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Braun, Chico rip Emanuel’s letter on city pensions

Rahm Emanuel | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Rahm Emanuel | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 26, 2011 6:15AM

A tag team of mayoral candidates blasted Rahm Emanuel on Thursday for sending to Chicago households a letter tailor-made to reassure city employees that he will not seek to reduce their pensions.

City workers have questioned how Emanuel got their home addresses. But Emanuel spokesman Ben LaBolt said the letter — in a blank white envelope with no return address and a postage stamp — was sent to “households across the city.”

A television reporter who lives in Beverly — a Southwest Side neighborhood that’s home to scores of police officers, firefighters and other city workers — said his son got one of the letters even though he has never worked for the city.

But that didn’t stop Carol Moseley Braun from going on the warpath.

Braun demanded that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald investigate whether Emanuel violated federal law by obtaining a list of city employees — which LaBolt has denied. She further demanded that Mayor Daley disclose “who in city government” released information that’s supposed to be proprietary.

The mayor told reporters, “I don’t know anything about it.” But Braun stood her ground, calling it a “throwback to the bad old days” in Chicago.

“This is voter intimidation and intimidation of city workers,” she said.

“A personal letter … was sent to the homes of city employees, essentially telling them that ‘We know who you are, and we know how to reach out to you and we want to talk to you about your benefits.’ Well, the point is that’s illegal.”

She offered no proof of the illegality.

Gery Chico was less concerned about the tactics Emanuel used to obtain the addresses and more concerned about the letter’s contents.

In it, Emanuel wrote, “My goal is to protect the retirement of our workers. If you’ve paid into the system, your contribution must be honored and I will fight to guarantee those benefits as promised. It would be wrong to take away benefits that hard-working city workers have earned.”

“These are not hard truths from Rahm Emanuel, as he likes to advertise on television. These are plain old cynical lies. ... This guy is shameless,” Chico said.

“When he needs donations and editorial board endorsements, he talks tough about slashing existing pensions. … Now, just days before an election as our campaign is surging, he makes a desperate and dishonest plea to those same city workers.”

Tom Ryan, president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 that has endorsed Chico, said the point is “not really about how or if Rahm got these addresses in an under-handed way,” but the fact that public pensions should “never be used as a political football.”

“That Rahm feels as though he needs to clarify that the benefits for retired city workers won’t be cut is really sad. Why would this ever even be considered?” Ryan said.

“It would be immoral to tell someone, ‘Thanks for all the years of public service. I know we promised you this. But, sorry, we’re broke. So, you’re out of luck.’ The bottom line is that politicians dug us into this hole — not the unions.”

To Braun, the issue is how Emanuel got the names and home addresses. She believes it’s part of a pattern of favoritism to the candidate with the closest ties to Mayor Daley. Emanuel also gained access to secured areas of O’Hare Airport so he could thank city workers during the blizzard earlier this month.

“I call upon [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano to look at how he was afforded that kind of access to that airport, how it was he was allowed to go into secure space and whether or not that was a violation of federal law,” Braun said.

Responded LaBolt: “During the blizzard, in addition to helping Chicagoans dig out, Rahm visited workers around the city who were assisting with the response. He was invited by the workers at O’Hare to visit during a shift change, and he brought them donuts and coffee. According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, this was completely appropriate and anyone can be escorted onto the grounds if they are accompanied by a worker with identification.”

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