Mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has questioned the sincerity of Rahm Emanuel’s opposition to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s doomsday budget by noting that Emanuel and Rauner are “good friends” who talk regularly and share “expensive wines together.”
On Wednesday, Emanuel set out to prove that he is, indeed, fighting for everyday Chicagoans and does not deserve the “Mayor 1 percent” label that his challenger has used to define him.
In a University Village firehouse used to film the show “Chicago Fire,” the mayor condemned a Rauner budget that would devastate social services and force 1,000 police layoffs.
“I philosophically, fundamentally disagree with indiscriminate cuts across the board without regard to impact,” Emanuel said.
“Do I look like a silent person? I’ve been very clear to all the leaders as well as to the governor that this budget will not stand,” he said.
Emanuel said there are “certain people at least in the Rauner home who believe in early childhood education.”
The mayor was referring to the governor’s wife, Diana, who serves as president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, which advocates for early childhood education programs that narrow the achievement gap for at-risk kids.
“You have mothers who are going to school, mothers who are working. Their ability to show up on time and be good employees or employers is dependent on day care,” Emanuel said.
“You ran for office saying, ‘Here are the challenges.’ I get it. [But] I don’t think you did the hard work of saying, ‘Early childhood is important. Here’s how we’re gonna do it different.’ They just said cut. And the brunt of the cuts are the hundreds of families and parents that rely on a qualified, healthy environment for their kids.”
Instead of wielding the budget ax in a way that would deprive Chicago of “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said Rauner should zero in on “corporate loopholes” like the ones the mayor closed in Chicago.
Implied, but not stated, was Emanuel’s claim that he had the guts to take on the corporate donors who filled his campaign fund with $15 million.
“We closed corporate loopholes. You used to get a subsidy for skyboxes. We shut that down. Some companies used to go to Kankakee to buy something to avoid sales taxes. We shut that down,” the mayor said.
Emanuel and Rauner are longtime friends, education reform allies and former business associates who made millions together. Their families have vacationed together.
That’s why Garcia wasn’t fooled by the mayor’s argument that he’s really, truly fighting hard against his pal’s budget.
“The mayor should go to Springfield and sit with Rauner. Maybe open up one of those expensive bottles [of wine] and figure out how he’s going to really fight for the people of Chicago when his buddy is the person who’s bringing on the bad news that will spare no one, especially the most vulnerable people,” Garcia said.
Wednesday’s news conference decrying the Rauner budget comes one day after Emanuel released a mea culpa commercial.
In it, Emanuel is dressed in a V-neck sweater to smooth out his hard edges. He looks straight into the camera and says, “I can rub people the wrong way or talk when I should listen.”
On Wednesday, the mayor’s charm offensive continued. Instead of taking just a few questions and moving on, he stuck around for a record 48 minutes.
Emanuel used the time to turn up the heat on Garcia to offer specific solutions to Chicago’s $20 billion pension crisis and the city’s $300 million operating shortfall.
Arguing that “Chicago’s future is on the ballot,” the mayor also pressured Garcia to explain how he plans to do all of that and still find the $100 million he needs to hire 1,000 additional police officers.
The broadside coincided with a new online ad released by the Emanuel campaign ridiculing Garcia for saying he needs more time to do his “homework” before offering a financial plan.
“You’re making a bunch of promises. Where are the resources to pay for it?” Emanuel rhetorically asked Garcia.
Garcia said Wednesday he will release a financial plan “shortly” after he’s done consulting experts in municipal finance.
“I will not be pressured by his time-frames,” Garcia said.
The “new Rahm” ended Wednesday’s charm offensive by answering a pivotal question: If he gets another chance, what exactly would he change about the abrasive, top-down management style that has alienated so many Chicago voters?
“I will make mistakes along the way, but the biggest pledge I’m gonna make is that I will learn from those on a regular basis,” he said.