Emanuel to lay out third-term agenda in specific terms

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“Every resident of Chicago deserves a great place to call home, and this new department will give the City a specialized resource to ensure housing remains affordable for anyone who wants to live, work and raise a family in Chicago,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned for a second term on a promise to put a “specialty focus” high school within 3 miles of every family, free top-performing schools from burdensome mandates, and achieve an 85 percent graduation rate by 2019.

He promised to make computer science a graduation requirement for high school students and to “reinvent” senior year, with more students taking college courses and holding internships.

Now, the mayor is preparing to lay out his ambitious agenda for a third term — on issues ranging from education, crime and police reform to small business, neighborhood stabilization and affordable housing —in an attempt to convince Chicago voters to give him a third chance.

“A little more than half the students in the city at 4-years-old have full-day pre-K. And I’ll lay out a very specific four-year plan of universal full-day for every 4-year-old,” the mayor told WGN Radio on Monday during a live, call-in interview.

“Then, I’m gonna talk about very specifically affordable housing, home ownership and what I call neighborhood integrity, how to deal as best we can with gentrification and then, something very specific on public safety and police accountability. And this Friday, I’ll be laying out a vision and a very specific plan on our small business economy and our neighborhood economy.”

By laying out his third-term agenda in very specific terms, Emanuel is hoping to contrast himself with his opponents, most of whom have talked in generalities without laying out specific plans for the serious problems confronting Chicago.

A field that’s getting more crowded by the minute already includes: embattled Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown; fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy; former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas; Chicago Principals and Administrators Association President Troy LaRaviere; tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin; millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, and community activist Ja’Mal Green.

Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot and County Commissioner Bridget Gainer are also considering entering the race.

So far, McCarthy has been the most specific of the mayoral challengers.

He’s proposing a “partially elected, partially appointed” school board to dilute the power of a bureaucracy manipulated by a “bullying mayor.”

McCarthy also wants to call a halt to school closings, end “per-pupil funding formulas” and distribute education dollars “more equitably … based on student needs.”

On the all-important issue of city finances, McCarthy’s policy statement proclaims that “shady accounting tricks and constant tax hikes will not help fund our municipal and teacher pensions.”

But it does not spell out McCarthy’s ideas for meeting those ballooning obligations. It pledges only to “keep that promise” to fully fund city employee pensions.

The only specific idea he has mentioned so far is his proposal to put a full-blown casino on the secure side of O’Hare Airport.

A casino windfall would not be a solution to the city’s $36 billion pension crisis, since all revenue generated at O’Hare must remain in that enterprise fund and must be spent there.

Emanuel considers city finances his strength after identifying dedicated funding sources for all four city employee pension funds.

But McCarthy’s policy statement argues otherwise.

“The economy of crime, coupled with the mayor’s lack of fiscal responsibility, has put Chicago on a dangerous path towards financial ruin,” the McCarthy policy states, arguing that shootings and murders cost Chicago $9.6 billion — $1 billion more than the entire city budget.

“Our neighborhoods deserve to be our priority again. The mayor has forgotten that,” McCarthy said. “Tax dollars should flow directly into our communities — not to the mayor’s cronies. The mayor’s own emails have made it abundantly clear that he is running a true `pay-to-play’ operation out of City Hall. That must stop.”

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