Mayor sits pretty for re-election bid
BY LAURA WASHINGTON LauraSWashington@aol.com March 31, 2013 4:56PM
Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel smiles as he greets commuters at a train station Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
Updated: May 2, 2013 6:06AM
The bullhorns blared at Daley Plaza last week, blowing forth with a fierce critique of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It was the battle cry of 2015. Wednesday’s protest of Emanuel’s Chicago Public Schools consolidation plan is the latest play by his disloyal opposition. They are plotting the groundwork for a challenge to Emanuel in the February 2015 mayoral election.
In her typically fiery fashion, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis laid out the campaign platform. She noted that most of the 54 schools on the chopping block have predominantly African-American enrollments.
“Let’s not pretend that when you close schools on the South and West sides, the children affected aren’t black,” she shouted. “Let’s not pretend that’s not racist.”
The opposition’s standard-bearers were there. The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, Ald. Ricardo Munoz, the city’s feistiest community organizers, pastors and union leaders who backed Emanuel’s opponents in 2011. They have been lying in wait, hoping for payback.
It’s very personal. Last fall, the CTU and its allies — a citywide coalition of community organizations, unions and parent groups — attacked Emanuel’s schools agenda, priorities and style.
The historic schools strike was settled, but bitter and unfinished business was left on the negotiating table.
Emanuel says his school-closing plan builds on his pledge to improve educational opportunities and help close a projected $1 billion schools budget gap. The mayor touts his myriad initiatives to aid low-income people of color, including his push to raise $50 million for programs to curb youth violence.
The opposition is not listening. And they are angry about much more than the schools. They are furious about the high jobless rate in the inner city. Despairing over crushing street violence. Seething over the city’s affordable housing shortage. Fearful of the temporary shutdown of the South Side’s branch of the Red Line. Emanuel is not “our” mayor, they say. He is the mayor of the corporate interests, union-busters, the Gold Coast class.
Race is the third rail of Chicago politics. Racial conflict can undo the most savvy politician. Emanuel is a white mayor in a majority minority city. He is sitting, squarely, on that smoking hot rail.
Yet right now, he is sitting pretty.
Emanuel enjoys massive access to corporate deep pockets for his campaign fund, his national political, corporate and philanthropic network, and a direct line to the White House. The opposition has no candidate. No one with the political chops, financial standing and electoral credibility to take him on. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., once the promise of progressives, is headed for prison. Karen Lewis has the passion and name recognition, but she’s a bomb-thrower. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle could be a contender, but she is saying “no.”
I hope I’m wrong. This political junkie loves a good fight.
But from my perch, while the disloyal opposition is coming hard and fast out of the gate, it doesn’t have a runner who can make it to the finish line.