Sunday, September 9, 2018

'Nobody's friend'—Rahm Emanuel's place in history

Past mayors of Chicago on display in the outer office of the mayor, 5th floor, City Hall

     Roswell B. Mason. Monroe Heath. Thomas Hoyne...
     Most of the 53 men and one woman who were mayor Chicago before Rahm Emanuel are not cherished in the hearts and minds of the grateful city they once served.
     Hempstead Washburne. William E. Dever. Frank J. Corr....
     They're barely remembered at all—and no, the Washburne Trade Academy wasn't named for the former mayor. Different Washburne.
     So with Emanuel's surprise announcement Tuesday that he will not seek a third term, the immediate question is: where in the pantheon Chicago mayors will history place Emanuel? How will he be remembered? With respect? Contempt? Or do the waters of oblivion close over him?
     The short answer is: that depends.
     Most Chicago mayors served briefly and were forgotten swiftly. The city initially elected its mayors to a one-year, then a two-year term, and the first 22 mayors each served just one. Then Francis Sherman, mayor from 1841 to 1842, broke tradition and won a second term 20 years after he left office, then a third, making him both the city's 5th and 23rd mayor.
     In terms of longevity, Emanuel's eight years in office puts him easily into the top 10, behind Carter Harrison Sr. (8 1/2 years), his son, Carter Harrison Jr. and William Hale Thompson (12 years apiece), the under-appreciated Edwin J. Kelly (14 years) and the Daleys, Richard J. and Richard M., at 21 and 22 years respectively.
     We're biased toward our own times, lending them more significance than they ultimately merit in the sweep of history. Eugene Sawyer is remembered today because many living Chicagoans remember him. It is a safe bet that his two years in office in the late '80s will not reverberate down the ages, the way that most Chicagoans do not generally know that one mayor, Carter Harrison Sr., was assassinated in his own home, two days before the end of the 1893 World's Columbian Fair.
Where does Emanuel fit?

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  1. Here is a recommendation for a good book. If any Chicagoan read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, they would know Mayor Carter Harrison was assassinated. And if not, recall the profile of the creepy assassin, Eugene Prendergast.
    If Rahm goes to Israel with a couple of bags of ransom money, I bet they would rejoice.

  2. I share your dislike for Rahm though all i have to go on is his public persona. If you are a white male in the business world he's been a great mayor which I am so there's that.

    He inherited quite a mess especially the unfunded pension liability which had been looming for some time and he didn't solve that problem .he also didn't create it He did try and the property tax increase will help unless it causes even more people to leave the city, which seems to be his only idea of how to solve Chicago's social problems export them.

    The schools were a mess before he got here too and they still are. Which contributes to the social problems and violence. He tried to fix that too. And failed woefully but it will take years to see the results of those decisions.

    Overall I'd give him a C-. Take away the benefits to the 1% and he gets an F.

    I was a big fan of Jane's, my favorite was Harold . The Daleys can go fuck themselves. Hope we don't get another one.

  3. Thank you for the mention of Chicago's worst mayor, Levi Boone, instigator of the Chicago Beer Riot.

  4. It's a rotten shame that Harold Washington died when he did, just as his grip on power was secure and he was in a position to do some potentially great things for the city.


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