You reformers and realists on this site may think this naive, but is there any chance Rahm might do a few good things in his last eight months? Maybe realism means Rahm has to be worried about how the history books will record his tenure as mayor, and his lame duck status offers some easy shots at a little redemption. That’s what my monthly article is about in Crain’s:
For starters, his annual budget address is coming next month. It usually sets priorities for the coming year beyond the budget. From the list of dozens of reforms needed to turn Chicago around, why not embrace at least a few easy ones? Like ending Ald. Edward Burke’s workers’ compensation racket, fixing the rigged calculation of prevailing-wage laws, ending the pension pickup for Chicago schoolteachers and five-year labor deals with automatic pay increases, and banning officeholders doing property-tax appeal work.
Or how about closing some of the schools that are only 20% full?
Politicians know they can’t do tough things until the public is conditioned to facts they don’t want to accept. Rahm’s has to know his successor will be forced into tougher decisions than he faced. Why not do the next mayor a favor and give a nod to what we realists have been saying?
Rahm already did say something right recently. Maybe that’s an omen:
“This may not be politically correct,” he said, but he asked that we not “shy away from a full discussion about the importance of self-respect, a value system and a moral compass that allows kids to know good from bad and right from wrong. . . .Our kids need that moral structure in their lives. And we cannot be scared to have this conversation.”
Sure enough, the left jumped on him for that, including his own party’s candidate for attorney general, Kwame Raoul, who said Emanuel had done more than just misspoken, but was “outright wrong.” Yes, the state’s would-be chief law enforcement officer thinks it’s wrong to connect murder to immorality.
Well, for some 35 years, Emanuel has had no small role in shaping political discourse here and across the country (as I’m sure he’d be happy to remind us). The discourse he shaped includes the rules of political correctness he crossed. Let’s hope he doubles down on his new course.
Rahm inherited most of Chicago’s problems. However, he did little to halt the plunge and did absolutely nothing to end the city’s culture of corruption. As a lame duck he can earn at least a few positive footnotes in the history books.
So, how about it, Rahm? Group hug.
–Mark Glennon is founder and executive editor of Wirepoints.