Since he failed to win the mayoral race outright in February, MayorRahm Emanuel has worked to show he’s a new man.
In his second term swearing-in ceremonyon Monday, the mayor tried toconvey a message that he isn’t Mayor 1 Percent, who only cares about downtownand his high-flying Wall Street friends and ignores the neighborhoods.
He wore a crisp gray suit, but Emanuel reverted to his V-neck sweater, mea culpa, TV ad persona,in which he vowed to be less dictatorial mayor and listen more.
Emanuel dedicated nearly his entire speech to making a lastingimprint in the lives of young people in the city’s most challengedneighborhoods.
“Over the next four years, I will do everything in my power to sparkhope in the eyes of every Chicagoan. We will keep increasing wages andattracting more jobs,” Emanuel said. “We will continue working to makeour streets safer, our schools stronger and provide more opportunitiesfor our families.”
So is this the new Emanuel? And how long will it last?
“That’s going to be definitely answeredon Wednesdaywhen we see theCity Council reorganization package,” said Ald. Rick Munoz (22nd) aProgressive who was among one of the top supporters for Emanuel’smayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Munoz said on which committees Emanuel places his critics may be telling.
“He’s been open and accessible to me. I just want to make sure that given the hard choiceswe’re going to have to make in the next couples of months . . . I think weall need to basically try and work together and try to solve these bigissues.”
Critics welcome a style change by Emanuel, who has admitted he rubspeople the wrong way with a top-down governing style, even as theywonder how long any change will last. In the weeks before the inauguration,Emanuel held a series of meetings with aldermen — both those who supported himand those who opposed him — urging that they work together.
“When we met with him about two weeks ago, we talked a little bitabout the tough issues we’re going to be facing the next four years,”said Milagros “Milly” Santiago (31st), who defeated longtime incumbentRay Suarez and will join the Progressive Caucus. “I am willing to workand compromise with him, if the changes and the promises are real.”
Asked whether it was hypocritical for Emanuel to talk about lifting upyouth after closing 50 schools in some of those same distressedneighborhoods, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said:
“I don’t think he sees the connections. I think he heard someone tellhim to do that. He thought he’d save some money, it turned out not tobe that way,” Lewis said. “Everyone has a chance to have second acts –and second chances.”
Lewis said she has seen a different Emanuel who has been morerespectful behind closed doors.
“I think Rahm got a big scare. He didn’t think he had to campaignanother six weeks. I think he’s come face to face with the realities that have been kindof overlooked in the last four years,” Lewis said. “I do think hewants to work with people who want to help him.”
The opposite also seemed to be true. Critics of Emanuel areincreasingly more open to working with him.
“I think the city of Chicago is coming together right now. It was avery positive, upbeat ceremony. I think there is recognition that wedo have issues. I think the mayor focused on young people,” said U.S.Rep. Danny Davis, who endorsed Willie Wilson in the primary.
“There was also a tremendous amount of diversity. I think it’s the beginning of acity that’s forgetting which is past. I move forward, reaching forthe high mark. The election is over. I’m prepared to work with thisadministration as much as I possibly can. I want to be as helpful tothe mayor and his program initiatives as I can be, and I’m sure therewon’t be agreement all the time. But I think we’ve got off to a greatstart.”