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Rahm Emanuel sworn in as mayor

 Inauguraticeremonies Rahm Emanuel City Council members more.    |  Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Inauguration ceremonies of Rahm Emanuel and City Council members and more. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: June 18, 2011 12:23AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the oath of office Monday amid sunshine, children’s choirs and a billion-dollar deficit he says he must tame.

“Our city’s financial situation is difficult and profound. We cannot ignore these problems a day longer,” Emanuel told thousands of people gathered in the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park — which Mayor Daley spent $475 million to build.

Vice-President Joe Biden, cabinet members, celebrities and clergy looked on as Emanuel delivered the bitter tonic with a spoonful of optimism:

“I have been clear about the hard truths and tough choices we face: We simply can’t afford the size of city government that we had in the past,” Emanuel said. “It’s not just a matter of doing more with less. We must look at every aspect of city government and ask some basic questions: Can we afford it? Is it worth it? Do we need it?”

Chicago is facing an annual structural deficit of $1.2 billion including unfunded pension liabilities.

In a multicultural, ecumenical inaugural pageant that featured performances by Chicago’s children, Emanuel pledged to better educate them and keep them safer.

“I fully understand there will be those who oppose our efforts to reform our schools, to cut costs and to make government more effective,” Emanuel said. “Some are sure to say, ‘This is the way we do things — we can’t try something new. Those are the rules — we can’t change them.’ ... So when I ask for new policies, I guarantee, the one answer I will not tolerate is: ‘We’ve never done it that way before.’ Chicago is the city of ‘yes we can’ not ‘No we can’t.’ ”

Cardinal George, as well as protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders asked God’s help in solving the city’s problems.

Emanuel told city workers, city residents and business owners to expect to sacrifice.

“Today, I ask of each of you — those who live here, and those who work here; business and labor: Let us share the necessary sacrifices fairly and justly,” Emanuel said. “If everyone will give a little, no one will have to give too much.”

As he has during the campaign, Emanuel was careful to pay deference to his ally and political mentor Mayor Daley, for whom he served as chief fund-raiser in 1989. Emanuel blamed none of the billion-dollar deficit on Daley. Six paragraphs of his speech were devoted to the “big shoes” he has to fill.

“We are a much greater city because of the lifetime of service that Mayor Daley and first lady Maggie Daley have given us,” Emanuel said. “Nobody ever loved Chicago more or served it better than Richard Daley. Now, Mr. Mayor, and forevermore, Chicago loves you back.”

The Daleys were cheered when they appeared on stage. A frail-looking former Mayor Jane Byrne entered the stage with aid of a walker.

Emanuel’s first day on the job also included two hours of shaking hands at his office, with his wife, Amy Rule, and their three children at his side.

Some people just wanted to say ‘good luck.’ Others wanted to invite him to events, ask his help getting a job, or lobby him on issues. Preservation Chicago’s Jonathan Fine warned him he has only a month to save Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s cylindrical Prentiss Towers from the wrecking ball. Emanuel was non-committal.

Benito Herrera, 50, handed Emanuel an envelope full of Smashing Pumpkins CD’s — Emanuel’s a big fan — and invited Emanuel to address his Extreme Toastmasters Club.

On-stage at Millennium Park, Emanuel choked up when he thanked his parents, Benjamin and Marsha. His mother had already expressed similar emotions: “Do you really have to ask, I mean, are my feet touching the ground?” Marsha Emanuel said. “Wait a minute — let me look. I think they are. I’m speechless, ecstatically speechless.”

Her husband agreed. They said they always thought all three of their sons would go on to great things. Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel also looked on as his brother spoke.

And on their son being Chicago’s first Jewish mayor?

“I’m going to start crying,” Marsha Emanuel said. “It is awesome, my dear, unexplainable. This is an honor for the people; an honor for us; an honor for the whole culture.”

Emanuel’s replacement as chief of staff to President Obama, Bill Daley, called it “a terrific day for the city: He’s smart. I know his toughness. It’s tough, but he’ll do a great job.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said he is not worried about Emanuel being able to tackle the city’s financial crisis: “Rahm is awesome, awesomely strong.”

Even the man who leads the city’s garbage men — whose ranks Emanuel has pledged to shrink — expressed optimism.

“He’s willing to sit down with us, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Union Local 1001. “I’m not worried about losing jobs. We can come to a happy medium and everybody can work together.”

Can Chicago’s three-to-a-truck garbage men really compete with the private sector?

“Definitely,” Phillips said. “There’s a gold pot at the end of the rainbow in the recycling itself.”

From the $3 million the city currently makes on recyclables, Phillips thinks his members can make $12 million, he said. “I think we can do it if not cheaper the same price.”

Emanuel devoted 13 paragraphs of his inaugural address to the need to improve Chicago’s schools. The city’s graduation rate is the same as the percentage of the vote Emanuel got for mayor: 55.

He said parents “need to get off the sidelines” and take more of a role in their children’s education. He expects teachers to work longer hours. And he thanked the state Legislature for passing legislation to allow him to do that. He said Gov. Quinn, sitting on stage with him, would sign that legislation.

“As some have noted, including Amy, I am not a patient man,” Emanuel said. “When it comes to improving our schools, I will not be a patient mayor.”

But, asked after the inauguration whether he planned to sign the bill, Quinn said, “Well, we’re going to work on it together ... I’m really excited to work with him. We’re gonnna be doing a lot in the next couple weeks. We’ve got to get enough resources for education, too. That’s important.”

Emanuel extended an olive branch to City Council members.

“I reach out a hand of mutual respect and cooperation and I welcome your ideas for change,” he said.

Eighteen of the 50 members being sworn in Monday are new or relatively new faces. Emanuel supported some and opposed some.

Emanuel vowed not to let Chicago become the kind of war zone with unions that Wisconsin and Ohio have become.

“I reject how leaders in Wisconsin and Ohio are exploiting their fiscal crisis to achieve a political goal. That course is not the right course for Chicago’s future,” Emanuel said.

Pointing to the rainbow ticket of city-wide officials — himself, City Treasurer Stephanie Neely and City Clerk Susana Mendoza — Emanuel said the imagery up on stage shows just how much the city’s different residents can work together.

“I think it is fair to say, we are not our parents’ Chicago,” Emanuel said. “An African-American whose family came from Grenada, Mississippi, in the great migration north; a daughter of immigrants who came from Mexico; a son of an Israeli immigrant from Tel Aviv and grandson of immigrants from Eastern Europe.”

Emanuel devoted nine paragraphs to the need to protect public safety. He plugged his choice for police superintendent, Garry McCarthy.

Emanuel returned to a wall he has talked about during his campaign, on which the names of 220 children killed are written in Roseland. The wall has already run out of space in just a few short years. There are 150 more names yet to be added.

“That memorial does more than mourn the dead, it shames the living,” Emanuel said.

Among those watching Monday was actress Jennifer Beals, who plays a maverick honest police superintendent taking on a corrupt Chicago alderman in the Chicago Code series Fox just cancelled.

“I found it so exciting,” Beal said “It’s so important to bring everybody together toward a common goal. I think it’s an exciting time for Chicago as we go into a new era.”

Will Emanuel professionalize city government to a level that shows about “Chicago corruption” are pase?

Beals laughed: “From your mouth to God’s ear.”

Emanuel praised Daley’s tenure:

“A generation ago, people were writing Chicago off as a dying city. They said our downtown was failing, our neighborhoods were unlivable, our schools were the worst in the nation, and our politics had become so divisive we were referred to as Beirut on the Lake.

“When Richard M. Daley took office as mayor 22 years ago, he challenged all of us to lower our voices and raise our sights. Chicago is a different city today than the one Mayor Daley inherited, thanks to all he did. This magnificent place where we gather today is a living symbol of that transformation,” Emanuel said.

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