Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Rahm Emanuel Will Be Able to Stay Mayor of Rahmaland for as Long as He Wants

Politico explains:
Last year, Chicago saw 506 murders, more than any other city in the nation. It was a 16 percent increase over the previous year, amounting to a homicide rate almost four times New York’s. During one particularly bloody stretch that summer, all Emanuel could do was beseech his city’s “gang bangers” to “take your stuff to the alley. Don’t touch the children.”

This year, murders in Chicago are down by 21 percent, but that’s been achieved by asking officers in the understaffed Chicago Police Department to work overtime. The department is on pace to spend $100 million in overtime payments, about triple its annual budget. When I was in Chicago earlier this year, one night alone brought 17 shootings and three murders in the city—all of which cast a pall over Emanuel’s visit the next day to a 50,000-square-foot digital startup incubator in the old Chicago Merchandise Mart.

Finally, there are the schools—Emanuel’s biggest headache as mayor. He campaigned on a promise to lengthen Chicago’s school day, but the Chicago Teachers’ Union managed to block his plan. When the issue became a sticking point in last year’s contract negotiations, the educators went on strike, Chicago’s first in a quarter century. It lasted only seven days, and Emanuel got his longer school day. But in exchange, he had made concessions on everything from rehiring fired teachers to scrapping a merit-pay program; he also ended up firing his handpicked school chief.

Things only got worse for Emanuel when his Board of Education this year moved to shutter 50 schools—the largest mass school closure in American history. The board presented the closures as a cost-cutting measure, but then was forced to concede that any savings, plus tens of millions of additional dollars, would be spent preparing existing schools for the influx of new students. The majority of the closed schools were in African-American neighborhoods, which led to a series of racially charged protests. In one, union members and their allies attempted to circle City Hall chanting, “Hey, Rahm, let’s face it, these closings are racist.”

Dealing with all these unfashionable problems has taken its toll. Although black voters were a key part of Emanuel’s winning coalition in 2011—he carried every majority-black ward in the city—a Chicago Tribune poll in May found that 48 percent of African-American voters now disapprove of Emanuel’s job performance, a 15 percent increase from a year earlier.

Not long ago, those numbers might have spelled doom for a Chicago mayor. Daley did everything he could to avoid angering the city’s black voters, remembering how, in his first run for mayor in 1983, a mobilized African-American electorate propelled Chicago’s first, and only, black mayor, Harold Washington, to victory. But Emanuel’s Chicago is a very different city. From 2000 to 2010, the black population decreased more than 17 percent—and Chicago is now more or less evenly split among African-American, Hispanic and white residents. And that’s at a time when Chicago’s downtown added residents (many of them affluent whites) faster than any other urban core in America.

Which is why, despite all of his troubles grappling with a decidedly untrendy set of urban ills, the job of Chicago mayor appears to be Emanuel’s for as long as he wants it.

1 comment:

  1. "...the job of Chicago mayor appears to be Emanuel’s for as long as he wants it."

    Or, until he is tarred and feathered and rode out of town on a rail...