Getting to the fifth floor of City Hall was the easy part. Now the work begins for Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s 46th Mayor. While beautiful music and eager faces filled the Pritzker Pavilion, tough and potentially unpopular choices loom for the Emanuel administration.
Priority one in Emanuel’s inaugural address: education;
“Today our school system only graduates half of our kids,” he said as he applauded just passed legislation that will, among other things, lengthen the school day in Chicago. “I am encouraged that the Governor will act soon to make these reforms a reality for our children.”
Next on the Emanuel agenda: Public safety. The new mayor said Chicago is a big city with the heart of a small town.
“But that heart is being broken as our children continue to be victims of violence,” he said.
And finally came the city’s dire financial situation. The new Mayor has promised an immediate spending freeze, must cut the current budget, and plan for a budget that is projected at a deficit of more than $650-million.
“Our city’s financial situation is difficult and profound,” he said, “we must look at every aspect of city government and ask the basic questions, do we need it? Is it worth it? Can we afford it?
It was a tightrope that the new mayor had to walk, pointing out challenges left by the Daley Administration even as he praised his successor.
David Axelrod, a political consultant and confidant to both Daley and Emanuel, said both are larger than life characters. And that is what is needed, he said, to chart Chicago’s course.
“Running any big city is a huge task and you have to be a larger than life character to do it well,” Axelrod said.
It was a day of high emotion for the Emanuel family, his wife, Amy Rule and children joining him on stage. His parents watched from the front row with tears in their eyes.
There is much work to be done, with a brand new city council, which goes to work Wednesday. Immediately after his inaugural address the new Mayor headed towards the Council’s most powerful alderman, Ed Burke, to offer his hand.
Still it was not without a challenge to all by Chicago’s new Chief Executive.
“As some have noted, including Amy, I am not a patient man,” Emanuel said. “Some are sure to say this is the way we do things---we can’t try something new or those are the rule—we can’t change them. This is a prescription for failure that Chicago will not accept.”