DO NOT HIRE RAHM EMANUEL. Signed, Chicago
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Dear President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris,
When news networks called the election for you, cheers broke out in the streets of Chicago, a city that the current occupant of the White House has repeatedly demeaned, insulted and threatened.
It was the biggest rush of collective relief this city has experienced since 2018, when we had just rid ourselves of another craven egomaniac with a legacy of destruction. That man was former mayor Rahm Emanuel, and yesterday we learned that you are considering him for a top position in your administration.
As residents of Chicago—and as community organizers, local elected officials, union members and others who are all-too-familiar with his work—we are writing to un-recommend Rahm in the strongest terms possible.
If you want to root out systemic racism, defend democracy, and build a society that leaves no one behind—all worthy goals mentioned in your victory speech—we can think of few people worse for the job than the man who earned the nickname “Mayor 1%.”
In case you’re unaware, allow us to acquaint you with Rahm’s resume in some key policy areas.
- Covered up the police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. Laquan McDonald’s killing—police shot him 16 times, including while he lay on the ground—was a catalyst of the Black Lives Matter movement and doomed Rahm’s political future in the city.
- Closed 50 elementary schools—the single largest school closure in U.S. history—over an outcry from parents, students and community members. Most of the schools served African-American children on the south and west sides of the city.
- Shuttered half of Chicago’s public mental health clinics, leaving patients in need of care literally sitting on the sidewalk outside of the locked doors and pleading for help.
- Lavished wealthy neighborhoods and pet projects with public dollars through Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Rahm’s greatest TIF hits—this is an economic development tool that’s supposed to fight “blight,” mind you—include $55 million to buy DePaul University a new basketball stadium, millions funneled to Navy Pier through an elaborate shell game, and another $1.3 billion in subsidies for luxury mega-developments on his way out the door.
- Repeatedly broke the city’s promises to rebuild public housing, while blocking an ordinance improving transparency in the mis-managed Chicago Housing Authority. The deficit in affordable housing, combined with staggering and deeply regressive property-tax hikes, were factors in the exodus of tens of thousands of Black residents out of Chicago during his term.
- Hyped a failed plan to build an express train from downtown Chicago to O’Hare airport that would bypass the transit used by actual Chicagoans. The boondoggle, hatched by Rahm campaign donor Elon Musk, was widely panned; one alderman called it a scheme “mostly for tourists and Musk’s reputation.”
- Oversaw a police department that cost taxpayers more than $540 million for abuse and misconduct settlements during his time in office.
- Rejected public referenda calling for an elected school board, instead hand-picking school CEOs such as Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was sent to federal prison after pleading guilty on a multi-million-dollar kickback scheme involving Chicago Public Schools money.
- Went on a privatization spree, to disastrous effect. Selling off everything from school janitorial services to trash collection, privatization left Chicago with indignities such as dirty classrooms and one of the nation’s most abysmal recycling rates.
The list goes on. Given his track record, awarding Rahm Emanuel a cabinet position in the new administration would be a disaster for many of the communities that helped defeat Donald Trump. Not least, it’s a Sears-Tower-sized insult to our city of Chicago, where we are continuing to deal with the effects of his legacy on a daily basis.
Take the word of the city that knows him best: We don’t want him here, but we don’t want him anywhere near the White House either.
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