This Is This: My choice for Mayor of Chicago

bobA column by Bob Chiarito. 

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Rahm Emanuel. The reasons go beyond the fact that he’s an arrogant, North Shore jerk who is out-of-touch with the realities facing most working class families in Chicago. But that’s a story for another day.

Thus far, I haven’t said too much about who I prefer to be Mayor of Chicago.  Last week, I was interviewed on WGN Radio about The Chicago Ambassador and ultimately the host got a little off-subject and asked me about the race. I said then that while I do not like Emanuel, I was not sold on Garcia yet. That was then, this is now.

I’ve been leaning towards the “anyone but Rahm” candidacy for a long time, but there was something holding me back from coming out for Garcia. That something was made clear last Friday and again Monday night. The first was the long-promised financial plan that was to be released by Garcia. Well, his so-called plan was very disappointing, lacking on any real specifics. On his two largest campaign promises — ending the red-light camera program and adding 1,000 new police officers — Garcia did not and still has not explained how he’ll cover the lack of revenue that the tickets bring in and how he’ll pay for the new coppers.

The second opportunity for Garcia to explain himself and make a case for his campaign came Monday, in a televised debate with Emanuel. If you didn’t watch it, it was really over very quickly. The first question from moderator Carol Marin was “Will Chicago be able to write a check for the mandatory $550 million payment to the police and fire pension funds?” The first words out of Garcia’s mouth in response was “It depends.”

“It depends?” Really? This was not a candidate being honest. This was a candidate being unprepared and not ready for prime-time. I watched the rest of the debate and kept waiting for something from Garcia, but he kept coming back with nothing. The reason is simple, the man has nothing to offer.

Last month, I was really happy that the primary ended in a runoff when Emanuel failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote. I was happy because, as first stated by Chicago Ambassador columnist Mike Lopez, I thought when narrowed down to two candidates, it would force a debate on real issues besides the “I’m not Rahm” platform the primary challengers ran on. Well, it hasn’t, because Garcia has no plan and is lacking one of the key traits needed to run an international city such as Chicago: being assertive. Love or hate Emanuel, no one can make a case that he isn’t assertive. And as far as being a jerk, he is. But I rather have a jerk with a plan than a nice guy who is clueless.

It’s really too bad, because this race proved one thing: that Emanuel is beatable. I still am not a fan of a lot of what Emanuel has done. I do not think casinos are an answer to the city’s financial woes; his handling of the school closings was without tact at best and shameful at worst; I am against the Lucas Museum coming to lakeshore property which should be off-limits to any and all development; I think park land should not be used for the Obama Presidential library; I think while the homicide numbers are down (and they are), there are questions as to some of them being reclassified as causes of death other than homicides that should be investigated.

Despite the fact that Garcia has proved to be a lousy candidate, there are some positives coming from this race. I think it’s a good sign that people are voting for who they think is the best candidate rather than voting for someone merely because that candidate is or is not from a certain ethnic background. Years ago, a relative of mine once told me that she voted for every judge with an Italian surname. I thought that was idiotic, but knew it wasn’t uncommon.

Last week I was talking to an older gentleman who once was a higher-up in the Richard J. Daley camp. He’s been involved in Chicago politics for about 50 years. I asked him his thoughts on the current race and he said he expected Garcia to get all of the African-American vote because of recent endorsements from Jesse Jackson and primary candidate Willie Wilson. He gave me an example of why he believed that, which I think is outdated. He said that when Harold Washington ran, he pulled a few votes in every ward, even the heavily white wards on the Southwest and Northwest Sides. Conversely, in the wards with heavy black populations, the white candidates against Washington (Richard M. Daley and Jane Byrne), received no black votes. I don’t know how accurate his stats are, but it doesn’t matter. The fact is, this type of voting is still prevalent with some (why do you think a lot of Irish-American candidates are slated? Or, why do you think in the 11th Ward race for Alderman, it’s not an accident that Patrick Thompson has emphasized the fact that he is Patrick “Daley” Thompson?). But this behavior is not the reality of the majority of voters in Chicago in 2015.

Early on in this mayoral race, City Clerk Susana Mendoza came out in support of Emanuel. Frankly, I was a little disappointed and a lot puzzled, more so because of her alleged “independence” that she wore like a medal than the fact that she is also Latino. Looking back now, perhaps she knew something about Garcia that I didn’t. One thing that’s for sure in my mind is that Susana Mendoza will not support someone merely because they share an ethnic background with her, which is perhaps more of a sign of her true independence than if she had supported Garcia against Emanuel merely because he was not Rahm. (For her response, click here.)

Talking to other Latino friends, the majority said they are with Emanuel. Same is true for the African-Americans I polled in my own unscientific way. So, the fact is, despite a lot of the tired clichés the media perpetuates, people are by themselves in the voting booth and do not automatically vote for a candidate just because he or she is Latino or Irish or whatever. Regardless of whether I agree with who they or anyone else is voting for, at least they are voting for the person for a good reason. So, that is a sign of progress for sure.

Perhaps next election a strong alternative to Emanuel will emerge. (Ahem, Susana…) But for this election, looking at the two candidates, I have to give my support to Rahm Emanuel.

 

Bob Chiarito is a Chicago-American and managing editor of The Chicago Ambassador.

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4 Responses to “This Is This: My choice for Mayor of Chicago”

  1. WowDude.

    Wow. In the last election Rahm refused to debate other candidates, spoke mostly in optimistic generalizations and the vaguely specific promises he did make to unions, parents and minorities have proven to be almost arrogantly empty. In some cases he openly lied about his agenda. He also has a rubber stamp council which has abandoned the people on issue after issue. He has openly lied in this campaign. Remember how Rahm attempted to criminalize protest in Chicago then pushed through a “compromise” that is still awful? For that alone, he should be voted out.

    Yet despite giving lip service to “anyone but Rahm” you’re embracing Mayor 1% on the flimsy excuse Chuy essentially *isn’t* making specific promises that he may not be able to keep once in office. You are essentially saying it doesn’t matter that the current Mayor acts like CEO instead of a public servant and is using public money and resources to underwrite deals for wealthy private interests, because you know him. I also question citing Susan Mendoza as a deciding factor – one politician vs. all the organizations and large groups of people who are criticizing Rahm on what has actually happened to them. Despite her background she has deep ties to the Illinois and national Democratic machine and Rahm. That your “friends” you casually asked support Rahm may says more about the privilege of your social circle than anything meaningful and how people mostly go with feeling over fact.

    Yes, this is an equally emotional appeal, but come on man. Maybe a well off white guy like yourself can ride out more years of this Mayor’s policies, but there’s a lot of us for whom every year further marginalizes us – not just figuratively, but literally as rising rent patterns push us further and further away from areas with decent public transit and services. Looking at Chuy and saying, “Not good enough, maybe next time” is actually saying, “I’ve got mine, so I don’t care about those who get hurt.”

    Reply
    • Bob Chiarito

      You are entitled to your opinion but your assumptions about the people in my “social circle” and your classification of me as a “well-off white guy” are uninformed and incorrect.

      Reply
  2. dennis

    Rahm has a plan? What were his plans four years ago? Oh, those didn’t seem to hold water as the pension and CPS funding crisis are still on the horizon. He has had four years to address serious issues that he knew were coming and yet the pensions are in worse shape due to his continued lack of funding. At first a casino would be for schools. now it is for pensions! He is a liar and can not be trusted. Chuy doesn’t have a plan, similar to Rahm four years ago, but I would rather give him a chance then give the liar more time to kick the can down the road!

    Reply

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