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Rahm Emanuel on "Chicago Tonight"

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Rahm Emanuel on "Chicago Tonight"
Rahm Emanuel on "Chicago Tonight"

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Rahm Emanuel spent his 51st birthday with Carol Marin on Chicago Tonight.

Marin gave him the gift of publicity -- 15 minutes on Chicago’s most popular public affairs program -- but she didn’t give him any easy questions. Here’s what Emanuel had to say about some of Chicago’s most important issues.

Pension reform: Emanuel suggested that not only should the city start new police and firefighters with lower benefits, it should re-examine the benefits of current employees.

“It’s not an honest system for the people who are in it, because these benefits are something we’re going to have a difficult time keeping, and it’s not an honest system to the taxpayer, because we’re going to ask them to do something they’re not capable of doing…They’re not on a sustainable course. We have to have an honest discussion about the changes that are going to be necessary.”

Emanuel also suggested starting a “wellness program” modeled after the grocery store chain Safeway, which requires workers with unhealthy habits, such as smoking or obesity, to pay more for health insurance.

Keeping Ald. Edward Burke as chairman of the City Council Finance Committee: “I’m not going to talk about that right now, for the simple reason that I have to run for mayor. I have to get elected. Making decisions like that are not in my purview. He has done a service since 1969. He has been Finance Committee chair for 20 years.”

Whether he will be a boss-style mayor: “We have to have a partnership between the mayor and the city council and that is on two fronts. You know we’re going to have about 15 new aldermen. You’re going to have a new mayor. That’s an opportunity for Chicago to have a new course.”

On whether we can get out of the parking meter deal: “Since we took the money, and rather than invest in our schools, our transportation system, we paid operating costs. That money’s out the door. We’ll never get that back. It is always a mistake to privatize something and not use the money to invest in future resources like new schools and a more modern mass transit system. Those are capital investments you should do … that was a big mistake.”

On his possible testimony in Rod Blagojevich’s re-trial: “The transition office gave four names: Jan Schakowsky, Jesse Jackson Jr., Dan Hynes and Tammy Duckworth. They came back said, ‘What’s in it for the governor?’ I  said, ‘Thanks, and appreciation.’”

Emanuel wasn’t especially smooth, and even seemed nervous at times. But Richard M. Daley has set the bar for mayoral articulateness so low that just speaking in complete sentences was enough to make Emanuel sound like the greatest orator since Barack Obama. Whoever wins this election, we’ll finally have a mayor we can all understand.

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