Unions Disappointed as Emanuel Holds on as Chicago Mayor


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has won a second term over challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia after a six-week runoff election.

In his victory speech, Mayor Emanuel thanked voters for giving him a second chance and promised to do things differently the second time around.

“Chicago, I hear you,” he said. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished, but I understand the challenges that we face will require me to approach them differently.”

While he promised to make progress on several priorities to help the city, such as an increase in minimum wage, he added that not everyone would be happy with every decision he will make.

The city is facing a number of financial issues, including a $20 billion pension crisis and $300 million operating budget shortfall.  These issues, combined with the reforms Emanuel has put forth to fix them, caused area teachers, the working class and minority communities to bring the election into a runoff in February, writes Alexandra Jaffe for CNN.

Public school teachers had gone on strike after not being able to come to an agreement with the mayor concerning their contract, and are currently in negotiations with the school board appointed by Emanuel for a new contract.

In the midst of these talks, the school system is facing its own threat of a $1 billion budget deficit for the 2016 fiscal year in addition to pension issues, including an estimated $9 billion in unfunded liabilities.

“Look, I would say we have an emergency and we have a crisis,” said Laurence J. Msall, the president of the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan research group. “The immediate challenge for the mayor now is to try to get the Illinois legislature and the governor to recognize how close to collapse the Chicago Public Schools and the city of Chicago are without help from the legislature.”

The mayor further angered teachers by proposing a longer school day, arguing that schoolchildren in the area were “getting the shaft.”  He has been at odds, including the use of foul language, with the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis.  While the strike was officially related to the contract, some teachers say it is due to his disrespect and arrogance, writes Monica Davey for The New York Times.

Many felt that the previous efforts of the mayor, including closing public health clinics, 50 public schools and installing red light cameras, all have worked to make the problems worse for the low-income and minority communities in the area.

In a press release concerning the election results, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten discussed the future efforts she hopes to see the mayor achieve.

“The mayor now has a chance to reverse some of the damage felt by neighborhoods in Chicago. As we congratulate him tonight, we urge him to start by reinvesting in the communities he unnecessarily gutted by closing schools he could have chosen to fix and make the hub of neighborhoods.”