Carol Felsenthal
On politics

The Adventures of Rahm and Booker, the Superhero Mayors of Two Stubbornly Violent Cities

Need help? Rahmbo to the rescue! And in Newark, NJ, Cory Booker pulls his own heroics. So why can’t the mega-mayors fix their cities’ big-picture violence?

Photo: Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Will he save your life next?

Quick! Someone call Oxxford Clothes, Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago suitmaker, and order a cape for our mayor. Size: XS.

Rahm has been making the news lately—and deservedly so—for coming to the aid of an airline passenger in distress and for helping a bicyclist hit by a truck. The Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet reports that on a flight to New York last night, Rahm, flying coach, “sprang into action when the man sitting across the aisle from him…started hyperventilating.” The Mayor kneeled next to the man who had been laid prone in the plane’s aisle, and rushed to the first-class section to grab a blanket which he placed under the man’s head.

Earlier this month, getting a morning drink at the Big Shoulders Coffee in West Town, Rahm rushed outside to “comfort” a woman who had been hit on her bicycle (but not seriously injured) by a tractor-trailer in an intersection.

Our mayor was en route to DC yesterday for fundraiser for himself, a couple of meetings with cabinet secretaries, and, today, to raise some money for Cory Booker, the superhero mayor of Newark—most famous, action-hero-wise, for rushing into a burning building to rescue a woman. Booker is now a sure bet to exit his gritty, crime-ridden city to go to Washington as a U.S. Senator.

The Chicago mayor was to lead a rally today for his Newark counterpart in Jersey City. This was not a case of Rahmbo to the rescue of a politician in any danger of losing an election. No one gives Booker’s Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, any chance of winning on October 16. Lonegan trailed in one recent poll by 35 points. Let’s just say that Booker would be safe in determining which Senate office will be his and sending a decorator to measure for draperies.

For Rahm, the trip fell in the category of nice escape from the grind of CPS problems, budget problems, chief financial officer problems, ex-comptroller problems, revolving door problems, and most frustrating of all, crime problems.

The very day Rahm left town for Washington, an FBI report named Chicago the “murder capital of the country,” with more murders than New York City—Chicago, 500 in 2012; NYC, 419—even though Chicago has one-third New York’s population. And in more bad news, Chicago’s murder number was up by 81 from 2011.

Nice to take a break from all that, see old friends, add to his already impressive war chest, and bask in the applause of a friendly group of Booker backing Democrats.

Unfortunately, the shootings in Chicago don’t stop just because Rahm leaves town.

After 10 last night, 13 people standing in a larger group on a basketball court at Cornell Square Park, on West 51st Street in the city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, were shot up by a gunman, or maybe two or three, it’s not yet certain. One man carried a military-grade assault-style rifle fitted with a high-capacity magazine. The gunman pulled up in a car and opened fire, for reasons that officials called gang-related (It’s reportedly between the Gangster Disciples and the Black P Stone Nation.)

Among the victims was a three-year-old boy who was shot in the cheek. Just to show how pervasive gun violence is here, the three-year-old is the nephew of a man who was shot to death on Labor Day in the Woodlawn neighborhood. (A 15-year-old and a 17-year-old were among those wounded in Cornell Square Park; the rest of the victims were adults.)

None of last night’s victims are in danger of dying from their wounds. The toddler was the most seriously wounded and it appears that, with more surgery, he’ll be okay. But two other men, in separate shootings, died last night, and nine others were shot elsewhere in the city.

So Rahm headed back to Chicago, missing his meetings and leaving the Booker rally Rahmless.

In the end, these two talented, charismatic politicians, these superhero mayors of stubbornly violent cities, can come to the aid of individuals—Booker braving a burning building; Rahm showing a gentle, admirable side—but their cities continue to be shooting galleries.

For Rahm and his police superintendent Garry McCarthy, whom Rahm poached from Newark, where Booker had hired McCarthy to head his department, here’s hoping that this weekend, when the calendar turns from summer to fall, is cool, rainy, and peaceful.

On the subject of Rahm’s cape, and to force a bit of levity on to a horribly sad, disturbing day: The cape will come in handy when Rahm returns to Washington. As a former House member, he enjoys life-time privileges at the House gym, where his naked encounters with recalcitrant House members have become the stuff of legend.

Rahm can use the cape to cover his back—not a minor advantage for anyone who hopes to rise to the top in our nation’s capitol.

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