Friday, June 27, 2014

Karen vs. Rahm—the choice is yours, Chicago

Posted By on 06.27.14 at 01:46 PM

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, says shell challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel if no one else will.
  • Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times Media
  • Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, says she'll challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel if no one else will.
I was driving home down Western Avenue, listening to the NBA draft, when the call came in from my man, Mick Dumke.

"Did you hear the news? Karen Lewis is getting ready to run for mayor."

At which point, I started honking the horn, waving my fist, and singing "We Are the Champions."

Then Mick brought me down to earth. Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, hadn't officially declared. More like she'd told the Sun-Times that she would run if no one else of stature jumps into the race.

Still, I haven't felt so good about a breaking political story in this town since the International Olympic Committee gave Chicago the heave-ho in its bid for the 2016 Olympics. Thus saving you, me, and every other taxpayer gazillions of dollars in taxes.

In fact, you have to go back to the IOC to find anyone with power who's unafraid to stand up to the mayor, be he Daley or Emanuel.

Because let's face it, Chicago—this last 25 years or so have not been your finest moments, politically speaking.

Year in and year out Daley and Emanuel have done what they wanted while the city's business, community, and civic leaders either looked the other way or joined the chorus.

As is about to happen with the George Lucas Museum, where Mayor Emanuel gives away public lakefront land that's not his to give away.

For the last eight years of his reign, Mayor Daley never had any serious opposition, despite all the corruption and scandals.

Every single high-profile contender—from Congressmen Jesse Jackson and Luis Gutierrez to Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County clerk David Orr—chickened out.

I can't tell you how many times I've had some version of the following conversation with one outraged Chicagoan or another who'd called to complain about some boneheaded scheme the mayor had come up with.

Me: Just curious—who did you vote for in the last election?

Voter: Daley.

Me: Why?

Voters: What choice did I have?

Well, Chicago, it looks like you're going to get a choice.

Anyway, by the time I got home and actually read Lauren "Scoop" FitzPatrick's story, I had a better sense of what was going on.

Lewis wasn't announcing her candidacy—she was announcing that she was "seriously thinking" about announcing.

“I’m a little sick of the mayor and I don’t see anyone stepping up," she told FitzPatrick.

Translation: Hey, Toni, make up your mind, already!

That's Toni as in Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County board, who, as we all know, would mop the floor with Rahm if she ran.

But at the moment, Preckwinkle seems more interested in tormenting those who want her to run, as Mick pointed out in a recent post.

But back to Karen Lewis.

Like her or not, you've got to go back to Harold Washington or Ralph Metcalfe to find a big-name player on Chicago's political stage with her kind of guts. I mean, she backs down from no bullies.

When Mayor Rahm came into office, he essentially sat her down to tell her he was going to close schools, fire teachers, cut salaries, and dole out money to nonunion charters, thus depleting her union through attrition.

When she told him she wasn't going along with it, he told her—well, we all know what he told her. It rhymes with "muck" and starts with an F. But I won't say it, because this is a family newspaper, other than the sex ads in the back.

In any event, their relationship has been downhill ever since.

So, on top of everything, a Karen-Rahm campaign promises to be a humdinger.

Or as Muhammad Ali once said about his upcoming fight with George Foreman: "We gonna get it on, 'cause we don't get along!"

Here's the best part of all: if Lewis runs, or if she goads Preckwinkle into running, or if they both run—you, the voters, can't pretend you don't have a choice.

No more wimping out, Chicago.

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