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Brown: Rauner puts on a show for City Council

Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, shakes the hand of Mayor Rahm Emanuel before Rauner's address to the City Council on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. | AP Photo

It’s been several hours now since I listened to Gov. Bruce Rauner deliver his unprecedented speech to the City Council, and I’m still trying to figure out why he was there.

He certainly wasn’t there to enlist the support of Chicago aldermen, who will have almost no influence on what he hopes to accomplish in Springfield. And to the extent they do, they would never have found his approach persuasive.

OPINION

The best I can come up with is that it was all a big show intended to further the legend of the gutsy new Republican governor who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, even if it requires a visit to that sinister lair of Chicago Democrats.

As if to prove the point, Rauner told his audience that a friend had asked him beforehand whether he felt like Daniel going into the lion’s den.

“I said, ‘No. Daniel had much better odds,’ ” the governor joked.

Sorry, I don’t find it an apt description.

The lions of the City Council? Not hardly.

A wolves’ den, at best, and most of them toothless and declawed.

The aldermen did their best to work up a good growl before Rauner’s appearance to indicate their displeasure with his anti-union “empowerment zone” proposal, but Rauner was not around to listen to what they had to say and wouldn’t have been interested if he had.

Even before the lion’s den joke, Rauner asked for a show of hands of Republicans in the Council chambers, making sure everyone knew it wasn’t just the 50 Democratic aldermen who were against him, but practically the entire room.

In principle, the idea of the governor of Illinois trying to open a dialogue with the Chicago City Council is to be commended.

I’m sure most Chicagoans — Democrat or Republican — would give Rauner credit for his willingness to step into the arena and say what’s on his mind while knowing that most of the people hearing him will disagree.

But this was not a visit from someone looking for common ground, but instead to politely deliver his my-way-or-the-highway message.

If Rauner was really looking to enlist members of the City Council as “partners,” he could have waited another two weeks for new aldermen to be sworn in instead of addressing 13 individuals who will soon have no power.

Rauner said Illinois doesn’t have the money to “simply bail out Chicago.”

Did you ask for a bailout? I didn’t hear anybody ask for a bailout.

Is Mayor Rahm Emanuel asking for a bailout?

I don’t think so, although I’ll admit his continued harping about the “double taxation” of Chicago residents for teachers pensions might seem that way.

Is allowing Chicago to conduct casino gambling a bailout when the revenue it would produce could prove as beneficial to state government as to the city?

The most irritating line in Rauner’s 15-minute speech was the one designed to get the most attention: “For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs.”

The plain implication was that Chicago’s legislative agenda was less important, amounting to mere “wants,” while Rauner’s agenda is what the state “needs.”

Obviously, there are always tradeoffs in politics, and for Chicago to get what it needs the mayor and Democratic legislators will need to make accommodations to what the rest of the state needs.

Rauner’s staff later distributed a list of the governor’s top priorities for what the state needs, topped by term limits, a property tax freeze and his empowerment zones.

He’s welcome to his term limits, as far as I’m concerned, but I honestly think he wants it all.

Rauner spoke to the City Council in what reader Rich Rzadzki of Portage Park calls his Dusty Springfield mode. That’s where he drops his G’s.

You remember Dusty singing: “Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’.” Only Rauner was willin’ and askin’ and turnin’ and chokin’.

As Dusty says: Just do it, and after you do, you will be his.