Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Rahm: It's All About the Kids

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Is Mayor Rahm Emanuel getting enough sleep?

    Word is, he checks his e-mail throughout the night, then gets out of bed at 5 a.m. to swim. I’m wondering whether he’s exhausted because in his interview with Phil Ponce on “Chicago Tonight,” he seemed as close to breaking down as Jerry Lewis in the 27th hour of the Labor Day Telethon.

    Rahm had this in common with Jerry, too: he tried to make everything about the kids. No matter what asked about, the mayor insisted he was doing everything with Chicago’s children in mind.

    Of course, he’s always said that about trying to deny Chicago Public School teachers a 4 percent raise, and extend the school day. When Ponce read a viewer question asked why Emanuel was bashing teachers, the mayor responded, “We have great teachers who are dedicated to their profession. Teachers deserve what they have gotten in the past. For the last 10 years, every teacher has gotten two raises. And the children of Chicago, additional time in the last eight years, zero…To get a good public school, you can’t be last. What we’re known for is the shortest school day.”

     

    When Ponce asked whether Emanuel’s decision to send his own children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School was a reflection on the public schools, Emanuel responded, “It’s a reflection of what we decide as parents. People didn’t vote for me for what I do with my kids. They voted for me for what I do for their kids.”

    So far, fair enough. Schools educate children, so it’s OK to use children as a political shield when you’re talking about schools. But then the question turned to the gambling expansion bill. It turns out bringing a casino to Chicago is all about the kids, too.

    “We have a casino in Chicago,” Emanuel said. “It’s in Hammond, Ind., and they’re making 20 million bucks a month.”

    Once Chicago gets that money, Emanuel plans to spend it on CTA track improvements, water mains and broadband for schools.

    “How do you stay a world class city when your schools are not wired for the 21st Century?” he asked.

    Then, late in the interview, Ponce asked why the city is still providing bodyguards for Ald. Edward Burke and former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s bodyguards. Emanuel, who had sort of been slurring his words for most of the hour, suddenly became taut and emotional.

    “We can debate this, or we can debate what happened to Darius, a 13-year-old. We can debate how to realign the 750 officers. We can debate the curfew. We can debate whether Darius should be safe to play basketball. I’m not going to allow the debate to be a distraction from the basics of the kids…I will not allow a conversation about Ed Burke’s bodyguards to distract where I should keep the focus.”

    There was just enough time for the mayor to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” but unfortunately, Ponce brought the interview to an end.