It’s not surprising that Mayor Rahm Emanuel won’t be around for a third term. He served the people of Chicago for two terms — and many of us fought him every step of the way.
Unlike his predecessor, Richard M. Daley, Emanuel didn’t own a Teflon suit.
Everything that Daley did — from the Red Light Camera fiasco to the Great Chicago Flood — slid off his back like oil.
No matter what happened in this city, people stuck by Daley to the point that he never faced a serious challenge in six terms as mayor. But Emanuel struggled to win the city’s affection — and recent polls backed that up.
One Democratic pollster — one to whom Emanuel once sent a dead fish — showed Emanuel was unelectable. Another poll conducted for one his opponents, Lori Lightfoot, concluded that just 31 percent would vote to re-elect Rahm.
With a dozen challengers lining up to take him on — some of them with specific bones to pick — Emanuel’s legacy was at stake.
Given the size of the field, there was a possibility Emanuel might not even have made a runoff.
So instead of fighting to redefine his legacy, Emanuel has decided to let his legacy speak for itself.
The mayor not only suffered the bruises from his own missteps, but from the screw-ups by the previous administration.
I don’t know. Maybe Emanuel was just too cocky for us.
A lot of people considered him “nasty.” But although Emanuel was known for his colorful language, he never once dropped an “F” bomb in my presence.
And he was also a lot more accessible to journalists than was his predecessor.
But for all of Emanuel’s perceived toughness, he could be pretty thin-skinned.
Like, he wanted to get credit in the African-American community for shaming large grocery chains into opening in the city’s food deserts, for re-developing the 95thRed Line station, and for investing in after-school programs in crime-ridden areas of the city.
But instead of praise for those efforts, he got pummeled over and over for closing schools on the South and West Sides.
It was the backlash over his decision to withhold the release of the Laquan McDonald police shooting video until after the 2015 election that sealed his fate, however.
That blunder wounded him emotionally and politically, and put him at odds with a large segment of the African-American community.
While he tried to make up by pumping money into jobs and educational programs targeting young black males, and by investing in infrastructure improvements in predominantly black neighborhoods, there was nothing he could do to silence the chants of “16 shots and a cover-up.”
The mayor’s race has suddenly become an open field where voters will have to go in a new direction. The declared candidates will have to come up with their own strategies for ending violence, improving schools, finding new revenue streams, and creating a city that truly embraces all ethnicities and races.
There are likely some items on Emanuel’s to-do list that he wants to accomplish before he vacates the seat of power.
Now that he has bowed out of campaigning, perhaps he will get to do those things.
Clearly, he loved being mayor even on the days when media were hounding him about one thing or the other.
“It will fill my eyes with tears to leave a job I love, and already my heart is full with gratitude,” the mayor said. “I’ll always be here for the future of this city — not as mayor, but in the most important role anyone can play, as citizen.”
Better for Emanuel to walk out now with his head up than to be dragged by a horde eager to tear him down.
Say what you will, he cared about this city. I’ve seen Emanuel become emotional several times, always when he was speaking about the future of the city’s young people on the South and West Side.
He was just as passionate on Tuesday.
“I hope I’ll find ways to answer the call I’ve asked of every citizen; to do my part to stand up for the next generation, who deserve the doors of opportunity to be open and the spark of hope to light their eyes,” he said.
While there’s been much public condemnation of this mayor, I suspect privately, a lot of people are grateful that he had the heart to serve.