Emanuel could learn lessons from Preckwinkle to fix image problem

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What would Toni do?

That’s Toni as in Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president who polls wildly better than Mayor Rahm Emanuel but says she will not run against him in 2015.

No longer needing to differentiate himself from his more popular counterpart, Emanuel is now free to follow her lead to soften his image problems.

And what better way for his political advisers to keep that in mind than by asking themselves: What would Toni do?

On Tuesday, Emanuel did what Preckwinkle would have done — and already has — by asking the state Legislature to soften penalties for low-level drug offenses.

The initiative wasn’t exactly a reversal for the mayor. He’d previously helped enact — partly at Preckwinkle’s urging — a city ordinance allowing police to give tickets to individuals caught with small amounts of marijuana instead of arresting them.

But Emanuel certainly moved outside his usual law-and-order comfort zone by throwing his verbal support behind a proposal to reduce possession of one gram or less of any controlled substance from a felony to a misdemeanor.

That would apply to what we used to call “hard” drugs like heroin and cocaine, which still makes it a difficult sell in most political circles, even though more conservative states than Illinois have already headed in that direction in recognition that drug users need not be treated as dangerous criminals.


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