One day after an energized Jesus “Chuy” Garcia put him on his heels in their second runoff debate, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to recoup — by saying he is not to blame for Chicago’s $20 billion financial crisis.
“The problems that we have and the challenges we have today weren’t created in the last four years. They were created in the last 30 years,” the mayor said.
“If you’re gonna look back and just attack, don’t just look back for four years. You’ve got to look back all 30 years that created and mounted these problems. But we’re working through ‘em. And by doing the necessary things — being willing to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work — jobs and businesses are coming back to Chicago. If all you do is run up the red ink again, those jobs and businesses are going to flee the city of Chicago.”
How does Emanuel feel about Garcia telling him during the debate that he’s mayor of Chicago — not “king” of the city?
“Attacks on me are an attempt to mask [the lack] of an agenda to move the city forward,” Emanuel said.
“I’ve laid out a specific agenda — not run away from problems, but take ‘em head-on so we can build a great city. Not having an agenda — let alone also a commission you’re gonna name after the election — not tell people what tax increases are gonna be on the table, what service cuts are gonna be on or off the table. That is asking people [to vote on] blind faith.”
The 30-year reference is significant. It puts the onus squarely on Richard M. Daley.
Emanuel has spent the last four years undoing virtually everything his predecessor and political mentor did without ever mentioning Daley by name.
By being respectful enough not to name Daley when he criticizes and changes the former mayor’s policies and programs, Emanuel has made it easier for Garcia to turn Emanuel into the bad guy.
He’s allowed Garcia to point the finger at Emanuel for Chicago’s plummeting bond rating, the city’s $20 billion pension crisis, and $300 million operating shortfall and the $10 billion in unfunded pension liabilities at Chicago Public Schools.
The political problem that Emanuel has created for himself by being so respectful of the Daley legacy was on display during Thursday night’s debate.
It happened when Emanuel told Garcia that, “Being mayor requires you to tell your friends, ‘no,’ ” — then asked the challenger to name three things to which he would say ‘no’ to the Service Employees International Union, Garcia’s biggest campaign contributor.
“Rahm. Mr. Rahm. Given the state of affairs you have put the city in — the fiscal free-fall — I’m gonna tell the unions a lot of bad news because the situation is so dire. Who’s going to be upset? Probably the unions who are supporting me now,” Garcia said.
Emanuel’s decision never to utter the word “Daley” hasn’t even worked to preserve his relationship with the former mayor.
Sources said the very fact that Emanuel has undone so many of Daley’s policies has been hurtful to a man who lived, ate, breathed and bled Chicago for 22 years.
The relationship between the two old friends is so strained that, when the former mayor endorsed Emanuel for re-election, he did so by issuing a statement.
Daley, who is recovering from an apparent stroke, would probably have been willing to hold a news conference endorsing Emanuel, but he wasn’t asked, the sources said.