Tag Archives: Rahm Emanuel

Mayor’s Emanuel’s Love for JRW’s Team, Not Neighborhoods

Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly expresse his admiration for the Jackie Robinson West Little League team.

Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly expressed his admiration for the Jackie Robinson West Little League team.

Like Chicagoans across the city, Rahm Emanuel loves the plucky and gritty youngsters from the Jackie Robinson West Little League team.

He tweeted repeatedly about them.

The city hosted a watch party on the Far South Side during which he and the hundreds of others there hung on every pitch.

And, on Wednesday, he’s giving them a parade to celebrate their historic that ended with their being America’s champions.

In a statement about the parade, Emanuel said the following:

“The excitement surrounding these remarkable young people has been palpable in every neighborhood of Chicago, and their spirit, positive attitude and success on the field illustrate why they are the pride of the City. Win or lose, these 13 boys are their coaches are the true champions of Chicago and we look forward to welcoming them home with the fanfare they deserve on Wednesday.”

During their run, commentators across the country noted that the team, which is composed entirely of African-American players, hails from the city’s South and Southwest Sides.

The players live in communities like Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Morgan Park, Chatham and Washington Heights.

Many of these neighborhoods have not received the same love from Emanuel as he has heaped on the young players whose heart, skill and tenacity he has rightly praised.

Take Englewood.

I pulled seven years worth of homicide data compiled meticulously by friend and former colleague Tracy Swartz of RedEye to see how it and the city’s other communities had fared during Emanuel’s 39 months as mayor as compared with the amount of time during his predecessor Richard M. Daley’s tenure.

Not so well, as it turned out.

The neighborhood has had 79 murders under Emanuel, as compared with 58 during Daley’s final 39 months.

That’s the second-highest total in the city and a 36 percent increase under our current leader.

In Washington Heights, murders have gone up from 21 under to Daley to 25 under Emanuel, a 16 percent jump.

By contrast, the total number of murders throughout Chicago was nearly identical under Emanuel and Daley.

That means that those neighborhoods have fared worse under the JRW-loving Emanuel than Chicago’s longest-serving mayor.

After the parade, the young players from the team, like young people throughout the city, will need to go back to school.

Of course, there are fewer of them in their communities.

That’s because the mayor closed 49 schools in 2012 in the largest schools closing in American history. Some of the zip codes where the youngsters live were among the hardest hit by both the actual shuttering of the school and the build up to that final decision.

The latter is an important point.

I was working for Hoy Chicago in the spring of 2012, the time when the school board, which serves under Emanuel, was deciding the schools’ fates.

I visited parents from the William Penn Elementary School in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

The strain of the potential closure on the parents, educators and students was evident. In the end, Penn was spared, but the emotional toll it had taken was real.

In a couple of years, when they are old enough, the players from Jackie Robinson West can apply to go to high school at the Barack Obama College Preparatory High School.

The school is likely to be named after our forty-fourth president, who has deep ties to the city’s South Side.

Of course, if they are able to gain admission, something that’s happened less and less for black and Latino students during Emanuel’s tenure, they will have to travel to the North Side.

That’s because Emanuel has proposed that the new school be located near the area left vacant since the Cabrini-Green housing development was closed during Daley’s time as mayor.

It’s actions like these and others have caused many in the very neighborhoods that helped propel Emanuel to victory in 2011 to question how much he cares about them and the their communities.

I asked Emanuel about this last year during a 10-minute interview he granted Hoy Chicago.

As you can see, he responded by laughing and by talking about his actions during the teachers’ strike that shot Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis to national prominence.

“I know what we have to do,” he said.

Others are not so sure.

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wrote recently about the “anyone but Rahm” vibe that is building in Chicago, and Lewis has all but declared her intention to take on the incumbent.

If it materializes, the contest will be an interesting one.

Lewis and Emanuel’s distaste for each other, at least in the past, has been well-chronicled.

The mayor once swore at Lewis, while she has called him a liar and a bully.

Also interesting to watch will be whether Emanuel treats his potential opponent the same way during his re-election campaign as he has many of the neighborhoods that have produced the young baseball players who stole the nation’s heart and who the mayor so openly admires.


Dr. Transparent and Mayor Rahm: On Open Government in Chicago

I still remember reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the first time.

Having absorbed a general awareness of the novella’s contents through watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, I was surprised to read about how decent and respectable the London doctor was.

Hyde’s vicious behavior was a vivid memory, though.

The image of the Scottish author’s work came to me recently when thinking about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s actions in the area of transparency.

As has been well chronicled, Emanuel campaigned on a pledge to create “the most open, accountable, and transparent government that the City of Chicago has ever seen.”

Even his most ardent critics would concede that he has delivered on some part of that promise.

Since establishing a data portal last year, the Emanuel administration has placed more than 700 different datasets on line.

These range from everything from lottery expenditures by zip code to information about lobbyists to city employee salary information.

This certainly is unprecedented, and, it’s just the beginning, according to Chief Technology Officer John Tolva.  In a recent blog post, he said the city plans to use data to create a bunch of applications to help citizens.

On Tuesday, the city launched chicagoshovels.org, a series of apps that will help residents know where snow plows are in real time as well as to ask for, and receive, help shoveling out from under during serious snow conditions.

Rebecca Rosen wrote approvingly in The Atlantic Mobile,

Chicago’s online effort is a reminder of the kind of work and logistical coordination that is the bread and butter of city government. And while opening up spreadsheets of data may not be dramatic, the effects of Chicago’s initiatives will improve the city’s services in two real and important ways. First, it’s easy to see how a site like chicagoshovels.org will be just plain useful when a snowstorm hits. Residents will use it to see which streets are plowed and plan their days. They’ll coordinate with their neighbors and help out those who aren’t up for shoveling. Second, and no less important, opening up data will have an effect on those in government too, who know that those snowplows better be fairly distributed around the city, because the data will show it if they aren’t.

But this isn’t all.

Tolva said the city will also use data to provide the basis for computer developers to create applications, predict what services are needed in which parts of the city and, eventually, to create a unified body of data that can be accessed about all parts of the city.

Sounds decent, respectable, and even progressive, right?

But if this is Emanuel’s Jekyll side on transparency, he’s also got a Hyde side.

Consider the following.

On November 8 David Kidwell of the Chicago Tribune wrote that “efforts to peer into the daily operations of the mayor himself — a man with enormous say over hundreds of millions of dollars in city contracts, hiring and regulations — are met by a stone wall.”

On November 30, Kidwell wrote the following:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has denied requests for public records that might shed light on his decisions to raise vehicle fees and water rates and to legalize speeding camera tickets that could hit drivers with $100 fines.

It’s the latest in a pattern of records denials from the mayor, who proclaimed a new commitment to transparency at City Hall under his leadership.

In the first of a two-part series about transparency for the Chicago Reader, Mick Dumke said:

On the other hand, the mayor isn’t interested in sharing plenty of other information, such as the records of whom he’s sweet-talking and who’s sweet-talking him. And he’s very open about the fact that he doesn’t give a shit what we think about it.

For her part, Megan Cottrell cited a Chicago News Cooperative story in pointing out that some of the employees responsible for responding to reporters may have their positions cut.  She concluded plaintively:

And now, they’re cutting the people who routinely tell us no anyway. Maybe that would save taxpayers some cash and us reporters some frustration? But I, for one, liked pretending that my job wasn’t entirely futile.”

These Hyde-like denials and potential cuts fly directly in the face of Emanuel’s pledge and other actions.

The question of course is which side will win.

We know how things turned out in Stevenson’s novel.

We’ll watch to see what happens here in Chicago under Mayor Rahm.

Race in The Good Wife, Harold Washington and Rahm Emanuel

Dunreith and I spend most Wednesday evenings watching CBS’ hit drama, The Good Wife.

Julianna Margulies, who rose to stardom in the early years of ER, where she played George Clooney’s paramour and later appeared often in The Sopranos, is the protagonist  Alicia Florrick, a Georgetown-educated lawyer who is married to Peter, played by Chris Noth, Carrie Bradshaw’s Mr. Big on television and the big screen.

In a plot line that closely resembled Elliot Spitzer’s downfall, the show opens with Noth, the Cook County State’s Attorney, being stripped of his office and going to prison after being caught sleeping with prostitutes.

One of the major strands of the second is Noth’s quest for political redemption as he seeks to regain the office he once held.

The campaign is coming down to its final weeks, and Florrick, after trailing for most of the race, finds himself neck and neck with a black woman for the lead.

The Democratic Council leader urges him to get the suburban soccer moms and blue collar workers-enter here white people-to get him over the top.

Florrick’s campaign manager Eli Gold-maybe it’s just me, and a number of these conniving characters seem to be Jewish-agrees with the strategy, and has the black faces removed from Florrick’s campaign web site, inserted language about bringing back the old Chicago, and cancelled  his spiritual counseling sessions with Paster Isaiah, played by one of several alums from MacArthur Award Winner David Simon’s The Wire.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s happened before.

It’s been close to 30 years since Republican Bernard Epton nearly won one of the most bitterly contested mayoral races in one of the nation’s most Democratic cities against then U.S. Rep. Harold Washington.

Overt racial animosity permeated the race, which saw Washington, whose campaign was spearheaded by a young David Axelrod, narrowly defeat the Republican opponent and usher in the era comedian Aaron Freeman called “The Council Wars.”

Of all the books that I’ve read about Washington, Gary Rivlin’s Fire on the Prairie captures in most compelling fashion the energy and excitement triggered by Washington’s campaign and ultimate victory.

One of the people Washington defeated was a far younger Richard M. Daley, who, as anyone living within 2,000 miles of Chicago knows, will be leaving his post in May after having served a record 22 years-a figure that surpassed his father’s tenure last year.

Rahm Emanuel is Daley’s successor, and, despite predictions to the contrary, he trounced the other candidates not only in predominantly white wards, but in black ones as well.

Friend and ace blogger Megan Cottrell wrote about trend for The Chicago Reporter, as did a number of other writers around town.

Some heralded it as an example of Chicago’s moving past its old racial divisions, while others were less swift to proclaim the end of race mattering in the city, chalking Emanuel’s margins in black communities up in large part to the poor quality of his black opponents.

As a candidate seeking a second act, Peter Florrick’s future is less certain, though it’s hard to imagine the show ending differently.  In the meantime, people of all racial backgrounds continue to grapple with what W.E.B. DuBois called the problem of the 20th century that still has some legs in this one, too.

Matt Bai Breaks Down the Democrats’ Rebuilding


Matt Bai chronicles the Democrats' return to political dominance in The Argument.

Matt Bai chronicles the Democrats’ return to political dominance in The Argument.

Life is good for the Democratic Party these days.

In firm control of all three branches of government for the first time in more than a generation, the Democrats have seen their ranks swell with the recent defection of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Specter’s switch gave the Democrats a near filibuster-proof majority of 59 senators – something that may come in handy during the upcoming nomination process of Sonia Sotomayor, whom President Barack Obama recently put forward to be the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice and the first Latina in the nation’s history to serve on the court.

The Democrats have had a string of successes since Obama’s inauguration in January, overseeing the passage of a $787 billion stimulus plan, starting to implement a withdrawal time line and process for the war in Iraq and moving both to close Guantanamo prison camp and repudiating the Bush Administration’s interrogation policies that many described as torture.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are struggling.  Mightily.

Each week seems to bring new headlines that suggest a party in disarray,  with an unclear voice, hierarchy or direction.  One week it’s Rush Limbaugh saying that Colin Powell is not actually a Republican. Another it’s Meghan McCain, daughter of the defeated presidential candidate, slamming conservative pundit Ann Coulter.

In this climate, it can be easy to forget that the political scene was completely reversed less than five years ago.

After Bush soundly defeated John Kerry in the November 2004 presidential election, the Democrats seemed to some to be poised on the brink of irrelevance, or, even worse, obscurity.  Bush’s victory,  which gave him the opportunity to later appoint two Supreme Court justices, was the seventh by a Republican in the previous 10 presidential contests.  Continued majorities in both the House and Senate accompanied his triumph.  

New York Times Magazine political reporter Matt Bai remembers this dry period in the Democrats’ history.

He traces the party’s path back from the political netherlands to reclaiming the House, the Senate and the majority of governorships, in The Argument: Inside the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics.

The road to political redemption was a twisted one, with many engaging characters and twists along the way.

Bai begins the book with Kerry’s crushing, and apparently surprising, defeat in 2004. (I had had a strong feeling about the race’s outcome from the point that he did not respond forcefully to the Swift Boat attacks in August and thus I did not share the surprise of some of the sources Bai interviewed.  If anything, Kerry’s lack of response reminded me strongly of Michael Dukakis‘ failure to counter the Lee Atwater-conceived Willie Horton ads that had such a devastating effect on his candidacy.)

From the loss, Bai moves to explore the different level of change in party operation and vision that Democratic strategists and members felt were necessary.  Democracy Alliance founder Rob Steinn is shown as playing a key role in raising party awareness about the degree of organization the Republicans had fostered, thereby helping people understand what Democrats confronted. 

Bai spends a lot of time in the book talking about the ascending role of technology – a development that led to the surprisingly successful candidacy of Howard Dean and his later selection as party chairman, the emerging power of organizations like Eli Pariser’s MoveOn.org and the potency of bloggers like Markos Zuniga, creator of the wildly popular DailyKos.

Technology also is a lense through which one sees some of the major conflicts between, on the one hand, the 1990s Clinton-era establishment, which modernized and moved the party toward the political center and fashioned two presidential victories by traditional methods of fundraising and politicking, and, on the other hand, the more progressive and technologically-oriented new guard embodied by Zuniga and Pariser.

The resulting conflicts are often messy.

Bai describes one party gathering where the former president lost his temper when questioned about his wife Hillary’s vote to go to war in Iraq  and proceeded to rant about all kinds of right-leaning policies and directions he said were ascribed to him.  Bai also shows the ongoing and occasionally public struggles between current White House majordomo Rahm Emanuel and the then party chairman about Dean’s 50-state strategy – an approach which Emanuel felt diverted valuable resources from battleground states. 

In the end, the Democrats swept to victory. Each of the groups and people listed above and a host of others could claim some share of the triumph, if not the spoils. 

The inside argument about remaking Democratic politics is less clearly answered.  Bai ends the book with a lion in winter-like address from former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who reminds the exultant Democrats that, despite their smashing electoral victories, they still “have no big idea.” 

The Argument has a number of the strengths and weaknesses that characterize much of Bai’s work that appears in The New York Times magazine.  His intelligence, writing skills and thorough reporting are apparent throughout the work; and yet one often leaves his pieces, and, in this case, the book, feeling like she has not actually learned much new or different.

The Democrats’ need to articulate a vision greater than “We are not the Republicans” has been known for a long time, for example. So, too, has the Republicans’ superior ground level organizational capacity, forged during the late 70s and 80s by people like Richard Viguerie, strategist Grover Norquist and strengthened in the 90s by Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed.  Bai’s explanation of the rise of blogging is engaging but not particularly informative to the tens of millions of people who have clicked onto DailyKos during the past decade.

Bai does not explore the mixed legacy of the Clinton presidency as fully as he could, and Ned Lamont’s primary victory over Joe Lieberman, which Bai seems to herald as the triumph of the new way, seems a bit hollow given Lieberman’s ultimate triumph.  

One gets the sense while reading The Argument that Bai is writing for those people who were among Rob Stein’s target audience – Democrats who did not get why their party was being consistently clobbered in elections, yet did not think that drastic action or rethinking needed to be taken to stop the slide.  

Which brings us back to Obama and the Democrats’ current strong position. 

Obama appears in The Argument as a skilled writer who unsurprisingly adopts a both/and position toward traditional party stalwarts and the emerging online progressive movement.  He contributes a spirited articulation of his position in a lengthy blog post which urges people not to demonize Republicans, affirms the establishment’s importance and uses available technology to share his views.  

Written during the throes of Obama and Clinton’s fight for the Democratic nomination, the afterword includes the following somewhat prescient thought:

“Should Obama win the nomination, though, and perhaps even the White House, he will face a choice where the powerful progressives in his party are concerned: whether to attempt, through the power of his personality and argument, to lead the new movement away from the limited politics of hostility and toward some modern vision of liberalism, or whether to become, like so many political leaders before him, a reflection of the movement he inherits.  If Obama can’t change the trajectory of the new progressive movement, then the movement will very likely change him.”

Obama has not been president long enough to definitively answer the questions Bai or Cuomo pose, and the answers to those questions may go a long way toward predicting whether his victory is a blip on the screen of Republican dominance or augurs a new era in liberal thinking.

For posing those questions, and for providing an enjoyable read along the way, Bai deserves credit, even if The Argument does have a number of flaws.