Laura Washington: No obviously better alternative to Rahm

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SHARE Laura Washington: No obviously better alternative to Rahm

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Are voters willing to play 52 card pickup with the future of Chicago? Chaos would be on the table if Rahm Emanuel left office.

The mayor can’t escape the “R” word. “Rahm Resign!” “Recall Rahm!” Community activists are marching, demanding, insisting.

The mayor promises reform. But for many voters, it’s too little to late. They have stopped listening.


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Chicago’s establishment politicos and the monied classes still have his back. Still, withone more outrageous police-involved shooting, or proof of a 5th floor cover-up, the biggies could turn in a flash.

So let’s take up an existential question: If Emanuel leaves office, who replaces him? Who possesses the administrative skill, political moxie and grass-roots support to navigate Chicago through extreme turmoil?

City law provides that the vice mayor, 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, would become interim mayor.

That august body, the Chicago City Council, would then be charged with electing one of its own as acting mayor, until a special election is held.

That would be the same august body that rubber stamped, unanimously, a $5 million payout to Laquan McDonald’s family. The same august body which has exhibited a preternatural inability to lead.

Old timers will recall the last time City Hall transferred mayoral power. It wasn’t pretty.

In 1987 when Mayor Harold Washington died suddenly, David Orr, the vice mayor and a progressive alderman from Rogers Park, was elevated. For a few days.

Vicious infighting ensued. Washington’s mortal enemies, the City Council “29,” engineered the election of 6th Ward Ald. Eugene Sawyer. He later lost the office to Richard M. Daley. Sawyer was viewed as ineffective and compromised.

Today, three quarters of this City Council would vie for the job.

Given the current environment, one might expect the Council would wisely choose a person of color. I wouldn’t count on it.

There could be historical appeal in 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer, chairman of the Council’s Black Caucus. He is the son of the late Eugene Sawyer. Roderick is also known to play a mean game of dominoes.

Will Burns chairs the Council’s Education Committee and has assiduously cultivated a high profile. The 4th Ward alderman is also an assiduously reliable Emanuel ally. Next.

The lone whiner, vocally independent 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, is coming up on the outside. From the 21st Ward, Howard “Petition Challenge” Brookins is bringing up the inside.

The most senior and experienced aldermen are dead on arrival. City Council Finance Chairman Edward M. Burke led the anti-Washington “29.” Ald. Patrick O’Connor, Emanuel’s floor leader, was a loyal member.

Other possible picks don’t belong to the club.

Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president and former 4th Ward alderman, has been saying “no” for more than a year. Would her old Council colleagues embrace her?

Those guys? Please.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia made a valiant run last year, but has always been a reluctant warrior.

City Treasurer Kurt Summers is a savvy administrator and bright light on the political horizon, but he was appointed by Emanuel.

Who else? Chicago is drowning in a deep and abiding financial, cultural and moral crisis.

Former Mayor Daley left Emanuel a nightmare. Emanuel is living it every day. If the mayor resigns, that nightmare will continue for all of us.

Rahm haters, be careful what you ask for.


Follow Laura Washington on Twitter: Follow @MediaDerv

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