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Emanuel praises Philly police chief

Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey has “great strengths” that would be “natural for the job” of Chicago Police superintendent, according to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, who nevertheless vowed to “follow the process” laid out by law.

“From Chicago. Two proven departments under his belt of leadership. A proven record on community policing, which is important to us. The trust of the department [to solve] the morale issue, which is essential,” Emanuel told the Sun-Times in a recent one-on-one interview.

“He’s right. He doesn’t want to be rounding out any list [of finalists]. He rises in the list because of all of his natural strengths — by character, by leadership, by experience and by a proven rec­ord. . . . He has a lot to offer. No doubt about it. Very strong candidate. Ramsey has some great strengths that would be natural for the job.”

Ramsey, 63, is the former head of Chicago’s community policing program who left the city in a huff after Mayor Daley’s surprise choice of Terry Hillard in 1998. He spent nine years as Washington, D.C., police chief before moving on to Philadelphia in 2008.

The Sun-Times reported last week that Ramsey has told associates he would love to come home to run the Chicago Police Department, but probably won’t apply without assurances he is Emanuel’s choice.

The mayor-elect wouldn’t go that far. He still has to wait for the nine-member Police Board to conduct a nationwide search for a new police superintendent, then give him three finalists from which to choose.

But Emanuel’s effusive praise for Ramsey left little doubt that he is certain to be among the candidates screened by the mayor-elect’s 17-member public safety transition committee and recommended for consideration by the Police Board.

“We have a process. I’m gonna honor that process. But I’m gonna be doing my [own] interviews” at the same time, he said.

Asked if Weis’ unprecedented $310,000-a-year salary would be reduced for the next superintendent, Emanuel said, “I’m not at that point yet in my review.”

On other subjects during the wide-ranging interview, Emanuel:

† Left little doubt that he blames Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) for laying the groundwork for the residency challenge that nearly knocked him off the ballot. But the mayor-elect said that would not drive the City Council reforms he plans to implement, after consulting with a host of new aldermen.

“I know what I’ve heard. I know what the rumors are. But I don’t know. And I’m not interested. It’s over,” the mayor-elect said.

Emanuel refused to pass judgment on the 34 law clients that Burke listed on his last ethics statement that do business with the city or other agencies of local government.

“I understand he has 34 clients. I understand that he’s abstained. But if I do it in a way that it looks like it’s so political that I’m after him, I’ve undermined what is my goal,” he said.

“My goal is lobbying reform, ethics reform and changing the integrity of the institution. And it’s not to target one. It will apply to 50.. . . There are bigger issues than him and me.”

† Said he met last week with the Chicago Federation of Labor, which took a pass on the mayor’s race, and challenged those labor leaders to identify some of the $75 million in cuts he has promised to make in Mayor Daley’s final budget.

“I said, ‘Don’t tell me to come back off my changes. I won’t. I made a commitment. I’m gonna keep it.. . . Show me where the changes are that you’re ready to make,’ ” he said.

† Maintained that city ownership of a land-based Chicago casino is “non-negotiable,” but refused to pinpoint a location. He would only say that it can’t be so close to McCormick Place that it hurts attendance at major conventions.

† Declared that there will never be a city income tax as long as he is mayor because it would make Chicago “uncompetitive economically.”

† Portrayed the ongoing study on the future of Navy Pier as an “opportunity to reset the button” on Daley’s controversial plan to build a $100 million museum in Grant Park.

† Said he solicited resumes on the Internet — and asked a consulting firm to monitor it — in part, to make the case to get out from under the Shakman decree and the constraints of a federal hiring monitor who’s been in place since the city hiring scandal came to light in 2005.

“We’re gonna professionalize [hiring]. It’s better politics, better business and better economically. We’re paying $17 million a year to abide by a decree that’s 30 years old. It’s ridiculous,” he said, noting that 4,500 people have already submitted resumes.

† Reaffirmed his commitment to turn off the free water spigot to hospitals, churches, universities and other non-profits, a practice that one alderman estimated is costing the city $300 million a year.

“I’m committed to this. We’re losing too much money. I’m also committed to the principle that change will affect everybody. You can’t leave certain people off,” Emanuel said. But he added, “We may decide there should be a charitable rate that’s not the same as residential or commercial. That may be the way I do it.”

† Vowed to appoint an independent negotiator to handle negotiations on Lollapalooza because his super-agent brother Ari is a partner in Live Nation.

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