Rahm Versus The Man: An Origin Story

9 02 2011

What follows is a wildly fictionalized retelling of events based on campaign finance disclosure documents. The donations below all came in between October 11th and 14th, 2010. Emanuel officially announced his candidacy on November 13th.

On October 3rd, 2010, Rahm Emanuel broke his silence. It was time to step out on the stage and make his announcement: he wanted to be mayor. Well, not quite. He said he wanted to hear from Chicagoans as he prepared to run for mayor. Barely a month after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he’d be fading into retirement, and Mr. Emanuel could not just sit passively by and watch the city be torn apart by geographic, class, and racial division. He loved this city.

Daunted by the idea that, no matter what his natural inclination to retire to a quiet life of the mind, only he could speak for the people, he could wait no longer. Average Chicagoans were hurting. While some neighborhoods were gentrified into unaffordability, others continued to decay into violence, joblessness, and misery. Meanwhile, income inequality sharpened. Rent by declining revenues, services to the neighborhoods had been declining. The public school system frustrated students and teachers with high-stakes testing that had not proven their value; organized street crime had worked its way into the schools via a form of interpersonal capillary attraction, making reforms difficult if not impossible. Public transportation suffered from a lack of imagination, even while the city began relying on regressive policies–increased ticketing, market-priced parking meters–to stay afloat and confined people to the neighborhood.

Public workers who worked for decades on the assumption they would be able to retire saw their pensions squandered by politicians, only to have those politicians, and the enormous corporate concerns that underwrite local civic groups, turn around and blame them.

Daley and Emanuel Trib Photo-thumb-400x225-220528.jpg
Brother Outsider.
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Modeling an Open Chicago: Taking The City Back

4 10 2010

This is the first in a series.

They know what’s best for you.

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With an open Mayoral seat, Chicagoans a generation removed from the last competitive election for that office are unsure of their footing. The media is either causing or reflecting that confusion, unsure where to start an analysis of what this election “means,” what will determine its outcome, who the players are. Path of least resistance: we focus on the personalities running, the staff they’re hiring, the money they’re raising. Is this a new chance at democracy? Have we had democracy all along? Does Chicago need a strong hand? Or are we looking for the next Harold? White? Black? Latino? Man? Woman? Gay? Straight? Machine? Progressive?

The cat’s away. The mice are frantic.

“Progressives” are eager to make this election a change election, to “take the city back” from what they perceive as decades of corporatist policies under Daley’s leadership. Their archenemy is Rahm Emanuel, the insider’s insider who has openly mocked progressive leadership nationally and who made a curious insta-fortune on Wall Street after his years in the Clinton White House. And, it should be noted, who made his bones raising money for Mayor Daley. Whet Moser of the Reader directs us to a painfully prescient piece by David Moberg from those days, wherein Moberg by simply looking at Daley the Younger’s fundraising deduces that the “new Machine” will be run by big money rather than neighborhood patronage:
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TIF for That: Comprehensive TIF Reform Coming to Chicago?

23 08 2010

State Representative John Fritchey, who will be giving up his seat in the state house representing the 11th District to replace Forrest Claypool on the Cook County Board of Commissioners (assuming he wins in November), is teaming up with the Chicago Teachers Union and the Raise Your Hand Coalition to push comprehensive reform of the tax increment financing, or TIF, program. The reforms could end the exploitation of TIFs by the Mayor’s office as a cudgel, and restore significant funds to taxing bodies–particularly the schools–that have seen billions of dollars disappear over the last couple decades.

Tax increment financing was created by state statute in the 1970s as a way to provide incentives to develop blighted areas. TIF areas are designated by municipalities; within those areas, property tax assessments are frozen at the level they were at when the zone was designated. The land is still assessed and the taxes on the increase are still collected, but they are diverted into a site-specific fund rather than being paid to the various taxing bodies that typically collect them. Those bodies are, primarily, school districts, counties, the municipality itself, and sanitation and fire districts, among others. The idea is that without the incentive, that tax money would never have been raised in the first place, and so those taxing bodies are not actually losing anything.
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