Politics

Rahm Emanuel officially running for mayor

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rahm Emanuel received a standing ovation Saturday at a school on Chicago's North Side as he announced that he's running for mayor.

Addressing an enthusiastic crowd of family, friends and supporters, Emanuel said he loves Chicago. He added that he has the toughness to lead the city through the tough economic times.

Emanuel, 50, has been on a so-called 'listening tour' for the last few weeks talking to people at CTA bus stops, businesses, and schools. The former political advisor, congressman, and White House chief of staff added one more line to his resume Saturday: mayoral candidate.

Many people have assumed for weeks what Emanuel made official Saturday.

"I want to fight for a better future for all the people of Chicago, and that's why today I'm announcing my candidacy for mayor," Emanuel said.

His was a speech heavy on biography, the man synonymous with national politics reminding voters he is a son of the city.

Emanuel's steelworker grandfather and pediatrician father settled the family in Albany Park. Emanuel is also the nephew of a Chicago police officer.

"Chicago is where I was born and where my children were raised. They are the fourth generation of my family to live here," he said.

"I've been known as President Clinton's point person, President Obama's chief of staff. Nothing has touched my life more than to be known as 'Doc Emanuel's' kid," said Emanuel.

He spoke broadly on issues mostly, but he offered some specifics, serving up a no-taxes pledge.

"This is no time to even talk about raising taxes. Our first responsibility is to make the tough choices that have been avoided too long because of politics and inertia," said Emanuel.

Starting Monday, Emanuel is putting his money where his mouth is and unleashing a nearly $750,000 ad blitz.

Emanuel is a veteran of campaigns, but some question whether his style of power suit politics will translate in the taverns, bingo halls, and hot dog joints of Chicago. Another mayoral candidate, former city schools president Gery Chico, questioned Emanuel's street credibility and downplayed Emanuel's multi-million-dollar war chest.

"These are Chicagoans who will go to the polls, and Chicagoans like people who have a Chicago story," Chico said . "We're going to have lots of money, too. We're going to have the millions of dollars necessary to fund our campaign. Maybe other people need lots more money to recreate their history, I don't know."

City clerk and mayoral hopeful Miguel del Valle also downplayed the importance of campaign money.

"I think the last thing the voters in Chicago want is for the next mayor to be elected because the next mayor spent millions of dollars putting 30-second ads on TV that mean absolutely nothing," he said.

Emanuel is one of three people announcing mayoral candidacies this weekend. Congressman Danny Davis was expected to hold an event Sunday, and state Sen. James Meeks released a Web video Saturday.

"I believe that we need to have a goal as the city of Chicago that we will make sure that every child is reading at grade level by the third grade," Meeks says in the video.

Following his announcement Saturday morning, Rahm Emanuel made a few campaign stops, mostly on the city's South Side. He says he plans to delve into the issues more deeply in three major policy speeches: one in December on education, another in January on crime and gangs and a speech in February on all things economic.

He plans to file his nominating petitions Monday.

Prepared remarks by Rahm Emanuel on candidacy for mayor of Chicago

Remarks as prepared November 13, 2010:

"Thank you for that very kind introduction, and welcome to you - my friends, neighbors and fellow Chicagoans.

I'm pleased to be joined today by my family - my wife Amy; my son Zach; my daughters Ilana and Leah and my parents Ben and Marsha Emanuel. These are the people who mean the most in the world to me, and anything I've accomplished in life has been because of their love and support.

Chicago is where I was born, and where my children were raised. They are the fourth generation of my family to live here. Only the opportunity to help President Obama as his chief of staff could have pried me away from here. And only the opportunity to lead this city could have pried me away from the President's side.

Because he knows and loves Chicago, President Obama supported my decision - for which I am grateful.

As many of you know, I've spent the last five weeks traveling around this great city - from grocery store to grocery store, "L" stop to "L"
stop -- hearing the many things we love about Chicago, and also the things we must change to make it better.

My "Tell It Like It Is" tour reminded me of the pride that all Chicagoans take in our city. It also reminded me that Chicagoans aren't shy with their opinions. We have strong feelings and we're not afraid to state them. Of course, some of us use better language than others.

We come by our strong feelings naturally, because Chicago belongs to all of us. And all of us want to make sure that Chicago remains a special place for years to come, no matter the changes and challenges we're facing.

Chicago has always been a city of immigrants - whether they came from overseas or from the South in the Great Migration. And everyone comes here for the same reasons - the chance for a better life and opportunity for their children.

That's why my grandfather came to Chicago from Europe. He was a steelworker, meat-cutter, and drove a truck for Scandinavian Meats.
Eventually, he settled the family in Albany Park.

My father came here from Israel to open a medical practice just north
of Albany Park. As a pediatrician, he touched the lives of thousands
of families - and never asked about their ability to pay.

In my life, I've been fortunate to be known as President Clinton's point man and as President Obama's chief of staff. But I'm still proudest to be known as Doctor Emanuel's kid.

My uncle Les worked out of the 17th Police District in Albany Park, and retired as a sergeant after 25 years on the force. And for six years, I had the privilege to represent Albany Park in Congress.

There's a joke in my family that we've all traveled many miles, but we haven't gone very far.
But the truth is that our family's journey is part of Chicago's story.
Ours is centered in and around Albany Park, but there are other versions of it in Humboldt Park, Washington Park and Jefferson Park.

For the past 22 years, our city has been led by Mayor Richard M. Daley
-- a man who wears his passion for Chicago on his sleeve. No one could love this city more than Mayor Daley. And no First Lady could be as loved and respected as Maggie Daley. They deserve our appreciation and we all wish them well.

Mayor Daley's strong leadership has made Chicago a world-class city, and the next mayor will have big shoes to fill. The choices we make in the next few years will define Chicago's future for generations.
They will determine whether we remain a world-class city -- or fall back.

The question in this election is who has the experience, imagination and strength to see a better future for Chicago? And who has the determination to see that vision through the end?

Because I love this city - the place my family came to and the place where I was born - I want to fight for a better future for all the people of Chicago. And that's why, today, I'm announcing my candidacy for mayor.

To keep Chicago great, we cannot allow the inertia of politics to frustrate the reforms these times demand. And we have to make sure that every part of Chicago benefits from those changes.

During the past month, I discovered again how much more unites Chicago than divides it. From the South Side to the North Side, from the Lakeshore to the West Side and everywhere in between, I heard the same, heartfelt concerns:

We need jobs - good jobs -- on which we can afford to raise a family.
Jobs with a future that will keep Chicago's economy on the cutting-edge.We need schools that prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow - schools with good teachers and dedicated principals. And
every good teacher needs a committed parent as a partner. To make
our schools work and our kids learn, parents MUST be involved. We can't legislate it. But we ought to expect it.

And if our schools aren't succeeding, we cannot be afraid of the making the changes necessary to improve them. With our children's futures on the line, continued failure is not an option. Parents must get off the sidelines and be involved in their children's education.

We need afterschool programs that keep our kids off the streets and out of trouble. Whether it's academics, athletics or the arts, I prefer the school classroom to the street corner. Any parent would, which is why we must make those alternatives available.

We need communities that are safe from gun and gang violence. There's no excuse for schoolchildren being shot on our streets. We need new resources, new ideas and more citizen involvement to make sure that every neighborhood in Chicago is safe.

Fighting crime has been a central focus of my public service-- on behalf of President Clinton and as a Member of Congress. I'm proud to have played a leading part in passing a Crime Bill that put 100,000 community police on our streets nationwide - and many here in Chicago.

I led the effort to pass the Brady Bill, the assault weapons ban and the Violence Against Women Act. I successfully fought for Megan's Law, which requires public notification of sex offenders. And I wrote the Elder Justice Act, which makes crimes against seniors a federal offense.

No one will work harder to make Chicago a safer city.

I mention these past initiatives because I believe I have a responsibility in this campaign to offer concrete plans and a vision for Chicago's future. With so much at stake, we cannot accept a campaign based on negative attacks and character assassination.

So today I pledge that I will give a major speech in December in which I lay out my ideas and vision for education. In January, I will offer a similar speech on fighting crime and gangs. And in February, voters will hear my specific plans to address the city budget and finances and the economy.

That last topic is essential. We cannot overcome the looming challenges facing Chicago unless we can get our financial house in order.

Our current budget problems are caused in part by the deep and cutting national recession. The recession only exacerbated the structural problems the city already faced.

But we cannot keep putting off hard choices and hoping things will get better, while drawing down each year on rapidly diminishing reserves.

We must face the fact that Chicago has a structural deficit and that strong measures are required to change the unsustainable course we are on.

And we cannot ask taxpayers for more when families are struggling to stay afloat in this economy. We cannot price Chicagoans out of their homes, their schools and communities.

This is no time to even talk about raising taxes. Our first responsibility is to make the tough choices that have been avoided too long because of politics and inertia.

When it comes to balancing the city budget, I promise two things:

First, all residents of this city will have to share in the sacrifices and necessary changes. Everyone will be better off only if everyone's affected.

Second, we will change the culture of city government by putting a premium on delivering service to the taxpayers who pay for it.

Government can no longer be an insider's game, serving primarily the lobbyists and well-connected.

We need to make sure that city contracts go to the lowest bidders who provide the best services -- not to the best connected. We can start by reducing the number of no-bid contracts, as I've already proposed.

No longer should TIFs, which divert billons of taxpayer dollars from schools and other services, be shrouded in secrecy or kept separate from the city budget.

Why should we continue to collect Chicago's garbage the same way we have for decades when it could be done cheaper and more efficiently as other cities have shown?

And we should phase out the head-tax on Chicago employers. We should encourage businesses to hire more Chicagoans - not discourage them from doing so through taxes on workers.

We have to accept that city government cannot be all things to all people. But with the right kind of leadership, it doesn't have to.

We can empower everyday Chicagoans with the information and tools they need to bring change on their own. And then we can make it easier for them to do so.

This is not a new concept for me.

I got my start in public life more than thirty years ago as a canvasser for a grassroots organization known as IPAC.

I went door-to-door in communities across Illinois urging people to get involved in fighting for consumer rights and environmental protections. It was hard work, but it proved to me that average citizens could make a difference.I never forgot that lesson.

As a Congressman representing the North Side of Chicago, I established a program called Congress on Your Corner.

I regularly went to grocery stores on weekends, so I could hear the ideas and concerns of the people I served -- at their convenience.

Not surprisingly, some of the best ideas I pursued in Congress came directly from those conversations in the neighborhoods.

I remember talking to Rosemary Palucchi at the Dominick's at Belmont and Cumberland. She told me the terrible story of how her elderly father with Alzheimer's - a World War II veteran -- had been abused in a nursing home.

As a result, I introduced the Elder Justice Act as a Member of Congress. And as chief of staff, I watched President Obama sign it into law as part of Healthcare reform.

I remember meeting Captain Pat Kehoe at the firehouse at Irving and Harlem. Pat told me about sitting at the kitchen table with his wife every night trying to figure out the federal college loan form.

So, as a Congressman, I introduced a bill to streamline the federal college loan application process-implemented under President Obama- making it easier for working families to provide a higher education for their children.

And I remember meeting a young father at the Jewel near Lincoln and Cullom. He told me he loved Chicago, but was planning to move away because he couldn't find a local school with the right cirriculum for his four year-old child.

I told him not to go. Instead, as you saw in the video, I worked with Principal Katherine Kennedy-Kartheiser and some very committed parents and teachers to establish the regional gifted student program here at
Coonley Elementary School. The superb education Coonley now offers
has attracted many young families - even raising local property values.

I believe these possibilities for change and progress exist all across Chicago. What they require is committed citizens -- and a government that listens and responds.

That's the kind of city we need, and the kind of mayor I want to be.

If elected, I'll hold regular town meetings in every part of our city - bringing along department heads to hear directly from the residents and taxpayers they serve. And we'll hold them on evenings and weekends, so everyone can attend.

We'll turn Congress on Your Corner into City Hall on Your Corner - not just at budget time, but throughout the year.

And I'll establish an online City Suggestion Box, so residents can continue to send me ideas - especially for saving money.

I'll continue to meet with residents at "L" stops and grocery stores and local restaurants across our city - because we need engaged citizens and well-informed leaders.

The challenges facing us are daunting. The changes we seek are profound. But there's nothing wrong in Chicago that can't be solved by what's right in Chicago.

Election Day is important, but it's just a beginning. The most important day is the day after the election. That's the day we start working to deliver the change that we voted for.

Tough times require strong leadership and the commitment to fight through them. Regardless of the outcome on Election Day, I have confidence in Chicago's future - because I've heard from so many of you about your love for this city.

Yes, we're facing tremendous challenges - from the quality of our schools to the safety of our streets and the health of our economy.
Overcoming these challenges won't be quick and it won't be easy.

But it wasn't easy for our parents and grandparents who came here from other countries, or who took the train to Chicago to escape the Jim Crow south.

They succeeded through sheer grit, hard work and determination.
Today, we need to join together and follow their example.

Because there's something even bigger than all the challenges we're facing. It's the aspirations we share for our home, Chicago.

Thank you."

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