EDITOR'S NOTE: Ward Room author Brooke Anderson has a unique perspective on Chicago and Illinois politics. She worked as the director of communications for former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who lost a re-election bid to current Gov. Bruce Rauner. Prior to that position, she worked on the 2011 mayoral campaign for Gery Chico, who ran against Rahm Emanuel. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NBC News.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s bid for re-election gained more steam this weekend as the hard-charging incumbent nabbed endorsements from the largest Chicago newspapers.
But more importantly, in just 15 days, voters will have their say.
So why brave the winter slush to get to your nearest polling place? Here are three things at stake in Chicago's 2015 mayoral election:
Nobody likes to pay taxes. That’s why pols avoid talking about them. But for Chicago taxpayers, the mayoral election is a matter of choosing your poison. Solving the city’s difficult financial challenges will unavoidably require revenue.
Ald. Bob Fioretti has a plan to tax commuters who work in the city. He also wants to tax electronic financial transactions on Chicago’s trading exchanges, as does fellow challenger Willie Wilson.
Chuy Garcia has voiced support for a graduated income tax, but that would require a state constitutional amendment, which as advocates found out last April, is no easy task.
If Emanuel wins, his old plan to address the city's pension crisis, which included a property tax increase along with other reforms, could resurface. Or perhaps the forgotten "Rahm Tax" on services could re-emerge as part of a potential city/state solution backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The bottom line: Get ready to pay more, Chicago – regardless of who‘s mayor.
2. Elected School Board
If Emanuel wins, progressives can kiss their best chance for an elected school board goodbye. Changing Chicago’s school board from its current appointment process to an elected one is already a long shot, given that it would likely require strong mayoral advocacy, bipartisan support in Springfield and gubernatorial approval but Emanuel has also maintained he's opposed to the idea.
Chicago is presently the only Illinois city without elected school board members.
Look for it to stay that way unless one of Emanuel’s challengers – all whom support an elected board - pulls off a major upset.
3. Crime Strategy
While the homicide rate since Emanuel took office has remained mostly unchanged, he’s done some reorganizing at the Chicago Police Department and increased overtime to cover manpower shortages. If the mayor is re-elected, look for this "work with what you’ve got" strategy to continue, as well as an ongoing focus on summer jobs and strengthening police officers’ relationships with communities.
Garcia and Fioretti also support those holistic crime-fighting strategies. But they believe much more manpower is needed and they want to hire hundreds of new police officers, which they claim can be offset by eliminating overtime.
The catch? It doesn't quite add up.
Wilson doesn't support hiring more police, according to his Sun-Times questionnaire, and he wants to fire Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for what he claims is a lack of diversity at the CPD.
Will voters roll the dice on a new face or stay the course? We'll find out Feb. 24.