Chicagoans elected Rahm Emanuel as mayor, they
kissed the proverbial toad and got Prince
Triangulation. "Clintonism" has surfaced
in the Second City.
era of former Mayor Rich Daley, characterized by
mangled syntax, pay-to-play politics and devious
doings cloaked in secrecy, has been interred. It a
new day dawning, of Tweeter, Facebook, 24/7 and
Mayor Emanuel daily in your face, on the tube or
on your Blackberry, with a ready quip, a teardrop
or sputtering indignation about any and every
glitch on Chicago's road to Utopia.
Hall is now "Tweeter Hall." Instead of
reacting to developments, as Daley did, the new
mayor makes news. Every mayoral thought, utterance
or action can be observed, enjoyed and digested in
real time. The Emanuel Administration is reality
my liberal friends think Rahm is an ideological
liberal and will govern accordingly," said
John Kane, the host of a Portage Park-based
Internet radio political talk show. "I think
he's an opportunist."
is correct. Emanuel, like his mentor, Bill
Clinton, does not view issues or problems in the
context of right or wrong, liberal or
conservative. His goal is not to please his
political base. Rather, every crisis or
controversy is an opportunity and is viewed in the
context of being beneficial or detrimental to
Emanuel's career advancement. It's all about
positioning to avoid aligning with political
extremes on issues and embracing a "third
way" -- thereby minimizing political damage.
third way, as refined by Clinton and Britain's
Tony Blair, is called "triangulation,"
and it is predicated on polarization and
demonization. It works like this:
any issue, personal and economic self-interest
sets the table. Let's take education
"reform." The teachers' unions adamantly
oppose teacher competence testing, charter
schools, tampering with tenure and longer school
days, and they demand automatic pay raises.
Parents' groups want to have the ability to fire
teachers and administrators, re-charter public
schools under private auspices, and keep kids in
Emanuel a typical liberal, like Governor Pat
Quinn, he would embrace the teachers' position.
Triangulation is the alternative. Master
opportunists like Clinton and Emanuel do not align
with either faction, as that only engenders
enemies. Instead, they craft a creative
compromise. For example, school days are
lengthened slightly, teacher testing is made less
onerous, dechartering and pay hikes are rejected.
unions, rather than be enraged at Emanuel's
partial abandonment, are fawningly grateful that
their foes didn't achieve all their goals, and the
parental reformers are amazed that they won
anything. The result: Emanuel, the "Great
Triangulator," makes allies and alliances,
course, it helps to have an obnoxious adversary
who, lacking calculation and clinging to
self-interest, can be demonized -- like Newt
Gingrich during Clinton's reign and Wisconsin
Governor Scott Walker, the unions' bete noire.
Here's a scoop: Emanuel's Newt Gingrich will be
"Chicago 2011 Transition Plan," a
72-page proposal with 55 specific
"initiatives," gives a clear insight
into the difficulty of triangulation governance.
He posits lofty if not ludicrous goals like making
the public and the City Council
"partners," pledging to
"reinvent" government operations so as
to "reverse the deficit, enhance performance,
improve critical services and deliver better value
to the taxpayer." Don't tune out yet. The
platitudes are endless. Emanuel also promises
"transparency and accountability."
a $5.3 billion 2011 city budget and a structural
deficit estimated to be between $700 million and
$1.2 billion, amputation, not just minimal trims,
is the order of the day. The city's share of the
sales tax will soon drop by 0.25 percent. The
city's pension system, Emanuel said during the
campaign, is "dishonest and
unsustainable." And city workers, with their
guaranteed incomes, must "share the
pain" of the economic quagmire and suffer pay
and benefit cuts.
liberal establishment, meaning the teachers'
unions, public sector unions and social service
lobby, dismissed Emanuel's campaign rhetoric are
political pablum. They are being disabused of
triangulated beautifully on the issue of a Chicago
casino. Quinn sputtered about "the people
come first, not the gamblers, not the
insiders." The General Assembly authorized
five more casinos, with one in Chicago, and the
mayor laid it on the line: Who cares if Chicago
takes business from the nine existing casinos?
They each generate gross revenues of $140
million to $287 million annually. Who cares if
people have a gambling problem? Why shouldn't
Chicago get a piece of that action? It's about the
money, stupid. It's not government's job to cure
an analysis of the "transition plan":
health and safety: Like Daley, Emanuel is adamant
in his support of gun control. According to his
plan, since 80 percent of the 435 city murders in
2010 were committed with a firearm, then it
logically follows that stricter enforcement of
existing gun control laws is obligatory, as is
"stopping the gun flow." Last year,
8,000 guns were seized by Chicago police. To
triangulate, Emanuel has to balance 2nd Amendment
rights, which in a recent U.S. Supreme Court
decision recognized the constitutional right of
self-defense by keeping a firearm in the home,
with advocates of concealed carry. On guns,
Emanuel will take the liberal tack.
deployment is a hot-button issue. With the Chicago
Police Department undermanned, the mayor promised
"hundreds of new officers on the
streets." He relies on statistics indicating
that for every 10 percent increase in on-street
police presence, violent crime declines by 4
percent and property crime declines by 5 percent.
Therefore, moving cops from outlying, lower-crime
districts to inner-city, high-crime areas will
reduce crime levels. Emanuel wants to be a
tough-on-crime mayor, with falling crime rates.
Expect continued redeployment. Every added dollar
spent on policing "saves $8 in the
long-term," the plan claims.
for the CAPS program, the plan deems it to have
"faltered" and wants to
"reinvent" it with pilot programs in
five police districts. The mayor also proposes to
"improve street safety," addressing bike
lanes, dangerous intersections and fatality rates,
to increase access to "underserved"
public space (meaning parkland), to
"review" the 2,000-plus public events
and festivals, and to create 125 miles of bike
plan bemoans other ills: Four million tons of
waste are collected annually, only one-third of
Chicago households have blue cart recycling, and
9,000 miles of sewers and water pipes are
degrading. Does Emanuel privatize recycling?
performance: Emanuel ordered $75 million in
non-classroom cuts in the Chicago Public Schools,
and he is coping with a $720 million deficit;
classroom sizes were maintained, but a 4 percent
teachers' salary raise was scuttled. According to
the plan, 10,000 of the city's 410,000 students
drop out yearly, and the graduation rate is 56
percent, up from 47 percent in 2000. Only 8
percent of city public high school graduates ever
earn a college degree. The mayor wants a
"race to the top" and to "transform
underperforming" schools, but he does not
embrace charter schools. He wants to "link
student/teacher performance to academic
outcomes" -- in short, to fire or slash the
pay of teachers who don't produce classroom
results. As for a longer school day, Houston's is
3 hours longer than Chicago's.
the City Colleges system, the plan noted that
there is a 54 percent dropout rate before a
student earns the first 15 credits and that more
than 300,000 credits are lying fallow and not
being applied to a degree.
issues: Emanuel wants to restructure the city's 40
departments, "reform" the $1.6 billion
in contract procurement, and "simplify"
the 600 city regulations and two million
inspections performed annually. He wants
"ethics reform," banning city employees
from lobbying for 2 years after they leave the
city payroll. City pensions currently are 42
percent funded, with a $550 million shortfall. The
legislature passed a bill mandating 90 percent
funding by 2041, with property tax hikes beginning
in 2015. The mayor wants to eliminate the
$4-per-employee head tax and reform the tax
increment financing district system, which absorbs
$500 million yearly in property taxes.
of city recycling is Emanuel's real test of
triangulation. A total of 359,000 households are
serviced. It will cost $13.3 million to do the job
with city laborers, and half that with private
a "day of reckoning," Emanuel said
during the campaign. Yet the mayor's transition
plan is long on aspiration but short on details.
Emanuel aspires to the White House, and a 2014 bid
for governor is likely. To cut one-fifth of the
city budget is an enemy-making, career-crippling
proposition. Triangulation will be his salvation:
Make the cuts, be the hero, give voters the
impression that he's working 24/7, and blame
is alive and well in Chicago.