Rahm Emanuel’s sweet-talking skills are not to be underestimated.
I realized this once again after seeing him speak to the 200-plus people who showed up Monday evening for the monthly meeting of the 49th Ward Democratic organization. He was there at the behest of the organization’s leader, Alderman Joe Moore.
“The alderman, when I first got elected, invited me up here and I told him then I wanted a partnership,” Emanuel explained to the audience at the Loyola Park field house. “He’s brought ideas to my transition about a whole set of issues.”
I'm still not sure what "partnership" means, but these are interesting times. All Mayor Daley ever got from Moore was a red face and a case of the heebie jeebies.
Sure, along with the rest of the City Council, the alderman voted for Mayor Daley’s initiatives more often than not, and he even got “caught up with the moment” a time or two and called Daley the “best big city mayor in the country.”
Still, Moore was a leading Daley irritant. He topped the City Council in votes against Mayor Daley’s initiatives the last four years. He battled the mayor over wages at Walmart (before eventually signing on to a compromise of sorts), funding for the inspector general, the regulation of coal-burning power plants, and of course the prohibition of foie gras. He recently told the Tribune that the City Council should stop acting like a flock of sheep by doing everything the mayor wanted.
Apparently his relationship with Emanuel is a little better so far.
Not once did Emanuel call him “Alderman Joe Foie Gras Moore.” Moore, meanwhile, addressed Emanuel as “Mr. Mayor,” despite the technicality that Emanuel hasn’t been sworn in just yet.
The mayor-elect spent a half hour Monday evening charming the alderman and the rest of the crowd with his usual mix of self-deprecating humor and policy chatter. He got everyone laughing with jokes about taking his parents to dinner (“These are Jewish parents—you’ve got to get used to that. My father just wants to know who’s paying before he picks out a place…”), then segued into a defense of Jean Claude Brizard, his controversial pick to run the schools (“He has accomplished a great deal, and he didn’t do it by going along and getting along”).
He took a few questions from the floor—always brave in Rogers Park, which has its share of both the politically astute and the socially outlying—and when he dodged the questions, he was candid about it, as when someone wanted to know his position on the clean power ordinance Moore has proposed.
“We have the same goal—we just have some tactical, sequential differences,” Emanuel said. “I’m being vague, but this isn’t the time to lay all the cards on the table.”
At one point activist Rose Green demanded to know why Emanuel had blown off an invitation to a candidates’ forum on housing during the mayoral campaign. He said he couldn’t remember but assured her that housing issues were very important to him.
“I accept your apology,” she said.
Emanuel himself was laughing by now. “I appreciate that as my first act as mayor-elect, you accept my apology,” he said.
He left to resounding applause.
Moore told the audience that this was the first time a mayor had been the guest speaker at a ward meeting during his 20 years in office—meaning, of course, that Daley had never been in the house.
“Now, I’m sure we will have our differences,” Moore said of Emanuel. “But in the last two months I’ve had more contact with the mayor-elect and his staff than I’ve had in the last two years with the current mayor.”
That could mean there were 20 contacts or two. Regardless, I'm expecting to hear the word "partnership" thrown around a whole lot in City Hall the next couple of years. Along with "Mr. Mayor."