Friday, March 22, 2013

Hey Rahm: If Toni Preckwinkle unseats you, you'll have more time to go skiing

Posted By on 03.22.13 at 01:08 PM

Hey Rahm, how are the slopes?
With all due respect to my dear friends in Mayor Emanuel's press operation—and you know I love each and every one of you very, very much . . .

What the heck were you thinking yesterday?

I mean, announcing the closing of 54 grammar schools—over 11 percent of the total—on a day when Mayor Emanuel's skiing in Utah?

Who's running the big-announcement division around here—LeBron James?

Actually, LeBron at least showed up to announce his Big Decision. If he did things like Mayor Emanuel, he'd have sent his cousin Clarence before the cameras to say, "LeBron is taking his talents to South Beach . . ."

Good God—what a week for the mayor to go AWOL. First his schools chief bans Persepolis, then they announce school closings. What's next, closing mental health clinics in high-crime neighborhoods?

Oh, wait, the mayor already did that.

OK, I understand, Mayor Emanuel apparently doesn't care too much about the people most affected by his decisions. He wouldn't even meet with the mental health activists when they begged for a few minutes of his time.

But there must be someone somewhere in his inner circle with the courage to tell him: Boss, you gotta at least look like you care.

You know, show up before the cameras on the day of the big announcement and say something like: "I come to you with a heavy heart . . ."

Or "This hurts me even more than it hurts you . . ."

Or "Take your underenrolled, poor-performing, sad-sack schools, and kiss my a . . ."

You know, I'd have more respect for the dude if he'd come right out with it.

The point is, sending 30,000-some kids to new schools is not just some abstract item on a checklist of things to do before you get to run for higher office.

In some cases, you're making kids walk across gang lines to get to their new school. In all cases, you're worrying the hell out of parents.

You're also forcing teachers and principals to reapply for their jobs. Some will get them, some won't. We're not talking about trust fund babies here. Those principals and teachers have bills to pay and families to take care of.

In short, you're turning tens of thousands of lives upside down. It's not something you have your factotums dump on the world while you're slaloming on the slopes or drinking hot cocoa by the fire.

Which brings me to my main point . . .

I just read Mick Dumke's interview with Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle.

And, let me just say, master job, Mr. Dumke!

And I got to the part where Preckwinkle said, "I talked to a member of the school board that I knew and said what a terrible idea I thought it was. You know, schools are community anchors. They're social centers. They're part of a community's identity. And often kids go half a dozen blocks and they're in different gang territory.

"The closings are going to take place almost entirely within the African-American community, and given the problems we already have with violence, I think it's very problematic."

And then she said . . .

"I talked to somebody the other day I've known for a long time who's in the public school system. Her view was that things were bad and getting worse, and she wondered whether there was a deliberate effort to weaken the public schools in order to make the case stronger for charter schools and contract schools.

"And that is just so demoralizing. If somebody who's in middle management in the public schools thinks there's a deliberate effort to weaken and destroy our schools—yeesh."

And then she linked the whole issue to crime and arrests and an overcrowded jail and, oh, just read the post yourself.

The thing is—finally, a politician who's been here for a while and who plans to stay here for a while and who's clearly thinking about the larger ramifications of how the policies we enact today have repercussions tomorrow.

I'm not saying Toni Preckwinkle wouldn't close schools if she were mayor. But I suspect there would have been more careful deliberation than the Hunger Games spectacle we got with Mayor Emanuel. And I'm certain she wouldn't have been hiding out in Utah when the closings were announced.

Look, Madame President, I know you and I have had our differences over the years. Especially with the Olympics. You wanted to bring it to town, I did not.

But, what the heck, that's ancient history, so let's just put it behind us.

Run against this guy! You know you could beat him. At least you could give him a helluva fight. At the very least, your candidacy would force Chicagoaoans to think before they vote. As opposed to mindlessly voting for the most familiar name with the deepest pockets.

Which is how we generally choose our mayors.

I know you told Mick, "What I usually say is, 'No, I'm not running for governor, I'm not running for mayor, I'm not running for dogcatcher—I'm running for reelection for the job I've got.'"

There's a lot of wiggle room in that sentence. So . . .

Make like the great Harold Washington. Give your supporters a challenge. Tell them you'll run if they register 50,000 voters. Then see if they can meet the challenge.

If they do, go for it.

This is your Harold Washington moment. They don't come very often. Seize it.

Run, Toni, run!

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