Thursday, February 26

Rahm Emanuel and what the mayoral race means

Actually, I don't know what the mayoral race means. Not really. But I do find some of the implications interesting and it's fun to watch the pundits pile on as though they really know what's going on.

What we do know is this: Mayor Emanuel did not get the margin of votes he needed to escape a run-off. So now he and former Senator and current Cook County commissioner "Chuy" Garcia go head-to-head. Did the other three candidates siphon off enough votes to make sure Emanuel didn't get the votes he needed? Maybe. Or those votes could have tipped more in Garcia's favor. Meh. We'll never know. Move on.

First, Mr. Garcia needs some help with his on-TV and on-stage presence. He has yet to look comfortable there. In my uninformed opinion, Mr. Garcia got as many votes he did because people were voting against Mr. Emanuel.

As for Mr. Garcia, well, no one seems to be sure what he stands for or how he would make Chicago work more efficiently or effectively if elected mayor. He has the endorsement of Karen Lewis, CTU president. Anyone who knows anything about Chicagoland politics knows that Ms. Lewis was planning to run for mayor but was sidelined with a brain tumor. Even so, she remains a force to be reckoned with and clearly has the ear of Mr. Garcia. Just sayin'.

On the other hand, Garcia is well-known among the Latino population and is viewed with admiration and respect. Cook County commissioners have not always been known for their honesty and integrity, so that he is an exception to that rule is good. However, he has to be realistic about the deep financial problems of Chicago and he has to be realistic about solutions, none of which will be popular and all of which will be hard.

I'm concerned there are any points of reference about personality in the mayoral race. This isn't or shouldn't be a popularity contest, and no one should be surprised by Mr. Emanuel's personality. We saw him in action in the White House and we've seen him in action as mayor.

I've read a lot of the articles analyzing the differences between Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Garcia. Nothing new there. The question is who can get the job done? Who can step up to all of the hard problems; make the hard and unpopular decisions; address or ignore the sniping from all sides, especially the special interest groups; and still keep focus on the job that needs to be done?

We know that last year's school closings are still a big issue in Chicago. We also know that plenty of the current schools are still struggling. We know that solving the problems of education is not an easy one even if we don't talk about pensions and union contracts.

No one wants to experience cuts. No one likes austerity; just ask the Greeks. But we cannot expect "the government"--city, state, or federal--to pay when "the government" has no money. Why? Because "the government" is us: the taxpayers. If we can't afford it, we can't have it. It doesn't matter if we think we deserve whatever "it" is.

I have to wonder if some of the folks who voted against Mr. Emanuel did so because he is not Mayor Daley because they are remembering the Mayor Daley who did so much good for the city and the county. That same Mayor Daley who did not address some of the hard problems and added a few new ones to the mix.

Somehow, I think, Mayor Emanuel has to convince voters that he is the guy who can step up to the hard problems, who can weather all the criticism any mayor is going to get, but who is going to focus on the tasks at hand. . .and that he is and can be a nice guy who is more than his reputation with the 1-percenters and his friendship with Governor Rauner.

I think Mayor Emanuel and Governor Rauner are uniquely suited to these troubled times in the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago. I think they have to be coaches, though. They have to help Chicago and Illinois realize that we are well below .500 in our conference and that we don't have a chance at a winning season unless we make some hard choices.

Maybe I do know what this race means. I don't know much about Mr. Garcia except what I've seen and heard in his campaign ads and read about it. In my opinion, not a lot of substance. I'm not sure Mr. Garcia can help move Chicago out of its malaise. I think Mr. Garcia could be a useful buffer for Mr. Emanuel to try to repair or moderate Mr. Emanuel's relationship with Ms. Lewis who seems mostly pissed off that Mr. Emanuel did not approach her for her counsel on school-related issues.

In the long run, I think this race is an indicator of whether or not Chicago can and will survive and thrive. We'll see what the people of Chicago believe, but actions after April 7th will be far more important than the words between now and then.

No comments: