a blog about cents, in every form & measure

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

politics & debt, Chicago-style (hot peppers not included)

I literally shrieked when I read the headline "Emanuel Elected Chicago Mayor" - politics aside, I cannot believe he was tapped to win by Mayor Daley. Since when did it become ok to bestow another with the consequences of your bad economic policies? 1billion dollars of debt and less than a 50% public high
school graduation rate? OMG indeed. I definitely need to read more about Emanuel's campaign - what were his selling/talking points? Was it just the sway of popular opinion through the Obama & Daley connection which won him the vote? For years now we've known Emanuel as one of the forces behind our nation's newest president, but I have a feeling we're all going to get to know him soon....


Wall Street Journal

CHICAGO—Voters in overwhelming numbers on Tuesday elected Rahm Emanuel to be the first new mayor of Chicago in 22 years.

Only four months after resigning as President Obama's chief of staff in order to enter this city's mayoral race, Mr. Emanuel received 55% of the vote with 93% of the precincts reporting, more than the simple majority he needed to avoid a run-off campaign against second-place finisher Gery Chico, a long-time Chicago administrator who received 25% of the vote.

Indeed, Mr. Emanuel's vote far outnumbered the total of his six opponents, including former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who with most precincts reporting had garnered less than 10% of vote, despite being the leading African American candidate in a city whose population is about one-third black

Inside an Emanuel campaign party in Chicago's West Loop, an ebullient crowd cheered as a giant screen with rolling election results showed their candidate steamrolling toward victory. By 8 p.m. local time, with 84 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Emanuel was leading with 55 percent of the votes cast.

Standing in the center of the crowd was Ralph Schwartz, 83 years old, who sipped red wine to celebrate Mr. Emanuel's rising fortunes. "He has the force of personality and the knowledge to take on the sleeze in Chicago politics," Mr. Schwartz said. "The way he talks reminds me of how FDR faced down the Republicans when he was forcing through the New Deal."

By winning in such dominant fashion, Mr. Emanuel perpetuated the legacy of retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has held a firm grip on the electorate in Chicago since taking office in 1989.
Mayor Daley didn't officially endorse any candidate. But the so-called machine that helped Mayor Daley stay in power for more than two decades got behind Mr. Emanuel early in the campaign, helping him jump to a commanding lead that recent polls placed at near 50%. A former congressman from Chicago, Mr. Emanuel is a long-time ally and friend of Mayor Daley's, and also a former high-ranking member of the Clinton Administration.

On Tuesday, Mr. Emanuel's margin jumped above 50% in part because of turnout that fell far below the more than 50% of Chicago's 1.4 million registered voters that election officials had predicted.

Instead, with 90% of the vote counted, turnout remained below 40%. Those who did show up to vote, said Chicago political observers, belonged to the so-called machine, benefiting Mr. Emanuel.

Mr. Emanuel campaigned aggressively, in recent weeks making 360 hand-shaking stops, often at public-transportation stations. His war chest of several million dollars also far surpassed that of his opponents. During a two-year break from politics before running for Congress, Mr. Emanuel earned more than $15 million working for the Chicago office of a Wall Street investment firm.

Yet for Mr. Emanuel, the toughest challenge lies ahead. He faces a city reeling from the recession and years of overspending. Chicago's projected budget shortfall is approaching $1 billion and public-employee pensions are underfunded by about $20 billion. The city's unemployment rate is 8.6%.

One of Mr. Daley's favorite tools for raising quick cash was privatizing public assets. But in the wake of the sale of the city's 40,000 parking meters—a deal that resulted in rates quadrupling—the public's tolerance for more privatization is next to nil.

Chicago also faces a depleted police force and a violent crime problem, particularly in the city's largely African-American South Side.

The city's public school system is also at a crossroads. Mr. Daley took over the school system in 1995 and test scores saw an initial bump, but they have flattened out in the last decade.

Chicago's high school graduation rate remains mired just above 50%.

—The Associated Press, Stephanie Banchero, Douglas Belkin and contributed to this article.

Find the article here, at WSJ.com

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