The pomp and circumstance of the inauguration will give way to these tough governing tasks ahead
When Rahm Emanuel is inaugurated as Chicago's mayor Monday, he will confront the toughest job in America: chief executive of a major city. His challenges are stark, though the biggest is missed by most.
If the president raises your taxes, you don't leave the country. If a governor does same, you likely don't split the state. But if a mayor exacts the pain, folks will mull running to the suburbs, partly explaining why the latest census figures show a population loss of 200,000 for Chicago, still the third-largest city in America.
The instant accountability partly explains the difficulty of being mayor -- whether the issue is citizens infuriated at rising costs, cops being shot, armies of kids dropping out of school or potholes not being fixed and snow not plowed. Add a sharply-declining revenue base, awful poverty and segregation and mediocre schools and you can understand why it's easier being, say, a journalist opining about a big city mayor.
Emanuel's troubles are clear:
Money. The city, like others, is in trouble after a robust pre-recession run of big spending, heavy borrowing and rising tax revenues. Some academics argue that it's now one of the five or six most economically influential cities -- in a universe with New York, London, Tokyo, Singapore and Paris. But Mayor Richard M. Daley, who steps aside for Emanuel after a remarkable 22-year run, leaves behind a budget deficit of about $600 million and billions of dollars in underfunded pension liabilities.