Rahm’s style: Meet the new boss, not the same as the old boss
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Since he failed to win the mayoral race outright in February, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has worked to show he’s a new man.
In his second term swearing-in ceremony on Monday, the mayor tried to convey a message that he isn’t Mayor 1 Percent, who only cares about downtown and his high-flying Wall Street friends and ignores the neighborhoods.
He wore a crisp gray suit, but Emanuel reverted to his V-neck sweater, mea culpa, TV ad persona, in which he vowed to be less dictatorial mayor and listen more.
Emanuel dedicated nearly his entire speech to making a lasting imprint in the lives of young people in the city’s most challenged neighborhoods.
“Over the next four years, I will do everything in my power to spark hope in the eyes of every Chicagoan. We will keep increasing wages and attracting more jobs,” Emanuel said. “We will continue working to make our streets safer, our schools stronger and provide more opportunities for our families.”
So is this the new Emanuel? And how long will it last?
“That’s going to be definitely answered on Wednesday when we see the City Council reorganization package,” said Ald. Rick Munoz (22nd) a Progressive who was among one of the top supporters for Emanuel’s mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Munoz said on which committees Emanuel places his critics may be telling.
“He’s been open and accessible to me. I just want to make sure that given the hard choices we’re going to have to make in the next couples of months . . . I think we all need to basically try and work together and try to solve these big issues.”
Critics welcome a style change by Emanuel, who has admitted he rubs people the wrong way with a top-down governing style, even as they wonder how long any change will last. In the weeks before the inauguration, Emanuel held a series of meetings with aldermen — both those who supported him and those who opposed him — urging that they work together.
“When we met with him about two weeks ago, we talked a little bit about the tough issues we’re going to be facing the next four years,” said Milagros “Milly” Santiago (31st), who defeated longtime incumbent Ray Suarez and will join the Progressive Caucus. “I am willing to work and compromise with him, if the changes and the promises are real.”
Asked whether it was hypocritical for Emanuel to talk about lifting up youth after closing 50 schools in some of those same distressed neighborhoods, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said:
“I don’t think he sees the connections. I think he heard someone tell him to do that. He thought he’d save some money, it turned out not to be that way,” Lewis said. “Everyone has a chance to have second acts – and second chances.”
Lewis said she has seen a different Emanuel who has been more respectful behind closed doors.
“I think Rahm got a big scare. He didn’t think he had to campaign another six weeks. I think he’s come face to face with the realities that have been kind of overlooked in the last four years,” Lewis said. “I do think he wants to work with people who want to help him.”
The opposite also seemed to be true. Critics of Emanuel are increasingly more open to working with him.
“I think the city of Chicago is coming together right now. It was a very positive, upbeat ceremony. I think there is recognition that we do have issues. I think the mayor focused on young people,” said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who endorsed Willie Wilson in the primary.
“There was also a tremendous amount of diversity. I think it’s the beginning of a city that’s forgetting which is past. I move forward, reaching for the high mark. The election is over. I’m prepared to work with this administration as much as I possibly can. I want to be as helpful to the mayor and his program initiatives as I can be, and I’m sure there won’t be agreement all the time. But I think we’ve got off to a great start.”