Daley and Emanuel together at the opening of the Art Institute's Modern Wing in 2009. Photo courtesy of www.anthonyjstewart.com.
Here at Ward Room, we like to keep track of Rahm Emanuel’s national media profiles, which tend to be much more complimentary than those written by journalists who have to deal with the mayor on a daily basis. They’re beginning to remind us of the stories which began appearing after Barack Obama won the 2004 Senate primary. Suddenly, the state senator from Hyde Park was “tall, fresh and elegant.”
Emanuel is none of those things, of course, but he’s good at getting Bigfoot reporters to tell the story he wants told. And the story he wants told is that a) Mayor Richard M. Daley left the city in a huge financial hole, and b) he’s a post-Machine mayor. Here’s Britain’s The Economist, commenting on Emanuel’s first 100 days in office:
Mr. Emanuel began by assembling a team of professional advisers and administrators—a stark contrast to the patronage of previous regimes. He set the tone by cutting $75m from the city’s bloated budget on his first day in office. At his first city council meeting, he cut even more.
It has been an impressive start, but Mr. Emanuel has not completely escaped the shadow of Richard Daley, who ruled Chicago for the previous 22 years. Although the former mayor is generally praised for revitalising the city, he also left behind a fiscal mess, using one-off fixes to paper over a structural deficit that is expected to reach $636m in 2012.
The Economist is known for its stodginess. It’s also interesting that Emanuel has received his greatest praise from financially conservative journals, specifically because of his confrontations with the public employee unions.
A story in Bloomberg Businessweek praised his “tough line” with unions.The Economist continues the trope:
To try to close a $31m gap in Mr Daley’s 2011 budget, caused by the expiry of union concessions, Mr. Emanuel implored labour leaders to make changes to their contracts, such as moving to a 40-hour work week (from 35 hours) and taking less overtime. They demurred, leading Mr Emanuel to privatise a handful of services, resulting in as many as 625 lay-offs. That is just a start. “Competition will now be the operative theory of how we govern,” Mr Emanuel has said. “You’re going to have to compete for the work.”
Attacking Mayor Daley and the unions in the same sentence! Emanuel has to like that.
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