“On my first day as Mayor of this great city, I promised to make tough choices and face the hard truths we had not confronted, even when it hurts. Every day for the past seven and a half years, that is what I have tried my best to do – to improve our schools, make our community colleges relevant, put our fiscal house on stable footing, confront violence and rebuild trust between police and community, modernize our transportation systems, invest in our neighborhood parks and libraries and grow our economy into an engine of jobs and opportunity for all. I’m not shy, and together we’ve never shied away from a challenge.”
These were the opening words in a statement Mayor Emanuel made on Tuesday, announcing he will not run for re-election in 2019. It has come to many as a shock; however, a lot of mayor’s critics and supporters applauded this decision.
While Mayor Emanuel sets his office for a sprint run to finish in May and leave Chicago a better and stronger city, let’s take a look at some the most significant events we as a city faced starting from the moment when Rahm Emanuel was first sworn in as a Chicago mayor on May 16, 2011.
2012: Chicago Teachers Strike
On September 11 the Chicago Teachers Union’s 26,000 members headed to the picket lines instead of the classroom. The walkout marked the first public school teacher strike in 25 years in the nation’s third-largest school district and has impacted more than 350,000 of the city’s youth and their families. It became one of the biggest challenges for the newly-elected mayor, and considering the ties between Emanuel and Obama many saw the outcome of the strike as one of the points to influence the November presidential election.
The Chicago teachers strike of 2012 made international headlines and marked a major shift in the fight over public education reform. After seven days on the picket lines, 26,000 teachers went back to the classroom with a new contract, but also with new direction.
2013: The largest mass school closure in the country’s modern history
In 2013, the Chicago school district closed 49 elementary schools and one high school program in the face of a $1 billion deficit, the largest mass school closure in the country’s modern history. Nearly 12,000 mostly African American students living in poverty were affected. According to the promise made by the mayor and schools officials, with new schools there would be better opportunities for academic success.
Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research released a report looking at what happened when the schools were closed five years ago, and the effects of the closures on students. The researchers found multiple problems. Academic achievement — as measured by standardized test scores, which has been favored by Emanuel — were not what was expected.
2014: Laquan McDonald Shooting
The fatal shooting followed by public outrage and riots happened on October 20, 2014. 17-year-old McDonald was behaving erratically while walking down the street, and was holding a folding knife with a three-inch blade. He did not obey police commands to drop the knife. After the shooting a police union representative told reporters that Van Dyke had acted in self-defense as McDonald lunged at him and his partner. Initial police reports described the incident similarly and ruled the shooting justified. However, when a police dash-cam video of the shooting was released thirteen months later, on November 24, 2015, it showed McDonald walking away from the police when he was shot. The knife he was carrying was found to be closed. That same day Officer Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder and initially held without bail at the Cook County Jail. He was released on bail on November 30.
Subsequent protests denounced McDonald’s death and demanded changes in police and judicial procedure, and for the dismissal or resignation of city and county officials. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez lost her bid for reelection in 2016, and Superindendent Garry McCarthy was fired by the mayor. Rahm Emanuel won a second term in 2015 as Mayor of Chicago.
2017: Mayor Emanuel won a lawsuit to protect federal grant money and Chicago status as a Sanctuary City
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a nationwide injunction prohibiting Attorney General Jeff Sessions from requiring cities give immigration agents access to undocumented immigrants in their lock-ups in order to get certain public safety grants.
City of Chicago administration said in a statement that the Trump administration’s “latest unlawful misguided action undermines public safety and violates” the Constitution.
“We want you to come to Chicago if you believe in the American dream,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By forcing us, or the police department, to choose between the values of the city and the philosophy of the police department, in community policing, I think it’s a false choice and it undermines our actual safety agenda.”
Many public figures have released their statements following the announcement Mayor Emanuel made on Tuesday.
“I was a better President for his wise counsel at a particularly perilous time for our country. I’ve been blessed to call Rahm my friend. Whatever he chooses to do next, I know he’ll continue to make a positive difference, just as he has throughout his career in public service,” said former President Barack Obama.