I did a small piece on the upcoming runoff between incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. You can read it here, if you’re so inclined.
The object of that piece was to summarize the February 24, 2015 mayoral election with a nod to Chuy, saying that Mayor Emanuel may have a rougher go of it than most people, including the Mayor had thought possible.
Living outside the city limits, I have no dog in that fight. My only comment was that Rahm would be my choice if I were casting a ballot in the Chicago.
I tend to make decisions like that just by looking at people. While I have shaken hands with the Mayor a couple of times, I was sizing up the candidates via their TV personas.
No different than when you watch a whodunit and try to figure out the guilty party (or parties) based on their actions or shady appearances.
In this case, there was a tad more at play. Homicide cops might call it “motive” or “intent.” I look at it on a risk-reward scale. Who’s got the most to win, who’s got the most to lose?
Rahm Emanuel was a major player on the national stage and, very often on the international stage. He had the ear of the most powerful man on the planet and he could’ve written his own ticket in Washington.
In case you missed it, Emanuel was President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff.
He gave all that up to come to Chicago, where his victory in the mayoral race was anything but assured. He faced stiff opposition just getting on the ballot.
Granted, being mayor of a big city like Chicago is a cool deal, but it’s not that cool.
Chuy, on the other hand is a man on his way up. Becoming mayor of Chicago would arguably be the pinnacle of his career. A career with all the ear markings of a machine politician.
A cynic like me can’t help wondering what deals he’s made, clawing his way up the political ladder, what he might say or do to achieve his goal.
But, like I said, I don’t vote in Chicago and it’s only small talk to me. Nothing of consequence, nothing to which I gave a lot of thought. The business folks I know say that things in the city are going gangbusters and that was good enough for me.
Then came the iron worker and the teacher. They were hot, and I don’t mean that in a Bachelor/Bachelorette sort of way.
They both blasted my little article and me with very unkind words. The iron worker said it was a “fluffy piece,” right out of Frank and Fran’s playbook. I’m not sure what that means, the only thing that came up when I googled Frank and Fran was a tackle shop in North Carolina.
The teacher was glad that I didn’t live in Chicago because Chuy was going to be the next mayor. The only complaints that I could discern from her comment, though was that Rahm has a “foul mouth”-what a fucker!-he goes through red lights and he played his “black friend card” late in the campaign.
Who does he think he is, Richard J. Daley?
Doug Welch of Tucson, Arizona addressed my mention of Chuy’s son being a gang banger with “Rahm’s dad blew up a bus in Palestine while we’re mentioning family felonies.”
He didn’t, however address the issue of political favors that may have fallen the way of a law firm who took on young Garcia as a full time project.
According to his Facebook page, Welch is a librarian of some sort in AZ. I don’t know what his interest is in Chicago politics, especially with spring training going on out there.
I pointed out to Mr. Welch that Rahm’s dad, Benjamin blew up several buses, in fact. Back in 1947 and 1948, Jerusalem-born Benjamin was fighting to oust the Brits from Israel and the buses he was blowing up were full of British soldiers.
If you remember your history, America went through a similar process from 1775-1783. They had to blow up ships, though, there were no buses back then.
In any case, what Chuy’s son is doing in Little Village in 2015 is a lot more relevant to his dad’s bid for mayor than what Rahm’s dad was doing in Israel in 1947.
With all that going on, I felt obliged to do something a little more substantive regarding the two candidates who would be mayor. Well, one who would be, one who already is.
It’s been said that truth is the first casualty of war. When it comes to politics, truth isn’t even a combatant. When it comes to politicians, I take a don’t-trust-but-verify approach.
Rahm’s being cast as one of the elites, a one per center. I don’t have a problem with that, but it probably doesn’t play well in Little Village or even Roscoe Village. You know how those Village People are.
This weekend, Chuy’s out in L.A. tugging at the purse strings of some of his own rich supporters. Next weekend, he’ll be doing the same thing in New York. I’m pretty sure he won’t be passing the hat around the barrio.
The main thing Chuy’s hitting Rahm about is the school closings. He’s standing there in front of a boarded up Roberto Clemente school blasting Emanuel for closing 50 schools and giving the money to his friends to open private schools.
That argument is specious, at best. Chuy, himself said that schools needed to be closed, he just never said how many. It could have been ten, it could have been sixty. He’s off the hook now because his political rival did the nasty for him and took all the heat.
As for where that money went, they’re called magnet schools and they’re public. Designed to fight segregation, magnet schools were first introduced in Chicago in 1973 and many were in need of repairs and such student comfort improvements like air conditioning.
Almost 2,600 people were shot in Chicago last year, almost 400 of them dying of their wounds. That’s not good for anyone, especially the sitting mayor. As you might guess, almost none of the shootings took place in view of a police officer, which makes the problem about as daunting as it gets.
Despite some of the toughest gun laws in the country, guns are easy to get in Chicago.
Inner city violence is a symptom of poverty, lack of opportunity and the type of gang activity associated with those conditions. It’s systemic and can only be treated at the core level. Drugs and gang affiliations are at the root of most shootings.
This may be Emanuel’s real Achilles heel, it’s not a subject a mayor likes to raise during an election. It’s also not possible to put 1,000 new cops on the street, as Chuy has suggested.
Chicago’s finances will play a major part in the two remaining debates between Garcia and Emanuel. This is where Chuy will have to do his homework.
Chicago’s about $60 Billion in debt, with about half of that being unfunded. Where will the money come from when those teachers and policemen retire?
Emanuel’s already shown that he can make tough, unpopular choices. Chuy’s said that he will look for “creative financing” if he’s elected. He also said that his fiscal plans for the city were “a bit much to talk about right now.”
We know that in the past Chuy had no problem producing revenue through real estate and parking tax increases. Big ones, at that. He says that if he’s elected, he’ll find ways not only to balance the city budget, but to pay for all the spending increases he’s proposing.
My problem with Commissioner Garcia is that he seems to running on a platform of promises that rub up against common sense and reality. Let’s take his promise, for example to return control of the schools to the voters.
That one goes against human nature. Even if it was easy to accomplish, nobody in politics ever wants less power. Even for Chuy, that would be “a bit much.”
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