Welcome to the Helm, Mayor Emanuel

By: Ray Hanania

 Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Ray Hanania

In taking the oath of office being sworn in as Chicago’s 46th Mayor, Rahm Emanuel cleared up one pressing controversy: why is Chicago called “the Second City.” I know it’s at the top of all our concerns. Many people have always believed the title of Second City was a designation given to us because we had the second largest population in America. But when Los Angeles edged us out a number of years back, people still called in “the Second City.”

In truth, it was because most of Chicago was burned down during the Great Chicago Fire back in 1871. The fire destroyed about 4 sq. miles of the city, killing hundreds and lasted several days from Sunday night October 8 through Tuesday morning October 10. The fire gutted the city’s downtown business section and spread north to south about four miles, and was about a 1/4 mile wide.

It’s an interesting tid-bit in a great speech. Everything else in Mayor Emanuel’s speech was pretty routine, though as inspiring as most mayoral speeches have been. Emanuel delicately tiptoed around the problems left by former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who held the office some 22 years and is the only mayor that I know of who left the job voluntarily and on two feet.

He noted that the one real achievement of his predecessor was converting the former rail yard into a world class park, Millennium Park. Daley’s real achievement though was to tone down and even mute the voices of racial hatred, something Emanuel mentioned. But, like every predecessor before him, the newly sworn-in mayor announced a major financial belt-tightening to overcome the city’s budget problems. The city that works just doesn’t have the money to make everything in the city work. That never stopped any of his predecessors though who dealt with the budget shortfalls by borrowing from the future, selling off capital assets and failing to meet all of its pension payment obligations.

Can Mayor Emanuel do any better?

I don’t know. But, he has announced a freeze on spending, except salaries. He told the some 600 political big shots and members of the public, who braved a chilled, but sunny morning that this was going to be a new day and there would be “change.” “So today, I ask of each of you — those who live here, and those who work here; business and labor: Let us share the necessary sacrifices fairly and justly. If everyone will give a little, no one will have to give too much,” Emanuel said. I’ve been to every inaugural inauguration for every Chicago mayor from Mike Bilandic to the second Rich Daley. Daley ostracized his political rival, Mayor Jane M. Byrne, when he took office. The animosity between Daley and Byrne was so thick you could cut it with a sharp quip. And there were many between them. Daley never acknowledged Byrne during his 22 years, naming nothing after her. Of course, nothing was named after Bilandic and nothing was named after Eugene Sawyer that I can remember. But Byrne was in the audience for Emanuel’s inauguration, though I didn’t see her in any of the TV side shots. Maybe that’s because unlike the other mayors, Emanuel and Byrne share something. They are both from Chicago’s North Side. I’m sure our new mayor is a Cubs Fan, which might tell you something about what to expect from his first four years in his planned dynasty. Lot’s of hope and wishful thinking. But can he make the World Series? I hope so. But I think Chicago’s many problems might keep him from taking the series.

Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media consultant. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.

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