Up to now, his central sin seemed to be closing 50 schools without the requisite hand-holding and
That's tradition, but Rahm is not exactly a traditional guy.
The bedrock fact is, schools needed to be closed. Chicago's population has dropped 10 percent in recent years. If you paid close attention to CNN's "Chicagoland" series, the halls of Fenger High School, the backdrop where principal Liz Dozier was always wobbling through, shouting, were often deserted. Four hundred kids in a school built for 1600. She had to send her teachers out into the street to round up students so they didn't lose federal funding. How many empty shells is the Chicago Public Schools supposed to keep open?
The bottom line is, we're broke. I found myself explaining, it's not the Rahm doesn't like mental health clinics. The city has no money. Like most broke people, Chicagoans have a hard time accepting that. Easier to whip out the Mastercard and sleepwalk through one more day of plenty.
And while I sympathize with the cops and firefighters castigating the mayor for aiming his razor at their pensions—I lost mine; it bites. Now I'll never get that fishing boat—the truth is his predecessor gave away the ranch, and the money is not there. Is it fair? No. But then neither was Hurricane Katrina, and the mess had to be cleaned up anyway. Bad stuff tends not to be fair, that's what makes it bad stuff and not a delightful bit of irony. "Oh look, Donald Trump, killed by a block of malachite that tumbled off his latest tower..."
Rahm Emanuel is so unpopular, I told myself, because he's making the hard choices, trying to knit together some kind of workable parachute as the city hurtles toward the canyon floor of complete fiscal insolvency. He's leading, or trying to, and maybe people, instead of bitching and scanning the skies for some new savior who'll tell them what they want to hear, wistful though it may be (we'll tax the commodities exchange!) should bite the bullet and get behind him.
Then Wednesday came. And Rahm Emanuel stood in front of the City Council and kicked the same by now dented and battered can down the road that Rich Daley kicked for years.
Glance at my colleague Fran Spielman's lucid story on Rahm's speech outlining the 2015 budget.
In case you are reluctant to veer away from my golden prose, I'll give you the key point, in paragraph three:
He talked about “continuing to confront the challenges facing our city,” but failed to even mention the biggest one: police and fire pensions with assets to cover just 30 percent and 24 percent of their respective liabilities.That will be remedied, no thanks to Rahm, but as demanded by state law, with a $550 million mandatory payment by the city to the pension funds next year that will either further gut city services, or demand income tax increases, two subjects our mayor danced over in his 40 minute talk.
I guess his sudden unpopularity unnerved him. The speech was no doubt written before Karen Lewis's brain cancer was revealed (I'm probably going to hell for saying this, but my first, unfiltered thought when I heard the bad news about Lewis, Rahm's only potential challenger of any merit, was, "Wow, how did Rahm manage that?")
So count me in the camp of — well, I don't hate the guy. I pity him too much for that. He's a politician. He's one of those guys who thinks if he wins enough he won't ever die. And I also have to deal with him occasionally, so I like to squint my eyes and see him in the best possible light. Though now that I think of it, it's the end of October, and I haven't spoken to the man since ... last December, so I guess I don't really need to deal with him all that much. Maybe none of us do. Rahm Emanuel is the master of the possible, and perhaps he looked at the polls, the print-outs, and the entrails of ducks, and saw that the time isn't right to save the city from utter financial ruin. He'll wait until he safely trounces Bob Fioretti and THEN pull the rip-cord, five seconds before impact. Let's hope the chute opens in time. I do try to give him slack. Remember who taught him how to charm voters: Richard M. Daley.