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Friday, February 23

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The Mechanics

Chicago After Daley Tue Dec 10 2013

When The City That Works Stops Working

1979blizzard.jpgThe believed reason as to why Jane Byrne won the 1979 mayoral primary is almost the stuff of Chicago legend. Not too long before the primary, a large blizzard occurred in Chicago and the city did a terrible job of responding to the blizzard, largely in the form of not plowing the streets. The next month, Byrne won the primary with 51 percent of the vote, defeating then-Mayor Michael Bilandic and then won the mayoral election in April 1979 with 82 percent of the vote, becoming the city's first and only female mayor.

Why Byrne won is actually rooted in reasons much deeper than Bilandic's administration doing a horrible job responding to the blizzard. Bilandic was the first post-Richard J. Daley mayor and as a result, the Chicago government was in shambles.

Continue reading this entry »

Monica Reida / Comments (9)

Transportation Wed Aug 14 2013

City Tries to Improve Bicyclist Safety

In recent years the City of Chicago has been trying to improve bicycle safety. Various initiatives have been put into place in 2013 to encourage safer bicycling.

In 2013, the City sent out more than one million "Tips for Motorists" in the mailings for city stickers, said Charlie Short, Bike Safety and Education Manager for the Chicago Department of Transportation. The tips, among other things, inform motorists on how to avoid dooring bicyclists when parked.

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Monica Reida / Comments (2)

Education Tue Feb 19 2013

Genealogy of Scandal in Public Education

When Seth Lavin asks questions, he gets answers. Lavin is a local teacher, parent, and education observer, and briefly published a newsletter following Chicago education news. He's a thoughtful man who has recently been active in the school closure process -- or, "process" -- surrounding Brentano School in Logan Square. Frustrated with the Chicago Public Schools' posture during the closures, Lavin recently posted 10 questions to Twitter meant to question CPS's assertion that its school closure process and the related charterification was purely data-motivated (what I and others would refer to as "technocratic").

CPS felt the need to respond to Lavin's thoughtful questions. Their responses are forceful, but hardly get to Lavin's essential point: if school closures don't really save money, if the past closures haven't improved outcomes for children, and if the main criteria for closing schools, "underutilization," doesn't itself harm student outcomes, why is CPS causing these communities so much pain, ignoring the outrage in the community, and undermining community schools?

One could add: and why are they doing it to support and institutionalize a program of charterification when charters can't be said to be as efficacious as they claim, and scandals like the United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO) scandal are becoming more frequent and acute?

I envy Lavin. I doubt CPS would have answered my 10 questions. I don't need to doubt actually; these are precisely the questions critics of the privatization of the Chicago school system have been raising at least since 2005.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

Rahm Emanuel Thu Jan 17 2013

Emanuel Questioned at Trib Event

rahm_02.jpgZack and Mia Schultz are thinking about leaving Chicago.

The Ukranian Village couple cites crime and a lack of decent schools to send their five-year-old daughter and (eventually) their other, two-year-old daughter to as the reasons. They've not yet decided to leave, they said Wednesday evening, but they're leaning towards it.

And not even reassuring words about the state of Chicago schools from Mayor Rahm Emanuel could convince them they should stay.

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Bill Mayeroff / Comments (2)

Republicans Tue Sep 04 2012

Do Major Romney Donors Like Rahm More Than the Chicago Republican Party?

chicago republican partyOn Sunday, the Chicago Republican Party called on Rahm Emanuel to cancel the speech he will give tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. In a statement, Party Chairman Adam Robinson wrote that it would be inappropriate for the mayor to leave Chicago while the city was still dealing with a looming Chicago Teachers Union strike and a seemingly never-ending murder epidemic, and demanded that he "provide immediate, visible and specific leadership to address the twin crises facing our city."

Originally, Rahm planned to arrive in Charlotte on Tuesday and stay through Friday. But yesterday, he announced that he would cut his trip short and return to Chicago on Wednesday night -- denying that his new plans had anything to do with public pressure.

While the Chicago GOP makes a valid point about the mayor's priorities, there might be another underlying reason why the group is so eager to attack him: Rahm Emanuel gets more time, money, and attention from the rich donors funding Mitt Romney's presidential campaign than they do.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

Chicago Fri Jan 27 2012

Digital Divides and the Future of the Chicago Public Library

Wednesday it was announced that Chicago Public Library (CPL) commissioner Mary Dempsey is resigning.

Dempsey was appointed by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley and served for 18 years. Under Dempsey, the CPL built 44 new libraries and created programs such as One Book, One Chicago. Her resignation comes after a contentious situation this month due to the branches closing on Mondays due to budget and staff cuts.

Brian Bannon, chief information officer for the San Francisco Public Library, has been named as Dempsey's successor.

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Monica Reida / Comments (4)

Chicago Tue Nov 29 2011

Chicagoans Remember Maggie Daley

On Monday, November 28 former Chicago first lady Maggie Daley was remembered at a funeral mass at Old St. Pat's Church on the city's near west side. Daley died on Thanksgiving Day at age 68 following a nine-year battle with breast cancer.

Here's a roundup of some of the coverage and reactions throughout the day:

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Mike Ewing / Comments (1)

Budget Wed Nov 16 2011

Mayor Emanuel's Budget Passes Unanimously

The City Council voted today to pass Mayor Emanuel's budget unanimously, 50-0. Chicago News Coop reporters Hunter Clauss and Dan Mihalopoulos described Aldermen's comments as "near worshipful" though not without acknowledging the necessary pain that will come with cuts to front-line workers, library and mental services, and elsewhere.

The budget affects deep cuts, particularly around staffing, to close the $600+ million budget deficit the city faced. The budget came in at $6.3 billion. Aldermen lauded the Mayor for being inclusive in the planning process. While under Mayor Daley unanimous budget votes were often used as evidence that the Council was a mere "rubber stamp" for the Mayor's prerogative, a unanimity does not necessarily entail that. Aldermen seemed to feel like they got their words in during the preparation process, which is arguably much more important than voting against the final budget. Tracking how the budget has changed from its initial form to today would be more instructive; unfortunately that process is not particularly transparent, or at least self-evident.

AFSCME Council 31, which represents thousands of city workers, released a statement upon passage of the budget bemoaning the deep cuts to basic and needed social services:

"We're very disappointed that aldermen have voted to reduce access to libraries, cut mental health services, privatize health clinics and cut hundreds of good jobs. Many aldermen voiced serious concerns about these cuts today. While the vote is over, the work of minimizing these harmful cuts is an ongoing process in which AFSCME and our labor and community allies will be fully engaged.

Yesterday, mental health advocates staged a sit-in outside the Mayor's office that lasted into the evening to protest the cutting of services at about half of the city's mental health facilities:


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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Police Fri Nov 04 2011

Residents Rally to Save 13th District Police Station

In an attempt to close the Chicago's budget gap, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) announced that three district stations are being considered for closure. Among these stations is the 13th district station at 937 N. Wood St. and the proposed closure of that particular station has prompted residents who live in the district to join together to save the station.

In response to the proposed closing, a group of residents led by Anne Shaw have joined together to create Save the Wood Street Station.

"We have the second lowest number of beat officers in all of the 25 districts and we have a higher crime rate than the 12th district," Shaw said, referring to the district the 13th district would hypothetically be merged with.

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Monica Reida

Budget Wed Oct 26 2011

Layoffs Planned at the Chicago Public Library

As part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's preliminary 2012 budget [PDF], all Chicago Public Library (CPL) branch locations will have eight hours cut from their schedule. In addition to those hour cuts, the city announced that 284 positions would be cut, approximately a third of the staff for the system.

Among the positions that will be cut are librarians, library clerks and library pages. Pages are part-time employees responsible for shelving and other tasks that keep the library running smoothly.

According to AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall, in addition to the library employees that will be laid off, there will also be 268 vacant positions that will be eliminated.

"Given the expansion of the library system, that capacity is needed," Lindall said.

The CPL has experienced deep cuts in the past two years, starting in 2009 when then Mayor Richard M. Daley laid off more than 100 library employees. The following year, hours were cut in an attempt to get by with a reduced staff.

"What we're seeing from Mayor Emanuel would be an action that would repeat and compound Mayor Daley's mistake," Lindall said.

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Monica Reida

Budget Thu Oct 13 2011

Reducing Chicago Public Library Hours Might Be a Bad Idea

Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel officially released the preliminary 2012 budget for the City. (Link opens PDF file.) One of the highlights of the budget is a reduction in hours for the Chicago Public Library system.

According to a press release from the Mayor's office, the reduced hours are expected to save the city $7 million. The press release says, "While many other cities across the country are shuttering libraries in these tough economic times, Chicago will keep all of its libraries open by reducing service hours across the board. Despite reducing the weekly hours, all of the programs and services Chicagoans use at the libraries will remain intact."

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Monica Reida / Comments (4)

Aldermen Fri Aug 12 2011

Decoupling Waste from Ward Map: Garbage as Politics

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is reportedly steaming ahead with plans to unlink the collection of Chicago's residential garbage (for single-family homes, two-flats, and three-flats) from the time-honored ward-by-ward provision of this critical municipal service, a move that may leave some aldermen equally steaming. The potential $60 million savings in play here from collecting garbage along routes that make the most sense for Streets and San, rather than by political boundaries, should make this a no-brainer. So why opposition? Because, while many think of politics as trashy, in Chicago, trash is politics.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Technology and Politics Fri May 27 2011

Chicago's Data Starts to Open Up

The Emanuel administration is still settling in, but some changes are already showing up online. The City's data portal now offers an RSS feed of newly created and updated data sets, and the portal is moving beyond FOIA requests to include other data sets, such as the 20 most popular fiction books checked out of the Chicago Public Library and a huge cache of TIF-related documents.

Chief Technology Officer John Tolva said by instant message, "We're only dribbling now. Expect a steady stream." Starting today with the release of building permits data, Tolva said his department plans to being "what we believe will be every-other-day releases of nightly updated sets."

In addition, Tolva and Chief Data Officer Brett Goldstein now have Twitter accounts. Goldstein recently tweeted a link to the City's Open Data API console, where, if you're technically inclined, you may query the database directly.

"We're releasing all this for many reasons, transparency/trust, accountability/efficiency, but also -- and this is important to Brett and I -- to engage makers in building things and helping the city -- providing the public resource for a new kind of civic engagement," Tolva said.

As more substantial data is released, we can expect developers and urban technologists to create tools for exploring and working with the information, much like we saw once the CTA allowed developers access to their bus tracker API.

Andrew Huff

Rahm Emanuel Tue May 17 2011

Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel! Celebrating the Rahm-nauguration

Submitted by John Greenfield

Cruising down the Milwaukee Avenue bicycle lane towards the Loop in brilliant sunshine, it occurs to me that we've been blessed with perfect weather for a momentous occasion, the passing of the torch from Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley to mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. The inauguration is taking place at Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion, the gleaming stainless-steel explosion that will serve future generations as the strongest visual reminder of Daley's reign. It's surely one of his proudest accomplishments as mayor.

When I reach Millennium Park there's a festival atmosphere and the police are in an unusually good mood. At the Washington Boulevard entrance to the park a few officers cheerfully direct me to the Randolph Street entrance, where a few other friendly cops send me pedaling back south to the Monroe Street entrance. There I'm finally able to lock up my bike and go through a bag search, metal detector and wand wave-down by some very polite security guards.

I'm a little late for the event and I've missed the musical prelude of the Chicago Children's Choir performing "One Day" by Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, possibly a nod to Emanuel being the city's first Jewish mayor. But I'm in time to hear the breathtaking voice of Grammy winner Heather Headley singing the National Anthem.

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Rahm Emanuel Mon May 16 2011

Mayor Emanuel's Inauguration Speech

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Inaugural Address
May 16, 2011

Remarks as prepared:

Honored guests, Mr. Vice President, Dr. Biden, Mayor Daley, First Lady Maggie Daley, Members of the City Council and other elected officials, residents and friends of Chicago.

Today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in our country, the city of Chicago is ready for change.

For all the parents who deserve a school system that expects every student to earn a diploma; for all the neighbors who deserve to walk home on safer streets; for all the taxpayers who deserve a city government that is more effective and costs less; and for all the people in the hardest-working city in America who deserve a strong economy so they can find jobs or create jobs -- this is your day.

As your new mayor, it is an honor to fight for the change we need and a privilege to lead the city we love.

We have much to do, but we should first acknowledge how far we have come.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Media Fri May 13 2011

The Transition Between Eras--or "Between Eras"

The Chicago News Cooperative's Kari Lydersen, Rob Wildeboer from WBEZ, and Don Washington of the Mayoral Tutorial talk transition with the great Ken Davis from CAN-TV City Newsroom:

Ramsin Canon

Daley Thu May 05 2011

The Measure of a Mayor, The Legacy of a Man

Throughout 2002, Mayor Richard M. Daley waged a public and backroom battle with federal aviation officials to expand the no-fly zone around the city's central business districts. He was met with resistance by bureaucrats and the business users of Meigs Field, who argued that the restrictions would hamper the ability of pilots to use the typical approaches to Meigs and potentially make it more hazardous. The Mayor didn't let up, and pressed the issue; he was granted some temporary restrictions on flights around the CBD, but didn't get the scope he wanted.

The mayor pressed the issue, insisting the CBD was under threat and that Meigs essentially represented a security threat by its mere existence. He responded to the protests of Meigs Field users dismissively, characterizing them as millionaire vanity pilots whose selfish concerns were irrelevant to the average Chicagoan.

Friends of Meigs Field, an advocacy group composed primarily of the little airport's heaviest users, smelled a rat. Meigs was not a big money maker for the city, and Daley clearly had designs on the prime lakefront property. They lobbied furiously to keep the field open and operating, meeting rank indifference, to say the least, from the mayor.

At the same time, Daley was trying to get federal approval for the expansion of O'Hare Airport. His biggest stumbling block was the stubbornly independent junior senator from Illinois, Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Throughout 2002, Fitzgerald was considered a top-tier target for national Democrats, and his reelection chances were in jeopardy. Throughout the last few months of 2002 and the first months of 2003, rumors swirled that Fitzgerald would not run again. Fitzgerald stubbornly refused to permit expansion of O'Hare, and Governor George Ryan walked a compromise path that demanded that any expansion of O'Hare be conditioned on the continued operation of Meigs; Daley agreed to some nominal concessions the Friends of Meigs characterized as minor or hollow. Their saving grace was that they had friends in Governor Ryan and Senator Fitzgerald.

The Little Airport that Could, in other words, was proving to be a pain in the mayor's ass.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Chicago After Daley Mon Mar 28 2011

Dalegacy Measuring In Earnest

ChicagoNow has a post up about how we will measure Mayor Daley's success as mayor. I've been kicking around a broad analysis myself, but I feel more and more like there just isn't a good way to evaluate his legacy without defining "success" or "failure" in ways that prejudice the results. Thoughts?

The city's per citizen debt burden is now worse than that of whole states. Chicago residents are being strangled with $5,399 per resident, a cost that tops every state's debt burden. For a benchmark, the highest per citizen state debt is Connecticut's at $4,859 per resident.

Additionally the city has other major problems including the failed parking meter sale, infrastructure troubles, and a constant stream of indictments and convictions of its politicians - the latter of which has been going on for decades. Chicago's corruption tax (the extra costs citizens endure due to endemic corruption) is one of the highest in the nation. So, what is this nonsense that Richard Daley has been a great and successful mayor? I wish I knew.

Update, 3/30::Commenter Jordan begins to lay out some good criteria and a case:

Any discussion about legacy is inevitably fraught with embedded biases and normative statements as fact, but at the very least we can (and should) try to encompass the length of Daley's time as mayor, the vast breadth of criteria that should be used, the overall health of the city, especially compared to other cities, etc. Criticize the TIFs, the parking meters, the CTA, whatever, and trust me I've done my share, but when you look at the whole thing (which you should), ask yourself where you'd rather live. Austin has a better music scene, but how's the architecture, and how long will it take for you to run out of good restaurants and neighborhoods and art museums and historic tours and everything else? (Okay, Austin is apples & oranges, but really, any city comparable to Chicago in terms of size and breadth, and I include the smaller major cities, either lack the array of institutions and features that make Chicago great, or are far less affordable than Chicago. Can Daley take credit for all of that? Of course not, but what he's done is help to foster a balanced city whose unmatched assets and (relative) affordability continue to thrive, with little of the racial and political rancor we saw before him. And no doubt there are big city problems here, some of which we can lay at his feet, but tell me which big cities don't have problems with crime, police-community relations, corruption, etc. That's not to say Daley doesn't have to take his lumps for a good chunk of the problems, and I'm not asking anyone to give him a pass for any of it -- just try to do a reasonable job at assessing it all. And any attempt that concludes blithely that Daley was a "failed mayor of a failing city" is simply not a real assessment. It's infantile and you shouldn't have linked to it.

Join him in comments.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

Aldermen Mon Mar 28 2011

Influence Pedaling in Uptown

An impressive crowd of about 75 turned out a few nights ago at Gill Park to hear the two runoff candidates for alderman in Chicago's 46th Ward, Molly Phelan and James Cappleman, weigh in on transportation issues at a forum hosted by Walk Bike Transit (WBT) , a newcomer to the political scene who may end up having an important impact. The non-partisan WBT says its mission is "to mobilize voters throughout Chicagoland [on] biking, pedestrian, and transit issues." The event was the first in a week of near-nightly matchups between the two would-be successors to Helen Shiller, and, while billed as a forum rather than a debate, it nonetheless offered insight into the contrasts between the candidates as well as showcasing the interest in issues affecting those who use their own footpower, or public transportation, to get around.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (5)

Privatization Thu Mar 24 2011

Mayor Daley on Privatization

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Rahm Emanuel Mon Jan 24 2011

Someone Really Wants to Vote for Rahm

I Want My Right to Vote for Rahm
Photograph by David Schalliol

Rahm Emanuel's campaign organized a demonstration at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners office tonight following an Illinois appellate court's 2-1 ruling that he does not meet residency requirements to run to be Chicago's mayor. For their efforts, several dozen demonstrators showed up, some with handmade flyers, most with official "Rahm for Mayor" signs. While the demonstration only lasted a few minutes before leaving the office, the issue will be around until the Illinois Supreme Court rules on the case.

Read Ramsin Canon's "Make Sense, Be Honest: Emanuel's Ballot Access" for an analysis of the issues.

David Schalliol

Mayor Mon Jan 17 2011

Who Sends the Somebodies? Building a Mayoral Campaign

The Mayor's race has a settled field. Four major candidates have emerged: Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico, Carol Moseley-Braun and Miguel Del Valle. Now that they know their opponents, the campaigns are now in a furious infrastructure-building phase based on what their leadership and staff believes is their electoral Path to Victory.

"Path to victory" is a media concept, really, meant as a sort of executive summary of the realism of the strategies of a campaign's communications, field, and fundraising arms (note the absence of research and policy). The realism of a given campaign's path is subjective, and journalists often use poll numbers as a quasi-objective measure of its likelihood.

In big-city politics, these paths to victory are in practical terms processes of growing social, economic and community networks to generate cash and organizing activities -- door knocking, neighborhood meetings, get-out-the-vote (GOTV) volunteers. Each candidate is building their campaigns on these networks, jealously guarding them from other candidates and meticulously cultivating relationships within them.

This isn't about popular support. Candidates will appeal to voters only after they've built campaigns from the ground up; that goes for all the candidates. Despite the simpler narratives, none of these politicians simply flies in with a message and organizational capacity in hand. All of these candidates need to build networks of supporters through outreach to individuals and organizations that will, in the final weeks of the campaign, generate popular support from a voting public that tends to not pay attention until the last few weeks. Despite notions that voters come in foreseeable blocs, they are actually quite discerning, and no one candidate can be pigeonholed into narrative characters.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Mayor Thu Jan 13 2011

Can't Paint with Band-Aids

As the ticking clock on Gery Chico's website indicates, the first round of the mayoral election is getting closer by the second. The final stages of the race are taking shape in arguments over who is best qualified to stir Chicago's ship straight as it fiscally sails to the bottom of Lake Michigan. And while the $600+ million budget deficit does balloon over everything, most of the talk emanating from the remaining candidates shows an equal deficit in meaningful ways to reshape and reform Chicago.

Each of the candidates have taken legitimate shots at criticizing some of Mayor Daley's failings, especially in regard to the botched parking meter deal, education reforms, and the continuing debate over privatization of city festivals and assets. There's been talk of lawsuits from Miguel del Valle and Carol Moseley Braun to cancel the parking meter lease, a call by Chico to outift every CPS student with a laptop, and in general, very controlled messages from the seeming front-runner Rahm Emanuel. With few exceptions, the race has simply been about band-aiding things that ail the city at present. Lacking in the discussion thus far is a concrete vision about pushing the city forward in ways that the citizenry interacts with it on a daily basis -- and especially, in the shape of the city's streets.

In flusher times than these, it was easy to see vision blasting forth from Mayor Daley's office, a concrete vision laid out literally in, well, concrete. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin picked up on this most tangible part of Daley's legacy shortly after the mayor announced his intentions to retire. The recession, and Daley's imminent departure, have obviously changed this dynamic, as current economics continue to force everyone to maximize for the most effect with minimal cost. There's been a glaring lack of ideas and information put out by the remaining candidates for doing so though. Yes, times are extraordinary on local and state levels, but such trying circumstances are also chances to inventively implement low cost initiatives that continue to move the city forward and show the city is capable of action no matter what. More so, Chicago must be in a position to stay ahead of the curve to ensure that when good times return, the city is a position to capture renewed demand of services and its infrastructure without having to play catch-up.

Examples of such initiatives are easily seen in a series of recent low cost fixes in New York: turning Times Square into a pedestrian pavilion, or creating a new network of dedicated bike lanes to the cool cost of just $8.8 million. Similar quality-of-life projects, such as shrinking Lawrence Avenue, have just gotten under way in Chicago, but for the most part, these type of street level and impactful measures are not being discussed in the mayor's race. As easy as it would be to cast stones as this being a mayoral candidate's responsibility to take up, perhaps some of the reason we don't hear much talk about such initiatives is because Chicagoans tend to wait for a vision from the top, and not exert pressure on their elected officials from the ground.

With the city purse empty and Daley vacating the Fifth Floor -- things that seem seismically poised to change the city regardless -- the next few years actually have the potential be a tremendously effective and innovative time period. However things get accomplished, or wherever the initial spark lights, Chicago needs to see itself moving forward and maximizing incremental changes to the cityscape that make it a far more involved place. And whomever ends up occupying the mayor's office should encourage creating new ways the City and its citizens can interact with one another, recognizing that you can't paint a new vision of a place solely using band-aids. There's no better indication of how that process plays out than in design and use of the city's streets.

Ben Schulman / Comments (2)

Chicago After Daley Tue Jan 04 2011

Del Valle Notches Two Progressive Endorsements

In further proof that 2011 is not an analogue of 1983 or 1987, but in some ways bears closer resemblance to 1979, City Clerk and former state senator Miguel Del Valle has garnered the endorsement of two political organizations with strong independent/reformer roots, especially in the critical lakefront wards, namely the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI-IPO) and the Northside chapter of Democracy for America ("DFA"). After winning the official backing of IVI-IPO's board last week, Del Valle was endorsed handily by the lakefront DFA group last night, with only Carol Moseley Braun, who appeared and spoke before the group earlier in the evening, showing any other support.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Rahm Emanuel Sat Jan 01 2011

Davis Endorsement of Braun a Game-Changer

To say that Danny Davis's withdrawal from the Chicago mayor's race, and his endorsement of former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, changes the landscape is understatement. The emergence of one, and only one, strong African-American candidate in a field where no one is named Daley would be noteworthy under any condition. But for that candidate to be a history-making personality who now also happens to be the only woman in the race is an earthquake of far greater magnitude than the tremor felt in Chicago a few days ago. Effectively narrowing the field to four strong candidates, west sider Davis's weight being thrown to South Sider Braun now makes clear what had always been true but not recognized by some: the ascendacy of Rahm Emanuel to City Hall, despite numerous advantages, is not an inevitability. Some other person, including Carol Moseley Braun, could be the next mayor of Chicago.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (6)

Rahm Emanuel Tue Dec 28 2010

Rahm Emanuel's Website Hacked Used for Purpose Not Quite Intended For, Which is Significantly Less Interesting.

UPDATE 3:50pm: Jumped the gun. This is a user-generated page; the Emanuel campaign website allows supporters to create their own fundraising page to direct people to. The Obama campaign introduced this into mainstream on-line political campaigning. Apparently there was some failure of whatever monitoring system is in place. Sorry everybody.

As of 3:40pm today, this was up on Rahm Emanuel's mayoral website:


Click on the image to expand.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Chicago After Daley Thu Dec 23 2010

The Dude Resides -- or Does He? Why Rahm's Residency Matters

As I write this, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has just denied the challenge to the mayoral candidacy of Rahm Emanuel. Late last night, about a day-and-a-half later than expected, hearing officer Joseph Morris recommended that Emanuel be allowed to stay on the ballot. Morris's report is posted at Early and Often and possibly elsewhere by now.

Morris's recommendation, with which the Board agreed, focuses on whether or not Emanuel "abandoned" his residence, following the logic of a post-Civil War Illinois Supreme Court case in which a judge was allowed to keep his position after a couple years in the army. The analogy is not particularly compelling, because the statute at issue today is an Illinois Municipal Code re-write that was enacted more than a century after the Civil War. Sure, if you focus on "resident" as a noun, or "residence" as a status, Emanuel wins -- because those terms are legalisms determined largely by declaration and intent. Emanuel should be able to vote in Chicago -- and has.

The issue is that in addition to saying that a candidate has to be an "elector" of the city, which already includes the requirement of "residence," the statute, Section 3.1-10-5 of the Illinois Municipal Code, also has the requirement that the candidate have "resided," as a verb. The question is whether owning real estate out of which you've completely moved your family, and which you're only using for income and a storage unit -- which is good enough to vote -- still constitutes "residing" in a city, and simply incorporates the legalistic "elector" residency definition as its own, or whether using two separate phrases implies something more.

Normally, in interpreting statues, a court assumes that language wasn't meant to be surplus or nonsense but was put there for a reason (that may give legislatures too much credit, but it's the rule). Since the "elector" requirement already incorporates "residence," saying you have to also "reside" suggests some affirmative action, more than legal technicality, is also necessary. That's the wrinkle that makes the strongest legal appeal. It's also a salient political point.

Why does it matter? Why should anyone care? The Tribune says "he's a Chicagoan" and that ends the discussion. But one gets the impression that the Trib, like many, would applaud Silvio Berlusconi being a candidate if they thought he could get the CTA to run on time, or Chicago's fiscal woes straightened out.

Fact of the matter is, not every person who has real estate in a city gets to run for office. Not even every voter. Let alone every person who might be qualified to run the city. The law, on its face, seems to want candidates to have actually lived there. Recently.

Is it an unreasonable requirement if a state says that, in order to be a municipality's chief exec, a candidate should have spent the last year living as one with the people of that city: chafing under its traffic congestion, suffering the injustice of its taxes while millions are paid out for insider deals or lawsuits against the city, dodging the bullets on its streets and the dog poop in its parks?

A principal problem with government these days is the disconnect, the gulf between those who govern and those who are governed. The chief fail of top-down management is that too many at the top are clueless about who and what policy soaks when it finally trickles down to the bottom. So, yeah, where you live matters. So does how you live. One of the reasons the Current Occupant has survived scandal and deficits is that, in appearance and speech, many Chicagoans accept him as one of their own.

Will Emanuel get such a pass? I was not advising any candidate at the objection hearing. But if I was, I would have asked, maybe, only one question: "Mr. Emanuel, what does it cost to feed a meter these days in Chicago?" Because pretty much anyone who really resides here knows that.

It's unfortunate that the legalistic issue of "residence" is emerging as the biggest consumption of ink and bandwidth to date, rather than, say, schools or pensions, transit or debt. But whether or not Rahm Emanuel survives the legal test, the question of where he has lived remain legit. Where are your head and your heart? How well do you really understand how most of your future constituents do live? That is a perfectly legitimate challenge, that every candidate, in some form, and in more than one forum, should have to answer.

Jeff Smith / Comments (6)

Mayor Wed Dec 22 2010

Rahm's Education Video and Some Light Recycle-ry

Rahm's campaign has released this video to detail his education plan. I'm still working with the campaign to respond to some questions about the plan's details.

Here's one irrelevant piece of trivia: Rahm's campaign has used this expression, "There's nothing wrong with Chicago's public schools that cannot be fixed by what's right with Chicago's public schools." This had a familiar ring to it, and then it occurred to me:

Ramsin Canon

Election 2011 Fri Dec 17 2010

Tis the Forum Season: Mayoral, Aldermanic Candidates Gather

This post contributed by Yana Kunichoff.

On a sharp, chilly Tuesday evening, a crowd of people that appeared to represent the full racial, ethnic and social diversity of Chicago gathered in the UIC Forum on the south-west side for the New Chicago 2011 mayoral forum.

Organized by a coalition of over 26 community organizations "united for a fair, progressive Chicago", including the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Southwest Organizing Project and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the forum was a rare opportunity for grassroots leaders to come together and hold mayoral candidates feet to the fire before an election that has galvanized Chicago's community organizing base like few others have.

Seven candidates whose petitions for mayor received at least 35,000 signatures were invited. Gery Chico, Danny Davis, Miguel Del Valle, James Meeks, Carol Moseley Braun and Patricia Watkins were present at the forum, with the announcement of the notable exception, Rahm Emanuel, greeted with boos.

The forum focused on five key issues - violence, human rights, education, jobs and housing - with testimony from a community member on each, a question, and then one minute for the candidates to speak on the subject, and a mystery question pulled out of a Cubs' hat at intervals.

On stage in front of organization representatives decked out in the orange, green or yellow T-shirts of their organization, the mayoral candidates cut stark figures in their regulation business attire. During the forum, the candidates traded jibes, spouted rhetoric and offered solutions to some of the biggest problems affecting the city on the lake.

Here is a run-down:

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics / Comments (2)

Aldermen Tue Dec 14 2010

A Peek at Election Law Tweaks

On Monday, Dec. 13, a small group of journalists, reform advocates, and political junkies gathered in a conference room at the Michael A. Bilandic Building to hear a three-person panel review some of the important changes to Illinois election law enacted last year in what was finally passed as Public Act 96-0832 (click preceding link to view text of Act as it amended existing law; click here to download as a PDF). Cindy Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Andy Nauman from the State Board of Elections' division that regulates campaign finance reporting, and Cara Smith (no relation), the Public Access [FOIA] Counselor for the Illinois Attorney General, did their best in a quick review to navigate attendees through a pastiche of legislation that, as Canary put it, is "like going into the inner chamber of hell." The changes have some immediate impact on the municipal elections barreling down upon us all, with larger ramifications for other future races. However, reviewing what the law does and doesn't do also highlighted new ambiguities created, and how in significant areas much remains to be done.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Mayor Thu Dec 09 2010

Early and Often: Emanuel's Kids and CPS

Chicago's great new local politics reporting site, Early and Often is reporting on the efforts of Mayoral hopefuls Miguel Del Valle and Gery Chico to pin Rahm Emanuel on his commitment to making Chicago's public schools institutions worthy of the ideal of equality of opportunity. Dan Mihalopolous reports:

Almost as soon as mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel balked when asked Tuesday whether he would enroll his three children in Chicago Public Schools, rival Miguel del Valle's campaign fired off a brief news release to emphasize del Valle's "history as CPS father and alumnus."


Soon after del Valle's missive...Gery Chico also sought to capitalize on the situation[:] "There is something to be said for leading by example and having a personal stake in the system you seek to reform," Chico said in the statement. "I would never tell a parent what decision to make for their own child, but personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable asking parents of more than 400,000 public school students to do something I wouldn't do myself."

Ramsin Canon

Chicago After Daley Fri Nov 26 2010

Not Everyone's Consensus

The hunt for a "consensus candidate" to represent the African American community in the forthcoming mayoral election ended several weeks ago. Few outside the inner circle of the decisionmaking body of the Chicago Coalition for Mayor, made up of many prominent African American politicians in the city, know how the consensus was reached, and at first, no one seemed very forthcoming with details of the process. But an incredible little interview on with one of the process's participants slipped almost entirely under everyone's radar last week, despite the inside look it gives on how the candidate was chosen.

Christopher Cooper, a local civil rights attorney, had considered throwing his hat into the 2011 mayoral race, only to promptly retract it. Rep. Danny Davis of the 7th district was eventually chosen, and he's quickly entered into campaign mode (which thus far appears to mostly mean lobbing bombs at Rahm).

But let's rewind for a second. How did this "consensus candidate" sausage get made? Everyone acknowledges that it's a messy process--the very idea entails boiling down all of the complexities of a large, diverse community, with all its different ideas and interests, into one candidate who supposedly represents all of them--but there are few insider accounts of how the actual process went down. Enter: Cooper's appearance on The Barber Shop Show last week.

Few seem to have noticed Cooper's appearance on the show. (I only found it while lazily perusing Vocalo's web site and deciding to listen to some old episodes of The Barber Shop Show.) Which is strange, given Cooper's incredible candor as he provides some intimate details of what it meant to enter into the "consensus candidate" process. Observe a few choice quotes:

The things that the coalition said to me...certainly implied, "We're going to make it impossible for you to get even a dime."
The coalition made it clear that it would destroy any black person who dared run against "the Consensus Candidate."
The individuals involved in the coalition made some very, very serious threats... essentially, we will destroy you, we'll make sure you don't get name recognition, we'll work against you.

Cooper goes as far as naming a few names during the interview. His honesty and openness in discussing the behind-the-scenes action in local politics is almost shocking in a city where political decisionmaking has historically been done with little transparency.

In the middle of the interview, Cooper says, "I'm young, and if I plan to have a future in Chicago politics, I really need to be careful about making members of the coalition angry." If that's the case, he better hope no one from the coalition minds his airing of their dirty laundry on-air.

To hear Cooper's interview, listen to the first segment of The Barber Shop Show here.

Micah Uetricht

Police Tue Nov 23 2010

On Police Redeployment

Progress Illinois provides your must-read for today heading into the early skirmishing stages of policy debate this election season:

This is a subject Chicago has long avoided; redeploying police officers away from safer to more dangerous areas is a political Rubix cube. Tax-paying residents of quiet blocks are skeptical about seeing resources taken from their neighborhoods, Dumke found. "I can see a car or two being pulled to help for a special event -- let's say if the Cubs win the World Series and they need some extra police over at Wrigley Field," Ald. Pat Levar, who represents the far Northwest Side's 45th Ward, said in the News Cooperative piece. "But our community pays taxes, and they deserve police protection, too." Northwest Side Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th Ward) expressed a similar sentiment.

Weis apparently sees things a bit differently. Some police districts, he told aldermen at the October 19 budget hearing, "have an additional number of police officers above and beyond what analysis has proven they actually need. So we can move some of those officers to a district where analysis has shown they need some more." Here he is describing his ideas for redeployment on a Fox Chicago news program about a month ago:

Go read the whole thing.

Ramsin Canon

Economic Development Sun Nov 21 2010

The Return of Andrew Mooney

Mayor Daley announced this week that Andrew Mooney would be taking over the newly created Department of Housing and Economic Development in an interim capacity.

Mooney was appointed by former Mayor Jane Byrne (1979-83) to take over the Chicago Housing Authority shortly after the notorious Charles Swibel was ousted. Mooney was only 30 at the time. In his book Fire on the Prairie, Chicago Reader reporter Gary Rivlin wrote this about Mooney's appointment:

Worse still was the man Byrne chose to take Swibel's place, a thirty-year-old named Andrew Mooney. Swibel had hired Mooney the previous year to serve as executive director, and the same HUD report that scored Swibel criticized Mooney as ill-prepared to contend with the serious fiscal, administrative, and physical problems confronting hte CHA. Mooney had no managerial experience or any management training, and he acknowledged as much when he confessed to a HUD investigator that he had been appointed primarily because of loyalty to the mayor....The furor that followed was as intense as it was predictable. Hundreds amassed at City Hall on the day the three appointees were scheduled to appear before the City Council. Some arrived as early as 7 A.M., but few were granted a seat inside. The doors were not opened to the public until the council chambers were already packed with city employees slipped in through a side door. Byrne ducked out a back door after the vote, eluding both the public and the press. When demonstrators gathered outside Byrne's apartment, she had them arrested.

Mooney is 58 now, and in Mayor Daley's Chicago, probably significantly less concerned about people turning out to protest a Mayoral appointment to head a major City Department. It will be interesting to watch the docket of proposals coming before the Department of Housing and Economic Development as various parties anticipate the changing of the guard on the Fifth Floor. It will also be interesting to see if Mayoral hopefuls like Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico meet with Mooney in the "interim."

Update: Mooney apparently made his comeback in stages: On 12 November, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced her transition team chairs, and Mooney is listed as the subcommittee chair for economic development.

Ramsin Canon

Chicago After Daley Mon Nov 15 2010

Which Candidate Has The Most Signatures On Their Petition?

Today Chicago's mayoral hopefuls can officially file their candidacy for mayor (if they have the minimum 12,500 signatures on their petition). Most of the big name candidates are saying they have far more than the minimum. Here's a brief and incomplete breakdown:

  • Ben LaBolt, Communications Director for Rahm Emanuel, tweeted this morning that Emanuel's petition has 90,905 signatures on his petition.
  • NBC's Ward Room twitter reports that Rep. Danny Davis's petition has 50, 051 signatures.
  • Former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico's spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune that Chico will deliver 52, 254 signatures on his petition.

Who else is talking about their petitions?

Daniel Strauss

Chicago After Daley Sun Nov 14 2010

Rahm's First Official Campaign Ad

Tomorrow Rahm Emanuel will air his first ad as an official candidate for mayor. He formally entered the race yesterday. In the ad, called "Tough", Emanuel shakes hands with students, police officers, and commuters at an L stop.

"We face big challenges, from our schools, our streets, to our businesses where people can get a job," Emanuel says in the ad.

Education seems to be one of the key topics of Emanuel's platform. Today he also has an op-ed on the Chicago Public Schools in Crain's Chicago Business. You can read it here.

Yesterday Emanuel officially announced his candidacy for mayor. Today Rep. Danny Davis and Rev. James Meeks are also entering the race.

Here's Emanuel's ad:

Daniel Strauss / Comments (1)

Chicago After Daley Fri Nov 12 2010

Giannoulias Not Interested In Mayoral Run

The Chicago News Cooperative reports that Alexi Giannoulias won't be jumping into the mayoral race:

A day after saying he would listen to attempts to draft him into the mayoral race, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias unequivocally quashed the possibility of a campaign to replace retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley.

In a statement sent to the Chicago News Cooperative on Friday, Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said, "To put all rumors to rest, before they get out of hand, Alexi is not running for mayor."

Giannoulias had told Crain's Chicago Business that aldermen and donors urged him to run for mayor and that he would not rule out running. But some of the politicians who purportedly were trying to draft him told the CNC that they were approached by Giannoulias and allies who thought he could be a formidable candidate in the Feb. 22 city election.

"He didn't get into public service to just run for office," Strand said. "He believes in public service, and his plans are to faithfully serve out the remainder of his term as treasurer and then pursue other opportunities. Alexi loves this city and will provide whatever assistance he can now or in the future to Mayor Daley, the City Council and the next mayor."

Giannoulias lost the Nov. 2 election for President Barack Obama's old Senate seat to Republican Mark Kirk.

Daniel Strauss

Chicago After Daley Thu Nov 11 2010

Mayoral Twist: Alexi Giannoulias For Mayor?

Lynn Sweet reports that a few alderman are meeting with Alexi Giannoulias this Friday about a possible mayoral bid:

Democratic Illinois Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias--who last week lost to challenger Republican Mark Kirk--will meet on Friday with a group of about six Chicago aldermen who are looking for a Chicago mayoral candidate up to thwarting hopeful Rahm Emanuel--who so far has put together the strongest campaign for the February mayoral primary.

Others already in the contest: Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), attorney Gery Chico, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) and state Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago).

I don't think Giannoulias is that interested in jumping in the mayor's race, but his approach, I gather is this: it doesn't hurt to listen to the aldermen to see what they have to say.

One line of thinking I've heard: While Emanuel is expected to have millions of dollars for his mayoral race to bankroll television spots, Chicagoans just coming off the Nov. 2 elections--where they were bombarded with political ads--may just be sick and tired of commercials.

I've heard that the presentation Giannoulias is supposed to get will include findings from a poll paid for by union interests who are not enamored with Emanuel--who makes his "official" announcement on Sunday.

Daniel Strauss

Chicago After Daley Sun Nov 07 2010

African American Leaders Choose Davis For Mayor

This post has been corrected to fix two errors. One was that the coalition had been deliberating for two months. The other was that the SEIU was likely to endorse Rahm Emanuel. I regret both errors.

Rahm Emanuel continues to look like a lock to succeed Mayor Daley but for what it's worth the coalition of black Chicago leaders have finally settled on a coalition candidate: Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th). Other names the coalition strongly considered included Carol Mosely Braun, state Rep. James Meeks, and Cook County board of Review commissioner Larry Rogers.

The decision shows that the black community is aware of how formidable an opponent Emanuel has become. Emanuel has name recognition, started out with $1.2 million in the bank (and is rumored to have since raised $3.6 million) and is likely to win the support of a lot of influential Chicago constituencies like the Hyde Park liberals who were early supporters of President Obama (and generous fundraisers). Emanuel has also begun to court Chicago's latino community.

So any candidate the African-American community chose would already have a tough battle ahead. And the pickings were slim. Meeks's social conservatism was likely to repel some potential supporters. According to the Tribune the coalition was worried that Braun's time out of Chicago's political world would hinder her campaign. I've personally been skeptical about Braun's chances since the good people of Illinois decided not to reelect her as a U.S. senator --one-term senators in blue states aren't usually commonplace although I'm sure Roland Burris would disagree. The coalition felt, in the words of its chairman, Ald. Walter Burnett, that Rogers "wasn't ready."

So really, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Davis won the coalition's support. According to Early and Often, Burnett said that Burnett can raise a lot of money and understands the city.

"He can bring a lot of money home to Chicago," Burnett said [to Early and Often]. "Another thing in his favor is Danny used to be a alderman. He knows how city government works."

Chicagoist notes that the other finalists and Emanuel don't appear to be phased by the endorsement. Emanuel is still driving his Chicago for Rahm juggernaut along and Meeks and Braun haven't shown any sign of dropping out either.

Daniel Strauss

Chicago After Daley Wed Oct 27 2010

Activists Look to Color Next Chicago Mayor Green

Potential mayoral candidates take note: in a city where politics are often viewed through a prism of black, white, or brown, a broad-based coalition will be demanding that a green hue merit equal consideration. The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center (EPLC), one of the midwest's foremost think-tanks and advocacy centers, is spearheading a drive to bring issues of sustainability and environmental quality to the forefront in the Chicago municipal elections, which will rear their head the moment the dust settles on the Nov. 2 general election. ELPC already has a survey in progress to show that voters care.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Chicago After Daley Wed Oct 20 2010

Quigley Decides Against Mayoral Run

There had been a rumor floating around for a little while now that Congressman Mike Quigley (D-5th) was going to make a run to succeed Mayor Daley. He'd indicated some interest in the past and obviously now is his big chance. But Quigley has decided not to run for mayor. In a press release today he said has decided to continue working to make the federal government "more efficient and accountable" as a member of the House of Representatives. The full press release is below the fold.

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Daniel Strauss

Education Tue Oct 19 2010

Where Do We Go From Here on the Education Front?

This editorial was submitted by Valerie F. Leonard

The Chicago Public Schools has been under Mayoral control for the past 16 years. Under the Mayor's leadership we have had School Reform, Renaissance 2010 which called for school closings and reopening them as charter schools, and attempts to qualify for the national Race for the Top (which seems to have been modeled after the local Renaissance 2010 initiative). The changing of the guard in City Hall could have serious implications for the direction of education in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune ran an interesting article regarding the fact that the State's standardized tests have been made increasingly simpler over the last 5 years. ("Students Can Pass ISAT With More Wrong Answers"). It should be noted that the article does not mention the fact that Chicago Public Schools lobbied the State to simplify the test 5 years ago.

At the same time, the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board is urging the next Mayor to continue the course that has been laid by the current Mayor, and suggested that the new Mayor keep the current CPS CEO on board to continue the reforms that have been made. ("Reform on the Ropes?").

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Rahm Emanuel Mon Oct 18 2010

Rahm Takes Chicago, Willing or Otherwise

ON OCTOBER 1, Rahm Emanuel announced that he would be leaving his post as President Barack Obama's chief of staff to return home to Chicago to run for mayor. By the end of the weekend a few days later, he had released his first campaign video and launched his campaign Web site. The following Monday, he was walking Chicago's neighborhoods on a misnamed "Tell It Like It Is" tour. And by the end of that week, over 27,000 people had "liked" his campaign's Facebook page.

Emanuel made his move fast, with all the confidence of a longtime ally of current Mayor Richard Daley and a veteran operative who knows in the ins and outs of Chicago politics.

Still, Emanuel's reentry into Chicago politics wasn't received well by everybody at City Hall. A number of alderman were less than enthusiastic about Emanuel's campaign. Alderman George Cardenas told the Chicago Sun-Times, "He's gonna come here and run roughshod over everybody? I don't think so. It's a new day. People want a different path. People want somebody they can work with. They don't want another bully. I want someone who's gonna respect me and respect the people I represent."

Cardenas' posturing may signal the potential for behind-the-scenes infighting within the Chicago Democratic Party--not to mention some good political theater. But it's unlikely to affect the outcome of Chicago's mayoral campaign considering that voters have watched Chicago's alderman kowtow to Mayor Daley for the past 21 years.

Emanuel is entering the mayoral race with significant advantages over other candidates. In just the first week of his campaign, the media attention surrounding Emanuel dominated the news in Chicago, far outweighing the combined coverage of all other candidates.

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Bob Quellos

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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