Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chicago for Chuy

So Chicago is experiencing an historical event these days: the challenging of an incumbent mayor by someone without big money behind him who did so well in the general election that he has forced the city into a runoff election. Jesús "Chuy" García is the Floor Leader for the Cook County Board of Commissioners and has achieved an impressive amount in his career, including being part of the recent balancing of the county budget while also lowering taxes. I didn't know it was possible to do both those things together. He's been a city alderman, an Illinois state senator and has built a successful 30-year career in politics. He was born in Durango, Mexico but has lived in Chicago since he was 10 years old.

In case you follow Chicago politics even less than I do, here's a summary of what's going on, as well as I can figure it. A lot of people are unhappy with current Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who we elected in 2011. A big reason is how he's handled the Chicago public schools (CPS). Contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city of Chicago did not go well in 2012, leading to a strike that lasted over a week. Many parents of CPS students supported the teachers, who were having trouble getting what they needed on issues such health insurance and seniority pay increases. Rahm Emanuel's hard stance with teachers did not play well and he might have been surprised by how strongly Chicago parents didn't support him on that.

But he shouldn't have been surprised because a year earlier, the Chicago Board of Education -- appointed by Mayor Emanuel -- voted to close 50 Chicago public schools: 49 elementary schools and one high school. It was the biggest school closure in Chicago's history and it caused great outrage among parents and teachers. At the board meeting Ameya Pawar, one of the aldermen whose wards were affected, said "Closing a school is akin to closing a community." It was part of Emanuel's school reform efforts, but it didn't go down well.

I don't have children and don't pay much attention to CPS news. What I remember is the Emanuel administration's 2012 closing of mental health clinics all over the city. That's an issue close to my heart because that act jeopardized a very vulnerable population: poor people with mental health problems. My income level is steady these days, but who knows when I might wind up in that demographic? That move pissed me off, so by the time I heard about the closing of 50 schools a year later, I was having doubts about this Emanuel guy.

Me walking home today.
What it comes down to is that at lot of Chicagoans just don't like Rahm Emanuel. We haven't for a quite while. In fact, I can't think of a single friend who would defend him, and I have a lot of friends. I voted for Mr. García on February 24th and I plan to do so on April 7th. He's impressed me with his background with the county board and the work he did as an alderman. I believe he won't sell out to big interests because his 30-year history as a politician doesn't include that.

Today I walked into the Chicago for Chuy field office at 1144 W. Wilson and requested a button I can wear. They gave me a button and a sign to put in my apartment window which I carried home so everyone could read it (I don't have a car and walk a lot). As I walked through Rogers Park, I got some horn honks of support and one driver who yelled, "Chuy! Chuy!" It's a fun name to say, but I think people are also relieved and happy to have an excellent alternative to Rahm.

It's the countdown to April 7th and this should be a pretty good ride.


Monica said...

Have you considered either being an election judge or a poll watcher? It is a long day, but if you have the time, they normally need both.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Uh, no. Would I get donuts?