After months of protests, bad financial news and a city government that keeps stumbling on new problems, Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed like maybe he’s found his footing after yesterday’s Council meeting.
“Progress is more important than postponing,” Mayor Emanuel said in his post-Council meeting press conference. “I think it stands in direct contrast to Springfield, where we actually have put progress in front of politics, we’ve put dialogue ahead of demonization and actually found a way where people of differing views could work together.”
It was a blockbuster City Council meeting, lasting about five hours, that included passage of new regulations on a wide suite of issues, from ride-sharing to paid sick leave to a new Wrigley Field plaza to “homesharing”, as Emanuel kept calling it. A month ago, Emanuel’s team was struggling with negotiations in multiple committees, meeting sharp resistance from some of his most devout Council allies.
But it seemed like he took a turn this past week, and has maybe even created a new slogan that could carry him through to 2019: We get things done in Chicago. In other places? Not so much.
Feeling his oats, Mayor Emanuel went on yesterday to compare his leadership to other cities in the U.S. and globally. “We’ve made significant progress and in some ways putting [our] own signature on issues that are being debated and discussed in cities where they can’t make progress, like Austin, Texas, like Houston, like San Francisco, and when it comes to the ride-share industry, Paris [and] Buenos Aires where they are not making any progress.”
While political crowing sometimes gets a bit off kilter, there’s some truth to what Mayor Emanuel said. Since the spring, he’s begun to grind it out. Springfield’s passage of SB777, a negotiated plan for refinancing the laborers pension fund, and termination of toxic swap agreements have eased some of the city’s biggest festering financial problems. May’s passage of a major new plan for Central Business District development incentives is the first significant city planning move in almost 20 years.
Yet there are items on which he is moving at a snail’s pace, such as ensuring Chicago Public Schools are funded for an on-time fall start.
But on enacting meaningful policing reform–an issue on which he has suffered serious tin-earitus, there are a some signs that he’s beginning to get a plan together.
The first sign of that change has been the Police Department’s decision in the case of the police officer who stomped on the head of Chicagoan Shaquille O’Neal last week. In a surprise move Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced he had stripped the plainclothes officer of police powers. Supt. Johnson’s decision has not sat well with the police rank and file, stirring fears the Superintendent isn’t protecting their back, but from every perspective outside of the department it seems like a common sense measure.
The second move, although not without some prodding, has been Mayor Emanuel’s decision to run his policing reform plans through Council. While he originally announced in May changes as almost a fait accompli, Police Board President Lori Lightfoot’s very public call for transparency resulted in a set of joint Public Safety and Budget Committee hearings planned for early July.
In those hearings we should expect to finally hear discussion of Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5) call to eliminate the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) to create an independent (of the mayor) citizen police monitor and Ald. Jason Ervin’s(28) proposal to create a police inspector general.
But lest we forget, we’re still dealing with Mr. Dead-Fish-In-The-Mail. Asked yesterday to explain why he and Ald. Ed Burke (14) used parliamentary procedures to crush rebellion against the ride-share ordinance in yesterday’s Council meeting, he shrugged it off, suggesting nothing would have changed anyway.
“I will guarantee you,” Mayor Emanuel said, “had we done this a month later, it would have been the same vote, nothing would have been clarified. People knew exactly how they were going to vote.”
In other words, opposition is pointless when Rahm Emanuel is on a roll.