I’ve made some people unhappy.
Critics tell me I’ve been unfair in suggesting that Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs a runoff.
In a column two weeks ago, I said that like a polar bear plunge into Lake Michigan, the mayor could use a bracing re-acquaintance with the fact that he is a mere mortal representing a public that needs answers from him, not press releases. And that we citizens deserve more than the furious messaging that emanates from Emanuel’s taxpayer-subsidized City Hall press operation and corporate deep-pocketed campaign office.
However, mayoral runoffs are hard if not impossible to come by.
Well, for one thing, a Feb. 24 municipal election is a total disincentive to voting. It arrives in the throes of winter. Long before Rahm Emanuel came on the scene, the February municipal election has always been a calculated strategy to invite you to stay home, under warm blankets, rather than pull your boots on and go to the polls.
For another thing, given that Emanuel has accumulated $32 million over the last four years, he owns the television advertising market against four challengers who have neither a City Hall rose garden from which to campaign nor the cash to counteract it.
But the plot automatically thickens if — if — the mayor fails to capture 50 percent plus one of the vote in February.
Suddenly, there is a new election set for April 7. When just two top contenders go head to head. When the weather is warmer. When the flowers are blooming. And when there has been a little more time to consider the issues facing this city. And the differences between two rather than five candidates.
Remember, there is going to be a runoff election on April 7 anyway. That’s because some of the races in Chicago’s 50 aldermanic wards won’t be decided by a 50 percent plus one vote.
And those aldermanic races are one more reason Emanuel needs to spend more time asking for our votes.
Emanuel has his own operatives running a so-called independent political PAC to squash a handful of aldermen who have had the temerity to vote “no” on some of his initiatives. That PAC, Chicago Forward, run by Emanuel loyalist Becky Carroll, has at last count more than $2 million to try and stop aldermen such as Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward from winning re-election.
Even with Waguespack and five or six other freethinkers on the City Council, doesn’t that leave more than 40 who walk in lockstep behind Emanuel to endlessly praise his projects and vision and leadership?
It isn’t a pretty sight.
But don’t, if you are so inclined, assume that this is an endorsement for ABR — Anybody But Rahm — because it’s not.
It’s a cry for a less imperial, less my-way-or-the-highway style.
This is a great city.
It deserves a greater debate than we’ve gotten to date.
And then we get to decide.