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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mayor Rahm meets the people no more

Posted by on 10.10.12 at 10:00 AM

Mayor Emanuel points to where the annual budget hearings will go.
Great story by Curtis Black for the Newstips wire service of the Community Media Workshop.

It's about Mayor Emanuel canceling the age-old tradition of holding annual budget hearings out in the neighborhoods, where he meets the little people and the little people meet him.

Apparently there's only so much meeting with the little people that Mayor Rahm can take.

Anyway, well done, Curtis! Take a bow and ask your boss—Thom Clark—to give you a raise.

And I say that not just because you quote me in the story, though that may have something to do with it.

As Curtis makes clear—by the way, did I mention that he quotes me?—Mayor Harold Washington started the tradition of annual budget hearings back in the good old days when Chicago had the world's greatest mayor.

Mayor Daley kept the tradition going. Give him credit for that—a phrase I find myself saying more and more with each passing day of the Emanuel reign.

He held three each year—usually in late August. Mayor Daley would sit in the center of a long table with his cabinet members on either side. The people would line up at a microphone. And in that way the peasants could question the king.

The press aides would give away all sorts of nifty little trinkets, like notepads, key chains, and pens. And they'd hand out copies of the preliminary budget so you'd sort of know—heavy emphasis on sort of—how your money was being spent. They always left out the TIFs, of course—that's why we call it the shadow budget.

Hey, I can't give Mayor Daley too much credit.

The department heads were under strict orders to look like they really cared about what the people were saying. I'm sure most of them were prodding themselves under the table with their pencils to keep from falling asleep after several hours of questions about potholes, garbage collection, and community policing. And you thought ruling Chicago was glamorous.

Alas, at last year's hearing at Kennedy-King College, Mayor Rahm was booed and jeered. Thin-skinned dude that he is, he probably decided there and then—no more of this bullshit with these fuckers. As only Mayor Rahm could put it.

For me the high point came when Charles Brown, a retired policeman from Englewood, asked some sharp questions about TIFs. Mayor Rahm looked like he wanted to bite his head off.

But give that mayor credit—he showed some restraint and complimented Brown for his years of service to the community.

May have won a few votes with that exchange. It certainly didn't hurt.

Point is, it was healthy for the mayor to get out a bit and mingle with the little people. Maybe hear how life is among the lower 99—as opposed to how it is for his pals in the upper 1 percent.

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