CN March 19, 2015 Part 1


Rahm Emanuel did the right thing.

“The the reality is those schools should have been closed,” says Chicago Defender Executive Editor Kai El’ Zabar. “If you had gone in and seen the circumstances and the situations people were working under. Facilities were eroded. Leaky pipes, rats, roaches. Who wants their children in that? These were socially disadvantaged communities. The parents didn’t have the resources or the wherewithal to complain about the schools so when the time came for them to be closed the teachers didn’t even say anything. Why? Because those were probably the teachers that were in trouble.

“They had been put in those situations – they didn’t want to speak up because they wanted their jobs. So the CTU protected their interests, used it as a playing card to say Rahm Emanuel closed all those schools.The reality is those schools deserved to be closed.”

It was Rahm Emanuel’s direct approach to the schools that helped him earn the Defender’s editorial endorsement.

Miguel de Valle, former City Clerk and 2011 Mayoral candidate, remains unimpressed by Emanuel. But he wasn’t overwhelmed by his friend Chuy Garcia’s performance last Monday in the first televised debate, either.

“This debate kind of reminded me of the Barack Obama debate with Mitch Romney”, he tells us, “Where Mitt Romney just left him in the dust. And Barack Obama came back very strong. I’m kind of counting on that this time around because I think that Garcia has some great ideas. But he’s going to have to work really hard to articulate those and get his message across”

So what advice would he offer the mayoral challenger?

“I’d tell him to be very clear, and just focus in on the issues,” he says. “For example, when the mayor said I haven’t increased property taxes, that’s not true. There have been over $300 million in increases in property taxes coming from CPS and other taxing bodies. It’s important that he get down into the specifics without boring people to death so that he can then become a clear contrast to Rahm Emanuel. When the mayor says he’s doing community policing in that debate I would have reminded people that last weekend there were five murders in the city of Chicago and we’ve had from Rahm Emmanuel about five plans to deal with violence and none of them have really worked.”

The Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart joined today’s panel to talk about some current coverage of the Emanuel campaign. A recent series he and others authored tracked the huge volumes of money the Mayor raised for his two campaigns.

“We found that of all the 30 million the mayor had raised at that point about half that money came from a very small circle of the donors – about 100 donors – and of those, 60% got something from City Hall.

“There’s a more recent example of that kind of thing happening where Magic Johnson and his partner have a press conference last month to give $10 million to the mayor’s summer jobs program. It was right before the election… the company that was set up to make that $10 million contribution, a week later gives Rahm Emanuel’s campaign a hundred thousand dollar contribution. Now that number’s up to $250,000 and what the story also lays out is that this came after one of Magic Johnson’s companies got an $80 million contract with Chicago Public Schools to oversee facilities for the scool district.”

Although Johnson’s wasn’t the only company involved in the mass privatization of cleaning and maintenance in Chicago’s public schools, the overall effort has been criticized by almost everyone subjected to the services.

“Many of these top donors have something at stake,” Ruthhart continues. “We’ve written numerous stories about developers who have approvals pending before City Hall for massive skyscrapers and the Mayor’s calendar shows him going to Lakeshore Drive condos of these folks, meeting with them, having campaign money come in, and the next week doing a ribbon-cutting or some event for the building which still has to go through the approval process… We’ve repeatedly asked the mayor for the better part of two years to discuss his fundraising. He’s refused at every turn. The story today has a very brief exchange in which I caught up with him at a diner in Bronzeville and asked him why it was okay for him to take money from developers and people who have business pending before City Hall. His only brief answer was that he follows the law and he walked away.”

So much more on today’s show: what was the meaning of Carrie Austin’s revelation that property tax increases were inevitable, the craziness over red – light cameras, the impending Supreme Court ruling on pension funding, and an intriguing explanation for why the Defender believes Rahm Emanuel is right for black Chicago, from Kai El’ Zabar:

“One of the problems I think with the more marginalized people is that they have a tendency to look for the Messiah, you know, who’s going to come and take this magic wand and just make everything go away – rather than look at themselves as a collective and how they can sit down and bargain about what their needs and interests are with each candidate.”


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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