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Rahm Emanuel cheered on way out of City Hall as term nears its end

The mayor was elected to two terms, then upended the local political landscape last year when he announced he would not seek a third.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel waves to staffers, department heads and supporters as walks out of City Hall on his last full day as mayor of Chicago, Friday afternoon, May 17, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

He made some tough decisions — and plenty of enemies.

His confrontational style helped spark one teachers’ strike — and he learned his lesson, avoiding another later in his term.

He pushed through $2 billion in tax increases to begin to deal with a pension funding crisis that his predecessor had ignored.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
City Hall workers record the moment Friday as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel walks out of his office for the last time.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

He closed mental health clinics and 50 elementary schools.

He almost landed a museum that “Star Wars” movie mogul George Lucas wanted to build on the lakefront — then saw it fly away to Los Angeles amid both opposition and indifference.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Department heads and staffers cheer and applaud as Mayor Rahm Emanuel leaves his office Friday. On Monday, Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot officially takes over.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

An effort to get Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk to drill a tunnel for an express transit line to O’Hare fizzled even faster.

And of course there was the video of Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. The city paid millions to the teen’s family, Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and Rahm was accused of covering up the video until after he had won his second term.

There also was a continued downtown building boom and an ongoing feud with President Donald Trump, as Emanuel slammed Trump’s stance on immigration and defended Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at City Hall
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel leaves the fifth floor of City Hall for what is likely the last time as mayor.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

He had his defenders (some aldermen lauded him, at length and tearfully, at his final City Council meeting) and he had plenty of critics (his decision not to run for a third term sparked an immediate — if meager — “Farewell Rahm” rally that very afternoon at Daley Plaza).

And on Friday, he had his farewell, as staffers, department heads, other city employees and a variety of onlookers gathered to watch him walk out of City Hall for what is likely the last time as mayor.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel waves to staffers, department heads and supporters Friday as he walks out of City Hall for what is likely the last time as mayor. On Monday, Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot takes over.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

Some waited outside his fifth-floor office, cell phones at the ready, to record the moment.

Others were waiting on the street outside. Emanuel walked and waved, shook hands and smiled.

And then he was into the black SUV, and he was gone.

On Monday, the first term of Mayor Lori Lightfoot begins.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s motorcade
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s motorcade pulls away from City Hall Friday afternoon.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times