Braun: Electing a black mayor not very important
By Abdon M. Pallasch Political Reporterapallasch@suntimes.com January 11, 2011 8:56PM
Carol Moseley Braun meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board on Tuesday. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: April 26, 2011 4:45AM
Carol Moseley Braun said Tuesday she wants to be the mayor of all Chicago, just as she was the senator for all of Illinois, not just the state’s 11 percent African-American population.
In a meeting with the Sun-Times editorial board, Braun took offense to a question about how important it was that Chicago have a black mayor, given her participation in a process to select a “consensus candidate” of the African-American community.
“You’re joking, right?” she asked. “I think the best candidate should be the mayor of Chicago. I don’t get it, The media in this town sees race, race, race, race, race — everything gets reduced to those terms. And that’s not where the people are in this city. How important is it? I don’t think its very important.”
Black Chicagoans have a different history than Chicagoans of other races, Braun said.
“To just suggest: Why aren’t you doing it like the Hispanics are doing it? Or why aren’t you doing it like the Jewish community is doing it? Or why aren’t you doing it like the Polish community is doing it? Suggests a lack of understanding of the context,” Braun said.
Braun ticked off the accomplishments of her six years in the U.S. Senate:
“I passed more bills than any other freshman in my class,” she said. “I started a national dialogue about rebuilding our nation’s crumbling schools ... about women’s pensions ... health care funding. I helped build the Bronzeville Military Academy here.”
But she gets no credit — only criticism, she said.
“I did a lot of work while I was in the Senate,” she said. “Having said that, it was the worst six years of my life. The honor of being elected notwithstanding, I served in the Senate at a time when my colleagues included Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Trent Lott, Kit Bond, Conrad Burns.”
Among the battles Braun fought with those old-school Republicans was Helms’ effort to renew a design patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
“It was a very, very hostile atmosphere,” Braun said. “That was not helped by the reception I got at home. What could have been or should have been a time for celebration ... I was met with brickbats and condemnation, none of which were true. To this day I have never been fined, sanctioned, censured.”
Braun resented the coverage of her trips abroad as senator. Lest there be any doubt, she showed photos from the New York Times showing she did attend freshman orientation as a senator, contrary to some false media reports at the time that she was in Nigeria. She resented than and still does now that her personal finances are a focus of media attention.
After balking at discussing the size of her Ambassador Organics company — which has been the subject of coverage over its hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses — Braun revealed it has only three employees.
She passed out samples of her organic tea.
“These are presents — these are not bribes,” she said to laughter.
On other issues:
■ Braun proposed ending the city’s water subsidy for non-profit institutions such as Northwestern Memorial Hospital, saying it would bring in $15 million to the city .
“Northwestern is a very wealthy institution, thank you very much. I think they can pay their water bill,” she said.
■ In a shot at rival Rahm Emanuel, Braun said, “I didn’t just parachute in here with a bag of money and say ‘I’m going to be mayor.’”
■ She said she had hoped to apply $140 million she expected to get from an expected state income tax hike — which she opposes — to plugging the city’s deficit. But she was surprised to learn from the editorial board that the state income tax proposal includes no new “local share” for cities.
“I thought we were getting money from the state but I guess we’re not,” Braun said.
But that will not prompt her to raise property taxes, she said.
“You never say never, but barring something really horrendous, I am committed to no new taxes in the city of Chicago,” she said. “I really come out on the conservative side of these fiscal and financial issues.”
■ Braun opposes the “Performance Counts” school reform bill her rival Rahm Emanuel supports. It would curtail teachers’ right to strike.
“We have to stop scape-goating the teachers,” she said. “I would support working with the teachers union to make sure the unions rules are such that we can get rid of bad teachers more easily.”
Braun has been pushing for such rules since she was a state representative showing then Schools Supt. Ruth Love poorly-written letters from teachers asking for more state money.
“Teachers bombarded us with letters,” Braun said. “I pulled out a whole stack of letters that were illiterate. When Ruth Love came down, I said ‘Ruth, You’ve got to do something about this.’”