Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

The Dollar-a-Year Mayor

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As Mayor Rahm Emanuel demands concessions from unions, is it unfair to ask, “Why don’t you take a pay cut, Mr. Mayor?” 

    Emanuel earns $216,210 a year, according to the database of city salaries he posted on the Internet. And it’s not like he needs the money. The mayor is set for life, thanks to the $18 million he earned as an investment banker.

    Deputy Mayor Mark Angelson, whose stint as CEO of R.R. Donnelly has left him similarly well-off, is working for $1, following the tradition of “dollar a year men” who lent their business expertise to the federal government during times of war and economic hardship. Emanuel’s closest counterpart in public life, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accepts only $1 a year from the city treasury.

    Emanuel, though, does not seem conditioned to turn down money. One of my favorite moments of the mayoral campaign occurred when the Chicago Tribune’s Bruce Dold asked, “Mr. Emanuel, do you feel you earned the $320,000 you made attending six meetings of the Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac board?” Emanuel responded with a blank stare, as though he couldn’t comprehend why his presence wouldn’t be worth $53,333.33 a meeting. (To be fair, Bloomberg is a billionaire, while Emanuel is only a multi-millionaire.)

    Emanuel also seems to believe that rank has its rewards. Many of his top officials – including Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott ($169,992) and Transportation Commissioner Gabriel Klein ($169,500) – are earning more than their predecessors in the Daley Administration.  

    “I think he better re-evaluate that,” 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti said. “We’re in a difficult budget time. He has told us over and over again that everybody has to share in the pain. Citizens are sharing in the pain, and the top officials should be sharing in the pain, too.”

    Bloody well right. We’re still recovering from the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. The state is collecting more income taxes to stay afloat. The city is writing more parking tickets, fishing for every meager penny in motorists’ pockets. If Emanuel is demanding pay cuts from cement masons, truck drivers and hoisting engineers, he ought to demand the same from his lieutenants at City Hall. It’s not fair to ask them to serve as dollar-a-year men, but can’t they get by on $150,000? 

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