Rahm Emanuel Chicago


Eric Zorn has the transcript of Rahm Emanuel talking elliptically about Occupy Wall Street to the Trib editorial board. As a public servant who earned a fortune in a brief stint in the industry targeted by OWS, he's clearly walking a very fine line. This I thought was relevant, seeing as it's budget day (you can read the full address here):

And that is a fact that you have to deal with. And it’s a fact why I try to make sure, that whether what I’ m doing with K-12 or community colleges or the investments I’m asking or the way, as I said in my budget, everybody give a little, nobody has to give too much. We can still continue to invest in our future while meeting our current needs.

"That" being "a major restructuring going on in our economy that’s directly effecting the standard of living of people who are trying to provide for their families." Like I said, it's elliptical. But that little excerpt does seem to get to the heart of what Emanuel's doing: a whirlwind of trimming and tweaking. Some of his steps are bigger than others, like the restructuring of fire and police departments, which the Sun-Times goes into considerable detail about. Other cuts balance unpopularity with degree: shaving $7 million off the library budget by cutting Monday and Friday morning hours (Ted McClelland has a critique at NBC's Ward Room; on the bright side, you can get stuff 24/7 on Kindle now). Fee hikes are either impossible to avoid (water fees, which will go up a lot) or narrowly targeted (SUV city sticker prices). TIFs? He's taking a chunk back, but not pulling the system apart. Pensions? Nothing, for now at least.

It's a lot of little pulls and pushes. How's that working out? Not too bad, it would seem.

* David Roeder reports: "Tourism bureau reluctantly backs Chicago tax hike on hotels."

* Mick Dumke: "A few aldermen griped and grumbled that the proposed budget didn’t go far enough or that it went too far…. But most praised it as “fresh” and “honest” and predicted it would pass largely intact in a few weeks." And, as he points out, a lot of the ideas have been around awhile.

* Steve Chapman: "Our fundamental ideas about the role of government don't have a lot in common. But it's the nature of the present era that on most matters, he is doing lots of things I can only commend." And if Chapman can't exactly commend the hotel tax hike and the parking lot "congestion fee," he's willing to accept it as a necessity of sorts.

* Greg Hinz: "On balance, not bad. And miles better than his predecessor. But this budget certainly isn't a 10."

* A sampling of the business community: About what you'd expect.

After talking with his Atlanta and New York colleagues Kasim Reed and Michael Bloomberg about big ideas—Carol Felsenthal has an account of the Ideas Week "megatalk"—Emanuel got down to the small ones he's known for, as David Bernstein describes in his lengthy profile of the new mayor:

Emanuel’s frenetic pace is reminiscent of the small-ball brand of politics he championed in the Obama administration and, years earlier, in the Clinton White House, when he spearheaded efforts to pass NAFTA, the crime bill, and welfare reform: a guiding philosophy of doing a lot of accomplishable things, one step at a time, that add up to a much bigger record of accomplishment. The little victories create a sense of momentum—or, as Emanuel likes to say, a feeling that “confidence breeds capability.”

And these accomplishable things are smaller still, both as a function of his new job and the economic limitations of the current era, a lot of quick footwork after the giant steps of Daley. I think it's about what he was elected for, insofar as such a thing can be nailed down.


Photograph: Esther Kang