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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?

But there’s a bigger point Rahm might embrace. OK, this one’s a stretch, but it’s why he should actually love us. Yes, he should love us, including you who comment from afar about why you were so smart to leave Illinois.

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?

In the long run, conditioning the public to what must come is the biggest favor Emanuel could do for all Chicago politicians. On that, Emanuel has been on the wrong side of key, competing narratives. On one side are us doom-and-gloomers, our critics would say. “Realists,” we’d prefer. On the other side is the sky-isn’t-falling crowd. “Deniers,” we call them.

Emanuel has been a denier, repeatedly claiming to have put the city on a path to solvency and stability, often using silly accounting gimmicks, all while the city sells off ownership of future revenue and sinks further into insolvency each year. You’d think he would see that realism from the sidelines makes tough decisions easier for politicians on the field. Instead, he has scoffed at us. Now is his chance to get real for the sake of his successor and the city.

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.

 

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The problem isn’t ramps. The problem is slippery slopes. (James Woods talks about those in his zerohedge article). For 20 years, the pols have slipped down the slope a little bit more. The legislature scrimped a bit on pension contributions, the unions demanded a little more benefits, and the governors and mayors kicked the can incrementally. Everybody assumed a slightly better stock market with their investment crystal balls to cover up deficits. You didn’t have to report unfunded pension liabilities on the balance sheet. You could bury those in the comments section of the CAFR. But in 2014 you have… Read more »

j.a.herzrent

There may be reason to worry that Illinois public employees will retire as soon as they are able on the theory that once their benefits are “in pay status” they will get some sort of favored treatment in the inevitable bankruptcy. Also, as I understand it, early retirement shifts the health insurance burden from the school district or other employer to the pension system. Health promises are not pre-funded to any particular extent and the retirees may not be eligible for Medicare for a few years, so these early retirements will drain the retirement funds more quickly. Meanwhile, the employers… Read more »