In 2010, when Rahm Emanuel returned to Chicago to run for mayor, critics predicted his mouth would be trouble. Yet he has kept his famous profanity under wraps (mostly).
But as he runs for re-election, it’s his head that could do him in.
President Barack Obama has once again endorsed Emanuel in a new radio commercial, but noted, “Let’s be honest, at times the guy can be a little hard-headed.”
We all know the hard heads. A child, or a parent, a spouse.
You can’t tell them anything. They don’t listen. They are tone deaf.
Take Emanuel’s pet project, Chicago’s ubiquitous red light cameras. He has relentlessly created the largest network of gotcha lights in the nation, maintaining they make us safer.
Chicago’s not buying it. Media investigations, and our own eyes, tell a different story. The Chicago Tribune reports that the lights have not only not prevented accidents, but in some cases led to more fender benders.
Yet for years Emanuel has maintained that the lights are not about raising new revenue. Just last week, he claimed, “first and foremost, red lights are there for public safety and traffic safety.”
His own motorcade has been blowing through them for months. Last May, ABC 7 reported that the cameras caught the mayor’s security detail speeding near schools and parks, or running red lights, nearly two dozen times since 2012.
The mayor’s office responded that he was “instructing his bodyguards to stop speeding and running red lights,” and that he would personally pay for the $100 tickets.
Now Emanuel’s drivers have been “caught again,” nailed five times in the last three months, ABC 7 reports.
Public safety? He can’t even get his own drivers to stop for the reds. Emanuel can hear the ka-ching in the city coffers, but seems deaf to the bleating and grousing from Chicago voters.
He announced a slew of endorsements from the city’s trade unions; most do a lousy job of recruiting and training minorities for coveted jobs. As Emanuel touted the endorsements at a campaign event, he was flanked by a cadre of union officials. Most were white.
In 2013, the mayor’s hand-picked school board hosted dozens of citywide hearings. Parents and students begged to save their schools. CPS closed 49 schools. Many of those families are still incensed.
Emanuel trumpeted plans to open a new charter school named for Obama — in a predominantly white neighborhood.
To his credit, he has backed off on some of his ill-advised plans, but only after an uproar.
Chicago has had its share of hard-headed mayors. In the blizzard of 1979, Mayor Michael Bilandic let mountains of the white stuff overtake city neighborhoods. He ran CTA trains to run express through the South Side, stranding and steaming black Chicago.
In 1982, Mayor Jane Byrne replaced two respected African American school board members with whites perceived as unfriendly to educational equity and integration.
Voters made Byrne a one-termer. Bilandic didn’t even get that far.
Emanuel’s head may be made of titanium, but his missteps have left their mark. In every poll out there, he can’t hit the 50 percent-plus one he will need to win reelection on Feb. 24.
Whenever my mother raised her belt for a whuppin,’ she would always remind me: “A hard head makes a soft behind.”