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Emanuel super PAC fires opening salvo at Progressive Caucus

Members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus have denounced the $2.2 million super PAC created to re-elect Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his City Council allies as a bullying attempt to stifle dissent by “taking out” its eight members.

On Tuesday, “Chicago Forward” proved them right by making two Caucus members its first targets: Aldermen Toni Foulkes (15th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd).

In a costly direct-mail piece going out this week, “Chicago Forward” is targeting Waguespack for casting one of four “no” votes against a 2015 budget that raised the city’s parking tax again to generate $10 million needed to double the year-round army assigned to patch potholes and repair crumbling streets.

A second mailer indirectly targets Foulkes by lavishing her opponent, Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), with praise for bringing jobs, a Whole Foods and affordable and senior citizen housing to her impoverished ward and for being a driving force behind the recently approved plan to raise Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019.

Foulkes and Thompson are running against each other, thanks to a new ward map that merged portions of their two wards.

Waguespack says the opening salvo shows how out of touch Emanuel is with voters’ genuine concerns.

“He misses the point. People are more concerned about the fact they’ve got all of this police overtime and not enough police manpower on the streets, especially in the Lake View area where we’ve had the police station closings in the 13th and 19th Districts and we’ve lost hundreds of officers off the streets,” Waguespack said Tuesday.

“I put out why I voted against the budget, which the mayor didn’t read. It was about the police manpower and overtime and also about the scoop-and-toss re-financing that kicks the can down the road to my kids and future generations by making them pay more for his borrowing.”

As for the politically volatile pothole issue, Waguespack said he’s made filling them a priority, most of it with state and federal money. He once again accused the mayor’s super PAC of trying to snuff out dissent.

“He wants a perfect rubber stamp. That’s why he’s attacking us. He doesn’t want any dissent at all to what he’s doing,” Waguespack said.

“He said [the opposite] in 2011. Now, that’s all he wants. Zero democracy. The amount of borrowing keeps going up. The city gets more dangerous. The less discussion there is about policy and how we spend our money, the less safe the city becomes.”

Becky Carroll, the longtime mayoral ally now serving as chairman and CEO of “Chicago Forward,” said Waguespack’s budget vote is fair game and demonstrates a knee-jerk opposition to the mayor that puts the city’s best interests in jeopardy.

“You can’t, on the one hand, refuse to support a budget that doubles funding to fix unfilled potholes and then, a month later, berate the city for failing to do so — especially when your ward has one of the highest rates of unfilled potholes in the city,” Carroll wrote in a text message to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“That’s putting politics before what’s in the best interest of your community. . . . What we don’t need is gridlock and political grandstanding. We need leaders who will get things done and move their neighborhoods forward.”

As for the pro-Thompson mailer, Carroll said she’s the first of “numerous” aldermen who will benefit from positive mailers bankrolled by the super PAC.

“Ald. Thompson has an impressive and enviable record of bringing new jobs and affordable housing to her community, while being a leader on expanding the minimum wage to $13 [an hour] to help her residents reach the middle class,” Carroll wrote.

“She’s a strong leader who works hard to get thing done for her community. She delivers results because she know how to bring people together in collaboration to address the needs of her ward.”

Foulkes could not be reached for comment.

Chicago Forward has raked in nearly $2.5 million since its June 2014 launch, thanks to steady donations from business titans, philanthropists and organized labor. The super PAC now has $2.2 million on hand, according to its latest quarterly report.

Last year, the super PAC took its first concrete step to identify aldermanic candidates it considers worthy of its endorsement by sending out an issue-oriented questionnaire to 53 aldermanic candidates who have formed campaign fundraising committees and filed so-called D-1 forms with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The six questions — all requiring “yes” or “no” answers by Sept. 2 — cut to the heart of Emanuel’s agenda to solve the city’s $20 billion pension crisis, re-shape Chicago Public Schools, raise the minimum wage and rebuild Chicago’s aging infrastructure.

The Progressive Caucus has been Emanuel’s most persistent critic. It includes mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti, Foulkes, Waguespack and five colleagues: Leslie Hairston (5th); Roderick Sawyer (6th); Ricardo Munoz (22nd);  Nick Sposato (36th) and John Arena (45th).