If businessman Chris Kennedy is to have any chance of winning the Democratic nomination for governor, he needs to get black voters excited about his candidacy.
With that clearly in mind, Kennedy turned his sights Wednesday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, accusing the mayor of being part of a “strategic gentrification plan” to intentionally push black residents out of the city.
“We’re cutting off money for schools, cutting off money for police, allowing people to be forced to live in food deserts, closing hospitals, closing access to mental health facilities,” Kennedy told reporters during a news conference that began as a criticism of the city’s efforts to stop gun violence.
“What choice do people have but to move, to leave, and I think that’s part of a strategic gentrification plan being implemented by the city of Chicago to push people of color out of the city,” he continued.
Asked who is behind this alleged plan, Kennedy pointed to Emanuel.
“I believe in the tone at the top,” he said. “I believe the mayor is aware of what’s going on, and I think he is allowing that to occur and in some ways encouraging it.”
Pressed further, Kennedy said: “I believe that black people are being pushed out of Chicago intentionally by a strategy that involves disinvestment in communities being implemented by the city administration.”
“And I believe Rahm Emanuel is the head of the city administration and therefore needs to be held responsible for those outcomes.”
It’s a pretty wild accusation from a candidate who has thus far failed to get much traction. I’d call it a desperate effort to take advantage of a conspiracy theory already popular in some corners, except I’m not so sure this isn’t exactly what Kennedy truly believes.
I must clearly state I don’t believe there is any such plan, although I will acknowledge that the trend of blacks leaving the city for the suburbs, which started with Mayor Richard M. Daley emptying out the CHA, probably doesn’t break the hearts of some Chicago power brokers.
As Kennedy has pointed out, it has indeed made the city “whiter,” which real estate interests, for one, may find preferable.
But to suggest this is part of some actual strategy to depopulate these neighborhoods, a “plan” run out of City Hall, is more than a little irresponsible.
This was not Kennedy’s first attack on the mayor, who has been publicly neutral in the governor’s race while supporting billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker behind the scenes.
Nor was it the first time he has tied Chicago’s crime problems in a bow with closed neighborhood schools and political influence in the property tax assessment system.
But it was the first time Kennedy laid all of this at Emanuel’s feet in an effort to take advantage of the mayor’s weak support among black voters — and possibly to garner support from the Chicago Teachers Union.
Kennedy made the remarks during a news conference at a West Side church where he was joined by Chicago conressmen Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, who had previously endorsed him.
Also speaking were Kennedy’s lieutenant governor runningmate Ra Joy and Nate Pendleton. All four have lost family members to Chicago gun violence.
With Emanuel still out of town on his annual holiday trip, his office issued a statement.
“It’s sad to see Chris Kennedy joining President Trump and Governor Rauner in using cynical, politically motivated attacks about Chicago’s communities for his own personal gain,” said mayoral spokesman Matt McGrath. “His divisive comments today are a direct assault on one of this city’s great strengths, our diversity. And they ignore the work being done in neighborhoods across the city — and in conjunction with community leaders and residents — to improve the quality of life for everyone who calls Chicago home.”
Until now, the governor’s race has been a sleepy affair. This should help wake it up.