President Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a pretty good post-Washington career, unless you ask the people of Chicago. On the national stage Emanuel is known for being a blunt, tough taking guy shepherding his city into prosperity. But as Politico notes, that image is at odds with the actual Mayor of Chicago, a man who might lose his re-election because he's alienated black voters.
Emanuel's Washington connections have been sticking up for the mayor. James Carville, who worked with him under Bill Clinton, said people "have a lot of faith in Rahm." Former Obama advisor David Axelrod called him "a good mayor" in a piece in response to a Chicago Tribune op-ed that called him “an elitist whose swagger doesn’t match his triumphs.” That elitist, pro-wealth, insider label is sticking though. Alderman Bob Fioretti told Politico Emanuel has a "a top-down philosophy of not listening to what the communities say." These are the major issues hurting Emanuel's popularity, not all of which are his fault:
Closing black schools, funding white schools
According to a Chicago Sun-Times poll, Emanuel would only win 8 percent of the black vote if the election were held now. A lot of that has to do with the way his education reform policies have alienated black voters.
In 2013 Chicago Public Schools closed 53 schools in mostly black neighborhoods. As the left-leaning Nation explained, those against the closings cited the danger students faced in attending schools far away, especially when crossing gang lines, the disruption to their communities, and the 'stupid kid' stereotype new students from closed schools experience. Also, the closings were pretty discriminatory. “I don’t see any Caucasians being moved, bussed, or murdered in the streets as they travel along gang lines, or stand on the steps of a CPS school,” said one activist, according to CBS Chicago. Meanwhile the city has been investing in charter schools in wealthy, mostly white neighborhoods.
Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teacher's Union, called the closings racist and classist, and called Emanuel the Murder Mayor. “He’s murdering schools, he’s murdering good jobs. He’s murdering housing. I don’t know what else to call him. He’s the murder mayor.” A year earlier, according to Lewis, Emanuel said, "Fuck you, Lewis" during a private meeting over a new contract. He doesn't deny it.
The city's looming pension problem
Not all of the city's problem's are Emanuel's fault. Two of the city's four pension funds are underfunded, but Emanuel drafted a bill that would raise employee contributions, cut benefits, and raise property taxes to cover the deficit, writes the Sun-Times. People won't like it, but it's better than the alternatives experienced in Stockton and Detroit.
The problem is the governor of Illinois won't sign the bill. As Politico explains, Gov. Pat Quinn is running for re-election and Emanuel is friends with Quinn's Republican opponent. The governor also doesn't want to be blamed for the tax hike.
Chicago's high murder rate
Emanuel is associated with the high murder rate, which ticked up after he took office, and his response has been to push for stricter gun laws. After a federal court ended the city's ban on gun sales, he proposed restrictions that would video all gun sales and limit gun purchases to one a month per person, according to the Los Angeles Times. The rules are so strict they'll essentially keep the gun ban in place, and even supporters of the new rules expect they'll be challenged in court.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.