Today Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as mayor of Chicago. Rich Daley officially entered retirement.
Emanuel has been talking for some time about what he plans to do, and in some cases, who he plans to do it to, to improve education, lower crime, and balance the city’s budget.
Today at his inauguration, Emanuel said, “Our city’s financial situation is difficult and profound. We cannot ignore these problems a day longer. I have been clear about the hard truths and tough choices we face: we simply can’t afford the size of city government that we had in the past. It’s not just a matter of doing more with less. We must look at every aspect of city government and ask some basic questions: Can we afford it? Is it worth it? Do we need it? Is there a better deal?”
Emanuel said he expects resistance to the changes Chicago can no longer avoid. He plans on longer school days, and possibly a longer school year. He also wants garbage collection to cost less, and police to patrol on foot.
“I fully understand there will be those who oppose our efforts to reform our schools, to cut costs and to make government more effective,” Emanuel said. “Some are sure to say, ‘this is the way we do things — we can’t try something new. Those are the rules — we can’t change them.’ … So when I ask for new policies, I guarantee, the one answer I will not tolerate is: ‘We’ve never done it that way before.’ Chicago is the city of ‘yes we can’ not ‘No we can’t.’ ”
The only known way to lower the cost of garbage collection, or any service, without lowering wages, is to increase efficiency, leading to greater productivity. Emanuel will be able to take part in the collective bargaining process as mayor, and greater efficiencies should result.
Emanuel referred to Rich Daley with deference, devoting six paragraphs of his speech to the ‘big shoes’ he has to fill.
Emanuel was Daley’s chief fund-raiser in 1989. He parlayed these skills into a job as an investment banker after serving in the Clinton administration.
“We are a much greater city because of the lifetime of service that Mayor Daley and First Lady Maggie Daley have given us,” Emanuel said. “Nobody ever loved Chicago more or served it better than Richard Daley. Now, Mr. Mayor, and forevermore, Chicago loves you back.”
Emanuel’s replacement as chief of staff to President Obama, Bill Daley, called it “a terrific day for the city: “He’s smart. I know his toughness. It’s tough, but he’ll do a great job.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, in attendance Monday, said he is not worried about Emanuel being able to tackle the city’s financial crisis: “Rahm is awesome, awesomely strong.”
Emanuel extended an olive branch to City Council members and unions.
“I reach out a hand of mutual respect . . . and I welcome your ideas for change,” he said.