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Op-Ed Tue Jun 03 2014
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plunging popularity was reflected in a recent Sun-Times poll, in which just 29 percent of respondents reported that they would support Emanuel if the election were held today. The results confirmed what was already obvious to most Chicagoans--a vast majority of the city dislikes our mayor.
What still remains to be seen is whether a candidate will emerge who has the ability to successfully rally that energy and unseat him.
During his time in office Emanuel has consistently demonstrated a condescending attitude toward marginalized communities. He oversaw the largest public school closing in Chicago's history, proposed reducing public library hours and staff, and faced off against the Chicago Teachers Union in their first strike in 25 years.
He claimed that violent crime rates had fallen significantly from the major surge in 2012, but then the Chicago Police Department was caught cooking the books on murder and other crime statistics.
Many of the schools shuttered were in parts of the city plagued by violence and poverty, where a majority of residents are people of color. Emanuel and the Chicago Public School administration chose to remove one critical measure of stability many residents of these communities had by taking away their neighborhood schools.
His governing decisions have alienated wide swaths throughout the city that should be part of a liberal's base, including unions, educators, community coalitions, voters of color, and progressive activists. Further, his actions have shown that he does not care about the communities that form the lifeblood of our city--the very people he was elected to champion.
The animosity toward Emanuel is palpable throughout the city. But it remains unclear whether all this discontent will translate into a new mayor in a city notorious for its political machine and the unmovable dead weight of its incumbents.
A serious challenger to Emanuel would need to be a formidable political player who could garner wide-spread support. But as of the writing of this piece, only three other candidates aside from the incumbent are officially in the running for next year's race, the third having just formally launching her candidacy on Monday. One is former police officer Frederick Collins. The second is former alderman and Cook County Commissioner Robert Shaw. Shaw referred to himself as the "strongest possible black candidate" to challenge the mayor, as reported by DNA Info.
A track record as a city politician may be a better background to run from than former Republican police officer. Yet Shaw was an advisor to Carol Moseley Braun on her disastrous mayoral bid against Emanuel last time around, which may speak to his political capabilities.
Collins and Shaw have both taken the obvious positions against the Emanuel administration. Both have said they would fire CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Collins has also said he would fire police superintendent Gary McCarthy. Shaw said he would seek an elected school board for CPS. But currently, it seems that neither of these candidates have the political know-how or support to provide a true challenge to Emanuel.
Amara Enyia, who officially entered the race on June 2nd, seems like a true progressive. At only 30 years old, she already has a J.D. and a Ph.D. She has worked as a community organizer on the south and west sides of the city and founded a community organization. Enyia supports an elected school board, sufficient funding for neighborhood schools, and increased job training programs.
At the same time, Enyia lacks political experience and support. She is clearly passionate and intelligent, and I truly want to believe that she has a shot. But her best hope may be that her 2015 run can raise her political profile and name recognition enough to give her a real shot at gaining office in a future election.
Voters deserve viable progressive choices, not neoliberal Democrats who care more about gaining power than resolving growing inequality in our communities. For progressives unwilling to vote for Emanuel, the future of the election certainly remains unclear.