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Rahm's Losing Streak Continues With No End In Sight

By Ted Cox | June 24, 2016 5:34pm | Updated on June 29, 2016 10:47am
 From Anita Alvarez losing and Troy LaRaviere winning to the rising murder rate and the loss of the Lucas Museum, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has suffered a string of setbacks going into last year.
From Anita Alvarez losing and Troy LaRaviere winning to the rising murder rate and the loss of the Lucas Museum, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has suffered a string of setbacks going into last year.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The hits just keep on coming for Mayor Rahm Emanuel — and not in a good way.

The loss of the Lucas Museum continues a string of setbacks going well into last year, since he managed to prevail in his re-election runoff with Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Chicago).

He might have thought things had to have bottomed out in November and December with the release of the Laquan McDonald video and the subsequent firing of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, but consider what's happened since.

The loss of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to Kimm Foxx in the March Democratic primary was widely perceived as a rebuke to the mayor as well, with protesters chanting, "Two down, one to go," meaning McCarthy, Alvarez and then Emanuel. Even he admitted it signaled voters wanting a change, and while he still has over two and a half years to turn the tide before the next municipal election, he hasn't shown any signs of being able to do it yet.

The victory of Troy LaRaviere in the race to lead a local school principal organization came in spite of his removal as Blaine Elementary principal by Chicago Public Schools. Emanuel insisted he had nothing to do with that, but a leading critic moved on to a position of considerable power in any case.

• Emanuel can hardly be faulted for a disaster decades in the making, and triggered by the recent calamity in Flint, Mich., but the discovery of lead in Chicago Public Schools at Tanner Elementary in May was more than just a bad break for the mayor. As of this week, as districtwide testing continues, 30 schools have been found with dangerous levels of lead in the water.

• Speaking of CPS, a solution to its funding problems remains mired in the budget gridlock between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly. Likewise, Emanuel's bid for an expanded homeowner exemption in the face of a record property-tax increase also went nowhere. Now he'll have to rush some sort of rebate program in ahead of Aug. 1, when bills come due.

• In May, a fresh study of aldermanic voting patterns showed, "The level of dissent in City Council is growing," according to University of Illinois at Chicago professor Dick Simpson, himself a former maverick aldermen. The Emanuel administration tried to dismiss it as the work of a man who'd supported Garcia, but there was no denying the rise in votes against the mayor's positions, right up through several issues in this week's City Council meeting.

To be sure, Emanuel has had some victories, including Ald. Edward Burke (14th) smacking down an attempt to derail Emanuel-backed ride-hailing legislation at that meeting. Similarly, Emanuel's appointment of Eddie Johnson as police chief, while it required a one-time exception to existing city law, has been generally well-received, by the larger community and by the Police Department rank and file.

The city has also seen some big redevelopment projects announced recently, including McDonald's move to the West Loop, the redevelopment of the long-shuttered Main Post Office and plans to bring thousands of homes and businesses to a huge stretch of land near the Chicago River just south of Roosevelt Road.

Yet balance that against a rising crime rate and a rising murder rate, with the hot months of summer only beginning, and the magnitude of the problems Emanuel continues to face becomes clear.

And finally there's the humiliation of having to sit on the political sidelines during a presidential election. When Hillary Clinton came to Bronzeville ahead of the Illinois primary, Emanuel was nowhere to be seen. That has to eat at him as much as anything else as a political animal — a wounded animal seemingly beset on all sides.

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