Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Big City Mayors Help Kick Off Ideas Week

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Emanuel, Bloomberg and Atlanta's Kasim Reed discuss challenges.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel had home field advantage Monday at a Chicago Ideas Week panel with two other big-city mayors.

The panel was moderated by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and included NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

The mayors discussed the challenges of making decisions at the local level without sitting back and waiting for federal aid.

Like Emanuel, Reed has tried to shake things up in his city, including controversial "take it or leave" it changes to police pensions.

All of the mayors expressed sympathy with the occupy movement and the uneasiness that many Americans are feeling.

"Not that their solutions are solutions that I agree with ... but there's a major economic restructure going on ... where the middle class are feeling an angst they've never felt," Emanuel said.

"We as all public policy makers have to think about how we give a level of growth where people can achieve a level of success for themselves."

Reed said he actually plans to meet with some of the Occupy leaders.

"I'm OK with it because I think the country needs more passion and we need a big fight. We're basically stuck right now," Reed said.

Bloomberg said Americans need to look within to solve its problems and not blame China.

"I think what they do is take their taxpayer's money, they subsidize the manufacture of goods and services which they sell to us at below-market prices so that we benefit from that, and we complain about that. Something I missed there," Bloomberg said.

When asked what each mayor wanted to achieve for his city, Emanuel spoke of improving the education system and providing more access to the less fortunate.

"There are kids in parts of this city that downtown Chicago and all it's associated with is just a few miles away, but it might as well be 100 miles away," Emanuel said.

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