U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush blasts Garcia’s attempt to resurrect black-Hispanic coalition

SHARE U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush blasts Garcia’s attempt to resurrect black-Hispanic coalition
SHARE U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush blasts Garcia’s attempt to resurrect black-Hispanic coalition

Mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s attempt to resurrect the black-Hispanic coalition that elected Harold Washington has “cheapened” the legacy of Chicago’s first black mayor, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said Friday.

In calling out Garcia, Rush tiptoed around the historic tension between blacks and Hispanics that has forced the two groups to compete against each other for jobs and contracts while immigration reform has leapfrogged over the issue of economic fairness.

“A coalition is not just an apparatus for an election. A coalition is long-term. It’s a two-way street. A coalition has to be alive on other issues other than just, `Elect me to a position,’ ” said Rush, who has endorsed Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the April 7 runoff.

Rush said Harold Washington died in 1987 and his multiracial coalition died with him.

“I ran for mayor. There was no Harold Washington coalition. Danny Davis ran for mayor. There was no Harold Washington coalition. To try to resurrect the Harold Washington coalition after all of these years . . . is unfair. Frankly, those of us who are part of the legacy of Harold Washington, we’re resentful. . . . What I basically resent is the fact that it’s being cheapened to a certain extent,” the congressman said.

Garcia dismissed Rush’s charge.

“Bobby Rush is a good man. I’ve worked with him on many issues. He’s got a different candidate in the race,” Garcia said.

Rush and Garcia served together as aldermen after special aldermanic elections in four wards, including Garcia’s 22nd Ward, ended Council Wars and gave Washington control over the City Council.

The two former aldermen are on opposite sides in the April 7 runoff.

Last month, Rush endorsed Emanuel, even after condemning Emanuel’s 50 school closings, the insider-deal appointment of City Treasurer Kurt Summers and after deploring violence, discrimination and disinvestment in inner-city neighborhoods in a speech on the U.S. House floor.

On Friday, Rush argued that being forced into Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff has humbled and changed Emanuel and the top-down management style that has alienated voters.

“I’ve seen real progress in this mayor over this last campaign. He’s more open to input and more open to looking at everybody’s point of view. The man is very reasonable,” Rush said.

Rush offered his political assessment after joining Emanuel at a South Side CTA bus garage to announce the expansion of a program near and dear to the congressman’s heart: a Second Chance program that provides job training and career opportunities for ex-offenders.

Starting next month, the program that has already graduated 500 ex-offenders and hired 113 of them at the CTA will offer training in what CTA President Forrest Claypool calls a “high-demand” job: diesel mechanics.

“Transit agencies across the country, including the CTA, are experiencing a shortage of mechanics and demand is expected to grow in the next decade,” Claypool said.

Emanuel said not a day goes by when he isn’t approached by a man or woman recently released from prison looking to start over.

“If you do not want an ex-offender to be a repeat offender, you need to have a job. It’s that simple,” the mayor said.

The expanded training gave Emanuel another chance to appeal to African-American voters who have been alienated by his 50 school closings and are expected to decide the April 7 runoff.

He talked about the black contractors who helped rebuild the Red Line South and about the bill he championed in Springfield to automatically expunge minor offenses from the records of 16,000 juvenile offenders.

“That means they can apply for college aid. They can go on with their lives. They’re no longer carrying a scarlet letter. In the past, that would be on their record, and we know how many doors got shut,” the mayor said.

The most convincing sales pitch for the Second Chance program was delivered by 31-year-old ex-offender Jakeshia Beals, a rail car service coordinator for the CTA.

Beals joined the CTA as an apprentice in 2012. She was subsequently offered a permanent job and promoted to a management position, earning the respect she never had before from her 15-year-old daughter.

“I could remember her not wanting me to come up to the school. Now, it’s like, `Oh, my mom. Oh, my mom. Oh, my mom. My mom works for the CTA. My mom does this. My mom’s just awesome,’ ” Beals said.

After rising above a 2004 felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, Beals said she is determined to remain at the CTA until she retires.

She was moved to tears as she talked about how she “took that second chance and ran with it” while serving as an inspiration to the ex-offenders she now oversees.

“I stood in those same shoes. I cleaned the same buses. I cleaned the same rail cars,” Beals said.

“This road has not been smooth. But I’m destined for greatness and I owe that to the CTA apprentice program, the extension of this program. I know the struggles of everyone. If I can make it, I know those people standing behind me with those vests on — they can make it, too.”

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