For as long as he sticks around, I feel it my duty to pop up now and again to remind Chicago – and the nation – that Rahm Emanuel is an atrocious mayor who needs to be shown the exit door. Unfortunately, there’s an endless conveyor belt of evidence pointing to this conclusion.
I was no fan of Emanuel’s predecessor, Richard M. Daley, who introduced many of the corrupt gentrification tactics that Rahm has adopted in his own approach to governing the country’s third largest city. But 2016 is nothing if not perverse in its unrelenting ability to force recent historical revisions (“I guess George W. Bush wasn’t as terrible as Trump. He specifically said Islam is not our enemy.” “Perhaps the Daley Machine was preferable to Rahm’s systematic destruction of the Chicago Public School system.”)
In the mid-1980s my parents, then a nurse and a low-level computer programmer, bought a bungalow on the Northwest side of the city. A solidly middle-class clan has few such opportunities in 21st Century Chicago. Not with the median price of a single-family home sitting at nearly a quarter of a million dollars, up almost five percent year over year. Certainly Rahm Emanuel does not bear the sole blame for a trend three decades in the making, but he’s earned the nickname “Mayor 1 Percent” with good reason.
A year and half ago, prior to winning his second term in a tense runoff election against challenger Chuy Garcia, and a lifetime before the Laquan McDonald scandal shredded whatever was left of Rahm’s credibility, the word was out. Longtime Emanuel critic and writer Ben Joravsky of the Reader accurately brands the mayor, “a tool of rich guys who doesn’t give a shit about ordinary Chicagoans.” That perception very nearly cost him City Hall, and there are those (count me one) who still believe the untested preferable to the cynically entrenched.
Because the reality is that Emanuel’s conversion of the city I love into a playground for the ultra-rich is destroying lives and alienating residents. The Windy City may not remain the nation’s third largest for much longer. In May the Chicago Tribune’s Marwa Eltagouri reported:
“Chicago, the only city among the nation’s 20 largest to see population loss in 2015, could be overtaken in a decade by Houston as the third-most-populous city if the trend continues.”
What’s driving this decline? Eltagouri continued:
“The Tribune in March surveyed dozens of former residents who’ve left within the last five years, and each offered a list of reasons for leaving: high taxes, the state budget stalemate, crime, the unemployment rate and the weather.
Black residents have been among those calling it quits on their hometown. Propelling black flight is the search for safe neighborhoods and prosperity, with many African-Americans heading to the suburbs and warm-weather states.”
It’s the last paragraph in particular that should force Rahm’s ouster. His neglect (and more) of the city’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods and institutions is particularly shameful. Just this month, more than 100 people were shot in a single week. There are now over 2,500 shooting victims in 2016 — 800 above the same period in 2015. It should come as little surprise that the majority of the injured and killed are black. If Rahm’s well-heeled, Caucasian Loop residents were enduring the same level of warfare, no doubt the situation would be elevated to an immediate crisis demanding real action.
Instead as the Tribune reports, “the Police Department has blamed [the surge] on lax gun laws and feuding gang factions.” What the hell is new about that? Stop passing the buck. It’s a certainty that the Mayor’s years of shrugging even as he continues to chip away at the city’s educational and social resources are contributing to a violent explosion. People are desperate. Rahm Emanuel has destroyed the confidence of those he governs and a Lord of the Flies mindset is a natural result.
When the Mayor deems Gang Threats Against Police ‘Absolutely Unacceptable,’ he’s perfectly right of course. But the mob vengeance mentality against the CPD did not germinate in a vacuum. What he calls “a continuing dialogue on police reform,” is necessary because Emanuel’s office has a persistent problem – routine evidence of black citizens losing their lives to police officers under circumstances questionable at best.
At this point we’re stuck with Rahm until early 2019. Consideration of a recall bill has been stalled since January, and the Mayor has deflected numerous calls for his resignation. However, we are the same city that shut down a Trump rally, the town that rebuilt itself as a world-class destination after a devastating fire. We reversed the flow of the Chicago River. We are more than capable of coming together to remove the cancer in City Hall. So let’s do it. #FireRahm