscal disaster. His predecessor, He Who Shall Not Be Named, left Chicago in a fiscal shambles no mayor or city council could correct. Rahm Emanuel tried. We will not know for years whether he succeeded or failed. That will be left to historians.
Emanuel was tough to love and easy to hate. He was pragmatic to a fault. One thing Rham Emanuel had was compassion. No one can say he did not love this city or its people. No one can say he did not do his best for us, whether we liked his best or not. He worked hard. No one can doubt his work ethic. No one can doubt he was the best booster Chicago had since Richard J. Daley.
The mayor is known as "Tiny Dancer," due to his ballet training. The next mayor will have some very big ballet shoes to fill. He or she will have thorny problems to solve. The candidates will have to convicne us they can solve them. Likeability is not a positive. Problem-solving is.
There is something we can all do. Vote. Get your family, friends, co-workers, and others to vote. We have the final say.
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