Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Era of Rahm

I would not be a true Chicagoan if I did not make some mention of  the era of Rahm Emanuel,  the city's new Mayor.

The Daley Dynasty has ended.  I guess you have to be from here to understand the significance of that, and the mixed emotions inspired by the absence of a Daley (Senior or Junior) from office.

During his tenure as President Obama's Chief of Staff, Emanuel was a divisive figure. Known for his quick temper and expletive-laced language, Emanuel's impact on the Administration on issues like Obama's health care plan, the closing of Guantanamo Bay, and the Eric Massa scandal, have been controversial and never very clear.

And then, almost on a whim, Emanuel resigned as Chief of Staff, with Obama's blessing, and returned to Chicago to re-invent himself as the Mayor of the country's third largest city.  It is a story that should inspire me, and much of Emanuel's achievement does just that.  At times, though, I give pause at the almost impossible rapidity of this achievement, and his almost railroading into the office.  I still believe his residency arguments were just off-center.

On the other hand, Emanuel has a quick mind, a clear vision, and the will to get a lot of things done at once.  He published the "Chicago 2011 Transition Plan", a wildly ambitious--or maybe even foolhardy--blueprint for his desired accomplishments in office.  I listed below a digest version of the "55 Promises" Emanuel lays out in his plan, courtesy of Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune. (For a detailed explanation of the 55 items listed below, click here for Zorn's blog article.)

Emanuel has promised a 100-day progress benchmark and a Year One goal.  Unless he staffs his office with extraordinary multitaskers, it would seem impossible to tackle what comes out to be just over one item on the list per week.

By his own admission, Emanuel is "not a patient man".  He also comes off in media appearances as headstrong, a poor listener, and unlikely to deviate from his plan even if it proves unworkable.  He might be a quick study, but he strikes me as a little slippery, and quick with a well-honed excuse.  I hope the press is just as impatient with him, in order to push him to be more transparent, (which he did promise on his web site), and force him to talk to these points and be honest about their success.

I wish him well...if he succeeds, it will only be a boon for Chicago.  And it will provide Emanuel with a terrific resume for a future Presidential run.

1. Cut $75 million immediately
2. Implement budget reform
3. Reform [Tax Increment Financing]
4. Initiate ethics reform
5. Set high standards for open, participatory government to involve all Chicagoans
6. Simplify the structure of government
a. Internally, by centralizing and coordinating services
b. Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations and other governments, to strengthen the effective delivery of services
7. Simplify fees, regulations and inspections
8. Centralize, professionalize, and reform procurement
9. Integrate public performance targets with service delivery and cost effectiveness standards
10. Invest in the health and well-being of City workers and their families
11. Ensure that worker safety is a top priority
12. Introduce a consolidated, comprehensive capital planning and management process
13. Take action to address gun violence
14. Reduce summer violence, especially among youth
15. Reintegrate policing with the needs and priorities of communities
16. Coordinate public safety efforts more effectively
17. Eliminate food deserts in Chicago
18. Improve street safety
19. Place more police officers on active street duty
20. Create a strong public health agenda for Chicago
21. Create a strategic and comprehensive response to the foreclosure crisis
22. Address the safety risks of vacant and abandoned buildings
23. Make Chicago’s accessibility code the most progressive in the nation
24. Launch Citywide recyling
25 Create a world-class bike network and increase cycling
26. Improve water efficiency, water quality, and water infrastructure
27. Conduct a review of City-organized festivals and cultural programming
28. Increase access to public space
29. Increase instructional time for all students
30. Recruit, support and retain high-performing school leaders and principals
31. Recruit, support and retain high-performing school teachers
32. Transform early childhood education to reach more young children with quality programs
33. Increase the number of non-selective, world-class schools in every neighborhood
34. Give parents and families the tools they need to demand high-quality schools and for their children’s education
35. Overhaul Chicago’s public high schools
36. Set a bold postsecondary completion goal that accelerates degree attainment
37. Foster an aggressive approach to innovation in Chicago education
38. Ensure that Chicago’ immigrant community can access available support and services effectively and that we deliver to Chicago’s youth the promise of the Dream Act
39. Provide more options for youth that have dropped out of school
40. Integrate economic development planning with the City’s business and financial management
41. Eliminate the head tax
42. Improve and expand Chicago’s transit system
43. Prepare people for jobs that businesses need to fill
44. Develop job growth strategies for targeted industries
45. Promote innovation and entrepreneurship
46. Develop bus rapid transit
47. Support transit-oriented development
48. Accelerate infrastructure projects that are critical to regional growth
49. Increase broadband access
50. Develop a new cultural plan for Chicago
51. Develop a strategy for creating and supporting cultural hubs throughout Chicago
52. Refocus the Chicago Climate Action Plan on economic impact and jobs
53. Promote energy efficiency and retrofits to reduce energy costs and drive job creation and new funding
54. Promote development of underutilized buildings and vacant land
55. Build vibrant communities through development of local assets and institutional anchors


  1. Am I that out of touch that I wasn't even aware this was going on? I knew he wasn't Chief of Staff anymore, but my goodness -- MAYOR Emanuel? He's set quite a few goals for himself (and then some), so all I can say is good luck and God speed.

  2. Walter, I understand your surprise..it happened VERY quickly. But there you are...Mayor Emanuel...and he just completed his first week in office!