Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday tried to rise above the personal insult former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas hurled the embattled incumbent’s way as Vallas kicked off his campaign for mayor.
“People don’t like the mayor. Sorry. They don’t like you You’re a bully. You intimidate people,” Vallas said.
On Tuesday, Emanuel was asked about an insult that cuts to the heart of the likeability issue that has dogged the mayor for decades.
At first, Emanuel sounded like he was prepared to confront the likability issue head-on, telling reporters, “Look, I make no bones about the fact…” But he never completed the sentence before changing the subject.
Instead of taking it personally or sounding wounded, the mayor chose to turn the question to his advantage.
“Everybody will do what they want to do. I’m not focused on personalities. I’m focused on making sure that we solve the problems of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.
“There’s a lot of things that happened because we did do things….I’m gonna continue to focus on being direct…I’m gonna tell the hard truths and do the difficult things that we, for years, did not do and those problems built up. People can make whatever characterizations they want. That doesn’t solve the problem.”
Emanuel was equally unfazed when asked about Police Board President Lori Lightfoot’s decision to resign — nine months after the mayor reluctantly reappointed her — to become the eighth mayoral challenger.
“Everybody’s got to make their own case. When it comes to politics, my focus is gonna be on the gubernatorial race…because we’ve had 3.5 years where you had a governor [who] was trying to undermine the city of Chicago, the economic engine of the state,” he said.
The mayor wasted no time in replacing Lightfoot on the board that will decide whether Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo should be fired for shooting a bat-wielding Quintonio LeGrier and LeGrier’s neighbor Bettie Jones in December 2015.
Police Board Vice-Chairman Ghian Foreman, executive director of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, will move up to become board president.
And the vacancy created by Lightfoot’s resignation — and Foreman’s seat as vice-chair – will be filled by Paula Wolff, director of the Illinois Justice Project.
Wolff, former chair of the City Colleges board, led the nationwide search that culminated in the selection of COPA’s new chief administrator Sydney Roberts.
“I didn’t want to skip a beat. … I don’t think we can afford the Police Board, which is essential for the overview to be languishing without leadership,” the mayor said at an event to mark progress on his street lighting initiative.
“Ghian has shown that leadership as has Paula Wolff. And I think the city is benefiting by the fact that we’re gonna have a Police Board in place. COPA now has a new director. Those are essential building blocks, as is making sure we have the technology and training for our police.”
The mayor walked away when asked whether he regrets having given Lightfoot the platform she is about to use to launch her campaign against him.