Chicago’s centrist-Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel had few fans left among Logan Square’s progressive politicians. So the mayor’s shocking announcement last month that he wouldn’t seek re-election prompted some less-surprising responses around here. Reactions ranged from hope for a more-progressive future to a fair share of “Why not me?” musings.
The 35th Ward’s energetically progressive, Democratic Socialist Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa let anyone listening know how much he welcomed Rahm’s retirement.
“Two Cities” and “Murder Mayor”
Rosa, who has worked to bring more local control and accountability to budgeting, zoning and other issues, said local leaders should take advantage of Emanuel’s departure. “Chicago must belong to her people, her children, her working families, her neighborhoods,” Rosa wrote in the above tweet.
The alderman has long criticized Emanuel’s centrist policies, and Rosa has not been alone. Pushing corporate tax breaks, privatizing city services like transit cards, and angling hard to attract Amazon to Chicago, Emanuel has always worked for business, critics have said.
This has helped Chicago’s wealthier downtown and Northwest neighborhoods prosper, while poorer, minority neighborhoods on the South and West sides lack resources, creating “a tale of two cities,” critics said.
Logan-area Alderman Scott Waguespack, who serves with Rosa on the city’s Progressive Reform Caucus, said the “two cities” story would define Emanuel’s legacy. “On the South and West sides, you see a different city than downtown, or where I am, on the Northwest,” Waguespack said, speaking on a Sept. 4 episode of wttw’s Chicago Tonight.
Speaking to The Nation in a piece memorializing Emanuel as “the Murder Mayor,” Rosa called the end of the Emanuel era an opportunity to turn back that corporate-focused tide.
“Now is the time for Chicago’s progressives to seize this moment and imagine a city free of corporate Democratic control,” Rosa said.
That “Murder Mayor” moniker, originally coined by former Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis, referenced the city’s shooting violence during Emanuel’s terms, as well as other criticisms of the mayor. “Look at the murder rate in this city,” Lewis said in 2013. “He’s murdering schools, he’s murdering good jobs. He’s murdering housing.”
The term took on new significance in 2015, with Emanuel’s handling of the Laquan McDonald case. This week, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder for shooting McDonald 16 times in 2014. Emanuel, now infamously, fought the release of the shooting footage.
Even as most observers look to what awaits Chicago post-Emanuel, Alderman Waguespack reminded his constituents that the mayor still has nine months to affect the city.
“Many issues that the mayor wants to move ahead with before the election have yet to be opened to discussion in requested public hearings,” Waguespack said on his office’s Facebook page. Those topics include Elon Musk’s proposed train linking downtown and O’Hare and the Chicago Public Schools sexual abuse scandal, Waguespack said.
Who’s Running from Logan Square?
Some Logan Square leaders had some more-personal things to say about Emanuel’s exit than “good riddance,” however—things more along the lines of “take a chance on me, Chicago.”
Waguespack, rumored in the past to be interested in the mayorship, again floated his own name in the wake of Emanuel’s announcement.
“I think, like everyone in the city, we love the city, and we want to see it do better,” he said on Chicago Tonight. “So, there’s openings there for people to really think about progressive openings for the city.”
“Including yourself,” host Phil Ponce asked Waguespack, who responded, “I think so.”
Waguespack was considering a mayorial run as early as last year, John Kass reported in the Tribune. Back before Emanuel announced his first run for mayor, there was a push for a Waguespack candidacy, Kass wrote. But then Emanuel announced he would run in 2010, taking over the race.
Block Club Chicago mentioned both Waguespack and fellow Logan Square-area Alderman Joe Moreno (First Ward) as rumored candidates. Speaking to the Tribune, Moreno didn’t rule out a run, saying that none of the current candidates have “shown they’re a progressive who can get things done” like he has.
Out of the Race
Other rumored candidates included both retiring Congressman Luis Gutierrez, whose 4th District covers part of Logan Square, and his likely replacement, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. However, Gutierrez quickly threw his own support behind Garcia, who himself decided this week against running. Garcia had forced Emanuel into a surprise run-off vote in the 2015 mayoral race.
As a favorite on the left, at least locally, Alderman Rosa might seem like another potential candidate. But his public statements so far suggest he’s focusing on his current job.
Gabriel Piemonte, a
Last Boss Mayor?
Chicago’s next mayor, whether she or he comes from the Logan area or elsewhere in the city, could mark a transformation in Windy City politics, wrote Edward McClelland in Chicago magazine. And progressive alderman like Rosa and Waguespack could play a big role in that change, McClelland said.
“Could the Chicago City Council, after six and a half decades under the thumb of boss mayor beginning with Richard J. Daley, finally reclaim the powers granted it by the city’s founders?” he wrote. There’s a chance, he said, because “the body’s Progressive Caucus, a group of independent aldermen which … includes Scott Waguespack and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, is certain to grow.”
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