Emanuel to Tribune: Mind Your Own Business on Speed Cameras

Mayor Rahm Emanuel could have taught Gen. Thomas Jackson a thing or two about stonewalling.

The Chicago Tribune has published the complete transcript of reporter David Kidwell’s interview with Emanuel.

It’s already been compared to a David Mamet script. Kidwell accuses Emanuel of covering up and lying about his real motives in pushing speed camera legislation through the General Assembly. Emanuel throws it back in Kidwell’s face, telling the reporter has no right to the information. Nor does Kidwell have any right to question a mayor about how he makes decisions.

Kidwell is persistent. Emanuel is defensive, abrasive, condescending, evasive and openly insulting. (At one point, Emanuel lectures Kidwell, “I have been in an executive position, and I mean this insulting so get it right, you haven’t. You have not been in the White House. You have not been in the mayor's office.”) Emanuel also berates the Tribune for refusing to publish a study that shows red-light cameras have reduced fatalities at intersections by 60 percent, even though it turned out the mayor’s office withheld the study from the public.

The Tribune filed a Freedom of Information request asking for e-mails related to the speed camera policy. As the newspaper noted in a separate story, “140 were denied outright or delivered with all text blacked out. Heavy redactions were imposed on some of the 25 remaining emails.” None of the e-mails, the Tribune found, were sent to or from Police Chief Garry McCarthy or Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard -- even though Emanuel claimed that McCarthy and Brizard begged for speed cameras to prevent motorists from running over children.

The full transcript is 16 pages long, but here’s the best round of the confrontation:

DK: There are number of things from when you were pushing for this before the Legislature and having press conferences. For instance, you invoked the name of Diamond Robinson, the 6-year-old who died in an automobile accident on the weekend after hours and suggested these are the consequences of not having speed cameras, but what didn’t get said was that her death wouldn't have been prevented by a speed camera. There are number of things. The city has said Chicago was the worst in the nation in terms of pedestrian deaths, when according to your own pedestrian studies is not the case. It's one of the best of the major cities.

RE: No, wait a second, the assumption there is there is nothing else to do.

DK: No the assumption is that there was a campaign of misinformation along the line to getting this thing pushed.

RE: No, I pushed this because …

DK: I am not saying it is a bad idea, I am saying what we were told is inaccurate.

RE: I have done stuff very upfront and public on behalf of the city, and it's not like I considered that they were going to be popular, but they are the right things to do on behalf of protecting our kids, and I have also been very clear that I am going to use the resources to continue to protect our kids if there are resources. I would be happy if there were none, but I am not out there searching for tough issues. This is about saving lives, and I have done what I needed to do to do that. This is about improving our physical infrastructure because we as a city — it’s crumbling. When you write stories about its crumbling it requires somebody to take action and that is what I am accountable for doing and I could not have been more transparent.

SH: We are at about an hour.

DK: Is there anything you can tell our readers about how — other than what you say in a microphone or what she releases in a press release — how they can know what goes on in the very large office of the mayor in terms of how these things come up, what are the internal agendas behind these things, what the opinions of the policymakers are? Are these things none of their business?

RE: That’s not a question. That's a trumped-up question. It is not a question. You opinionated. That's a trumped-up question. Give me a question.

Emanuel will reportedly attempt to ram a speed camera ordinance through the City Council at Wednesday’s meeting.

Let’s hope that after reading this interview, the aldermen ask Emanuel for the information he refused to share with the public. His behavior during this interview suggests he’s trying to cover up facts that would hurt his argument for speed cameras. If the Council doesn’t demand answers, they could end up steamrolled into their biggest mistake since Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 48-hour offensive to sell the parking meters.



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