Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

How to Define the Mayor's Race

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ready to vote? As you narrow down your candidate of choice, here's a cheat sheet guide to words and names thrown around during the race for Chicago mayor.

    • Residency: The requirement that a candidate for mayor live in Chicago for at least a year before the election. Rahm Emanuel’s opponents charged that he didn’t meet the standard, because he rented out his house while serving as White House Chief of Staff in Washington, D.C. Emanuel successfully argued he had always intended to return, pointing out that his wife’s wedding dress was stored in a basement crawlspace.
       
    • Runoff: Until recently, Chicago had partisan primaries, with first-past-the-post winners. That’s how Harold Washington won the Democratic primary in 1983 with 36 percent of the vote. Starting in 1999, elections became non-partisan, all-comers affairs, partly to prevent people who look like Harold Washington from winning. Now, unless a candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, plus one, in the first round of voting, there’s a run-off between the top two finishers, ensuring the next mayor has a majority of votes.
       
    • "Rahm Tax”: A tax switch proposed by Rahm Emanuel which would lower the city’s sales tax from 1.25% to 1%, and make up for the lost revenue by taxing items such as limo rides and gym memberships. Emanuel says it would transfer the burden of taxation from the poor to the rich, and save the average family $200. But the average family would have to spend $80,000 a year on taxable goods to save that much. Gery Chico has referred to the tax as the "Rahm Tax."
       
    • Crack: A highly addictive mixture of cocaine and baking soda that is baked into a hard chip and smoked. Became popular in the mid-1980s, after mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins kicked drugs. Watkins never smoked crack, as Carol Moseley Braun charged during a debate at Trinity United Church of Christ. She also was never “strung out.” You don’t get strung out on crack. You get strung out on heroin.
       
    • Judas: The red-headed disciple who betrayed Jesus to the Roman authorities, in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. His name has been a synonym for “traitor” ever since. Rahm Emanuel is accusing Gery Chico of anti-Semitism for not repudiating a union leader who called Emanuel a “Wall Street Judas.” Bob Dylan, who is also Jewish, was called a Judas to folk music for playing an electric guitar. He just shot back, “You’re a liar.”
       
    • Pensions: The candidates disagree on whether city workers should have to contribute more to their pension funds. Emanuel told labor leaders he favors reduced pensions for current workers, calling the system unsustainable. Chico, Moseley Braun and del Valle favor a two-tier system, with new hires receiving fewer benefits. Del Valle believes reducing pensions would violate the state constitution.
       
    • Edward Burke: Chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, Burke is the longest-serving and most powerful alderman in Chicago history. Emanuel has suggested he’d strip Burke of the committee chairmanship, as a way of reorganizing the council to do his bidding. Gery Chico has suggested nothing of the sort: Burke helped Chico get his start in politics. Even aldermen who don’t always agree with Burke believe that allowing Emanuel to overthrow him would be an attack on the Council’s independence.
       
    • Municipal Asset: During his term in office, Mayor Daley leased the Chicago Skyway and the parking meter concession to private companies. The latter has been such a fiasco it contributed to his decision not to seek re-election. Nonetheless, mayoral candidates are open to the possibility of privatizing other city assets, including the recycling system and Midway Airport, but insist they would hold hearings and conduct financial analyses first.
       
    • TIF: Tax Increment Financing District. Introduced by Mayor Harold Washington to improve blighted neighborhoods, a TIF freezes the city’s share of increased tax revenue for 23 years, redirecting the money to pay for local improvements. Critics say Mayor Daley uses TIF money as a private slush fund. Carol Moseley Braun has criticized the use of TIFs for downtown redevelopment, and called for a moratorium. Rahm Emanuel would use TIF money to hire 950 new cops.