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Emanuel to hold 30-minute radio town hall meeting next week

Mayor Rahm Emanuel sits down for a conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times at his office at City Hall in October. At 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, he will do a live, 30-minute interview that will be broadcast on more than 40 radio stations in the Chicago area. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will do a live, 30-minute interview next week that will be broadcast by more than 40 radio stations in the Chicago area.

The radio town hall meeting featuring Emanuel and several members of his cabinet will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14. It will be moderated by Bill Kurtis, the award-winning documentary producer and former longtime anchor of WBBM-TV Channel 2.

For Emanuel, the simulcast by dozens of radio stations is an opportunity to blanket the airwaves with a discussion of the police hiring surge and other programs tied to his 2017 budget.

The interview will take place two days before a final City Council vote on the mayor’s budget, which embarks on an ambitious, two-year plan to hire 970 police officers and includes a $100 million fund to bridge the funding gap outside Chicago’s thriving downtown area.

It’s also an opportunity to talk about the new contract that averted Chicago’s second teachers strike in four years and about Emanuel’s efforts to restore public trust shattered by his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

The cornerstone is the mayor’s plan to abolish the Independent Police Review Authority and replace it with a new multi-tiered system of police accountability.

Adam Collins, Emanuel’s communications director, said the rare radio simulcast has been in the works for months.

It started with a conversation between the mayor and “a few radio executives.”

“It’s an opportunity to talk directly to people across the city about what’s going on in the city and help them understand the investments and improvements we’re making,” Collins said Monday.

Doug Levy, chairman of the Illinois Broadcasters Association, called the commercial-free interview a rare partnership among radio stations with an array of different formats and audiences.

“Radio stations have a unique ability to create a meaningful conversation because of the intimate relationship the medium has with its audience,” Levy was quoted as saying in a press release.

“Chicago is a world-class city with some of the best radio stations in the country. I am proud that we are leading the dialogue about how to solve some of our biggest problems and take full advantage of some of our greatest strengths.”

The press release quoted Emanuel as saying that the idea originated with his open-ended request to the radio execs.

“I recently asked the leaders of Chicago-area radio stations to utilize their powerful platforms and tremendous reach to motivate Chicagoans to take a more active role in making our city stronger,” said Emanuel, who delivered a powerful anti-crime address in September.

“They answered the call with this unique broadcast opportunity. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with the people of Chicago about how, when we work together, we make our city better for everyone,” he said.

The interview will not be a two-way conversation. Listeners will not be permitted to call in and ask Emanuel questions directly. However, they are invited to submit questions at chicagoradiostations.com.

The rare opportunity to appear on dozens of radio stations at once comes at a time when Emanuel is trying desperately to win back the trust of African-American voters who elected him in 2011 and re-elected him, even after he closed a record 50 public schools.