TWO segments on this week’s show. First, The Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart, followed by CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
Bill Ruthhart has been able to observe the Emanuel administration from a front-row seat.
“A couple of hours after he announced he wasn’t running I went up to talk, I sat down and had an interview with him,” he tells us. It was later the same day.
“He basically laid out two main reasons,” Ruthhart explains. “One, after a life in public service from the Clinton administration to Congress to the Obama administration to eight years as mayor there have been numerous family sacrifices. His three kids are now all off to college. He just dropped the third one off to college over Labor Day Weekend just a day before he made this announcement. So he described it as two planes about to land on the runway, his personal life and his professional life. And for once they are in sync and he can walk away from mayor and have this personal life with his wife where they can go do things that they want to do and not put them off anymore. That was one piece of it. The other piece of it was the demands of the job. And he did not say this specifically to me in the interview but he has said it to close confidantes and friends and it’s been reported that he thought he had enough in the tank for perhaps another year or two as mayor at the rate he does it, maybe not another four, and this is a guy who – criticize him for any number of things, one thing that is undisputable is the guy works seven days a week all hours of the day. If you talk to anybody who has worked for him they only last a year or two because they can’t keep up. I think he decided that he couldn’t keep that pace for another four years.”
But there were also some very practical political considerations in the mix.
“So those are the two chief reasons,” Rutthart asserts. “Now, he also had a bruising election battle ahead of him. While he and his allies thought he could win, that was not going to be pretty. He would have had the Laquan McDonald verdict unfolding in the middle of that, so he would have been in these debates and forums with 11 other people slinging arrows at him and that’s a tough thing to go through too. And so I guess in the end he just decided he was done, it wasn’t worth it to him.”
In the past few days, the heavyweight political names have all been getting in line for what Ruthhart describes as “highly desirable job.” Desirable enough that at least three key politicians who are gliding to victory in the November election are willing to chuck it all in and go for Mayor.
” That’s why you see folks like Chuy Garcia or Susanna Mendoza and even Toni Preckwinkle at 71 years old and on her way to a third term as Cook County Board president and chairman of the county Democratic Party will want this job because there is so much they can affect,” Ruthhart says. “It’s one of those jobs where you can put changes in place and see immediate impact. If you want to build something like the Riverwalk you can do it. You can see it, you can cut the ribbon on it, so you can have a lot more impact in that job than say one of many in the U.S. Congress.”
In Ruthhart’s reporter’s notebook, he keeps a running list of the currently-announced candidates (and another list on Twitter). At the time of our conversation, there were fifteen names on the list. But those are only the ones who’ve formally announced.
“Then there’s another three who are at least kicking the idea around,” he continues. “Congressman Mike Quigley. I think it’s more likely than not he sticks where he is. Cook County Commissioner and soon to be likely a congressman Jesus Chuy Garcia. He seems to be considering it seriously after he finished runner-up four years ago to Emanuel after forcing him in a runoff. And then Illinois comptroller Susanna Mendoza, who can’t really say much about how she might want to run for mayor because she’s got to win her comptroller race in November first.”
So is there a path to victory that’s common to all of these varied candidates? There are some practical realities that Ruthhart says apply to pretty much everyone. “The city is a third white, a third Latino, a third black roughly. If you can patch together two-thirds of that you’re in good shape.” But with fifteen or more competitors, it’ll be difficult for anyone to get a significant portion of any of those groups.
In recent days, it’s been reported that Mayor Emanuel has changed his position and has agreed with Attorney General Lisa Madigan that a provision should be added to the almost-completed Consent Decree for Chicago Police reform requiring that every police officer report when they point their gun at another person. Ruthhart says the reality is a little different.
“It’s not each officer,” he explains. “It’s not documented how many times they pointed their gun, it’s by beat, by district, so it doesn’t necessarily single out officers.”
“There was a deal cut there,” he continues. “It wasn’t quite just black and white whether to document gun pointing or not… Look, it’s being documented and if you know by beat and you know the date that it happened you can go find the police reports and figure out who the cop is that pointed their gun, but it’s not going to be a just straight statistical list so to speak.”
Our conversation surveys Ruthhart’s ovservations on most of the candidates who are currently getting attention, including Garry McCarthy, Bill Daley, Chuy Garcia, Toni Preckwinkle, Lori Lightfoot, Troy LaRaviere and a few others.
Segment Two: Stacy Davis Gates (beginning at 31:15)
Stacy Davis Gates was recently elevated to the position of Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union. She had most recently been political director. We begin by asking if her union will endorse in the Mayor’s race.
“Oh I’m absolutely sure that our members will push for an endorsement,” she asserts. “I was with a group of high school teachers yesterday and that was the first question, are we going to endorse?”
But she says it’s still to early to pick a candidate. In fact, she says, the political arm of the union has a higher priority right now, and that’s the November election.
“I know that Bruce Rauner was very influential in Rahm Emanuel’s administration as it related specifically to public education,” she claims. “So to get that guy out of there will mean a lot to our members moving forward, so there’s a very strong push amongst our membership to make sure that they get to the polls and that they vote Bruce Rauner out.”
Davis Gates displays great optimism about the mayoral race, though, because she believes that over the past eight years the CTU has made its case to Chicago voters, and the candidates now see the union in a different light.
“Most of them see our platform as mattering,” she claims. “You know there’s not a mayoral candidate worth its weight in salt that won’t endorse an elected school board. That will not capitulate to lower class sizes, who will not say that we need more resources in our school communities. One of the things that Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey did when they were the top two dogs there is that they were able to articulate very clearly to Chicago the needs of the school community and how those needs mirrored the larger communities’ needs, the disinvestment, the lack of voice. And Chicagoans identify with that by and large and believe that students deserve those things. You know we tell people all the time that our working conditions are your children’s learning conditions and that those things have to be righted in this moment.”
“You know Rahm Emanuel came into Chicago on a white steed, the Obama aura all around him, and you know people thought wrongly that he was going to be the type of leader to unite Chicago,” she continues. “And what we have seen are the deep divisions. What we’ve seen is the inequity in resource allocation, the disrespect of voices of working people, working families in this space, so our members are looking at this opportunity as a chance to get it right.”
Davis Gates is frank about the intersection of race and gender with the economic policies of the past. “If you look at the fact that privatization has done more to destroy the very fabric of this city we would have that conversation in a very sharp way. Black people, women in particular have benefited the most from public employee spaces because they were able to obtain a reasonable standard of living. They were able to get a mortgage. They were able to retire with some dignity. The problem is not the bloated pensions. The problem is that we don’t have enough public employee jobs in this city right now. Austerity has done a number on the black community. Austerity has done a number on the wealth of women in this country.”
“And we have changed Chicago for the better,” she insists. “Before red t-shirts populated the streets of Chicago it was a foregone conclusion that the mayor could impose and do whatever he wanted to do. We’ve sparked action across the country. You see West Virginia and North Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado, they’re all wearing red t-shirts.”
Davis Gates also talks about the CTU’s efforts to unionize more charter schools and create an equal pay scale for all teachers, regardless of school type. and she says the union will demand that negotiations get under way for next year’s contract renewal well before Rahm Emanuel leaves office.
On a sad note, education activist, newspaper publisher (and frequent Chicago Newsroom guest) George Schmidt died this week. Stacy Davis Gates offered a fond remembrance of Schmidt’s contribution to the union, and to public schools budgeting transparency in general. You can find it at 32:45 in this broadcast.
You can watch the entire two-part program by tapping the image above.
You can listen to the program on Soundcloud here.
You can read a full transcript here: CN transcript Sep 20 2018