Do you ever wonder why, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel has something important to say, he says it to The Atlantic, or The New Republic or The New York Times? I don’t. Emanuel owns all the votes he’ll ever need in Chicago. But he’s going to need a lot of votes outside Chicago to fulfill his goal of becoming, pound for pound, the most powerful world figure since Napoleon Bonaparte was Emperor of France.
While he presents the article as a blueprint for how Democrats should appeal to the middle class by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, it’s basically a brag sheet on his first 18 months in office.
While infrastructure improvements have been neglected on a federal level for decades, Chicago is making one of the nation’s largest coordinated investments, putting 30,000 residents to work over the next three years improving our roads, rails and runways; repairing our aged water system; and increasing access to gigabit-speed broadband. We are paying for these critical improvements through a combination of reforms, efficiencies and direct user fees, as well as creating the nation’s first city-level public-private infrastructure bank. Democrats should champion these kinds of innovative financing tools at a national level.
If we want to build a future in which the middle class can succeed, we must continue the push for reform that the president began with Race to the Top, bringing responsibility and accountability to our teachers and principals.
Chicago has adopted its own Race to the Top for early childhood education, allowing public schools, Head Start, charters and parochial schools to compete for dollars by improving the quality of their pre-kindergarten programs. In addition, this year Chicago Public Schools put into effect a 30 percent increase in class time, which means that when today’s kindergartners graduate high school, they will have benefited from 2½ more years’ worth of education.
In partnership with leading private-sector companies, we reengineered our six community colleges to focus each on skills training for jobs in one of Chicago’s six key growth fields. Democrats can be the party that closes the nation’s skills gap by making our community colleges a vital link between people looking for jobs and companies looking for skilled workers.
Will America elect a second straight Chicago Democrat? I think that Rahm will find, as Rod Blagojevich and Jesse Jackson Jr. did, that Barack Obama filled that quota for one lifetime.