I’m going to ask the question that many people are thinking but are afraid to ask:
Is it just me, or does Rahm Emanuel (kinda) suck as mayor?
Like the majority of voters, I voted for Rahm.
Yeah, I didn’t quite know what he stood for or how he was proposing to make the city better. And sure I thought Miguel had more integrity, and that Chico had more knowledge of local politics, and that Carol would prioritize commercial development on the south side.
I voted for him anyway.
I voted for him, in part, because of the possibility that he would bring a bit of intelligence to this hack city that prioritizes favors over sound policy. I voted for him because I hate the entitlement of those heavily affiliated with the Chicago Democratic Machine and felt like it was my only way to give a middle finger to the candidates who I knew would not do things differently.
I voted for him, though I had to lie to my parents, my coworkers, and my neighbors about not voting for Carol or Miguel.
Nevertheless, I felt no apprehension about my decision. It was time for a new era. However, a year later, as I look at the current state of my beloved city, a sinking feeling evades my stomach because I suspect that I made a mistake.
From a distance, I’ve observed the policy measures that Rahm have initiated under his tenure and have been in awe of what he has been able to accomplish with little to no real adversity from the city council. After passing his first budget unanimously (something Daley was never able to accomplish), I wondered if he was holding someone’s child/dog/wife as a hostage in the basement of City Hall – using them as collateral until the council voted. Though he was never charged with the crime, no one can deny the complexity, difficulty, and creepiness of him accomplishing such a feat.
Yet, violence continued to rise and teachers continued to express their frustration with having to do more work for less pay. And as the 2012 school year ended, there were no signs of a resolution – only an impending teacher’s strike and 1,267 gunshot victims throughout the city. Budget cuts made for fewer public libraries to supplement after school programming and closed mental health clinics meant fewer counseling services available to those in already underserved communities.
Oh…but we did host the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this year.
Thanks, Rahm. You really know how to make your residents feel special.
Our livelihood and safety has always been contingent on tourism from Britain and Canada.
(Insert palpable sarcasm.)
My stomach becomes anxious when I think of the future of Chicago with Rahm as Mayor. After making the decision to shut down a primary source of transportation for Southside residents to go to and from work for five months, the context (or lack thereof) of his perspective on public policy became clear. His focus is bringing the world to Chicago, even if that means pushing everyone who already lives here out.
The city has extended new tax subsidies to rejuvenate numerous stalled residential development projects on the south side. But should that have been the priority when banks continue to restrict their financing of mortgages and there continues to be a surplus of foreclosures in these neighborhoods? It appears that yet again, the only people who will truly benefit are the developers.
No one knows how to curb the violence, you say? Improve incentives for teachers, who will improve the quality of teaching, who will inform students that it (literally) pays more to be anything other than a drug dealer or gangbanger. If students understood that Home Depot will pay them more than the minimum wage they will get as a street soldier, then it becomes a much easier job for the city to focus its energy on ensuring that there are companies willing to hire them. So for the love of the God, the Lord of Abraham and Moses, stop giving money to developers to build unnecessary housing and use it as a way to incentivize businesses to build stores in underserved communities.
Until that happens, poor kids will continue to take the train, bus, and ride their bicycles to the other side of town and rob people who look like they have what they don’t know how to get for themselves.
In the end, I am sure that by the time his first term ends the budget will be balanced and Mercedes Benz will have located a corporate headquarters on State Street. People will eventually forgive him for cancelling the annual 4th of July fireworks, and will learn to enjoy the Taste of Chicago during one of its four days (in contrast to its previous duration of two weeks). Yet I wonder, in the proverbial ashes of his first term, what will the residents of this city have to sacrifice to help him achieve his detached (and slightly elitist) measures of success?