I pity the people of Chicago. On Tuesday, they must choose between the lesser of two evils: Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Which will pull Chicago out of its growing financial and social abyss?
The ad campaigns of both are disappointing. All they do is bash each other. Neither tells anyone what they plan to do about Chicago’s problems.
It’s one reason why I am glad my parents fled Chicago in the 1960s. I didn’t have to experience the deteriorating school system, the rising crime or have to ride the crime-ridden CTA system to and from work.
As a suburbanite, I enjoyed more of life. I still found work in Chicago’s downtown, rushing out before sunset.
Yet, I recognize that Chicago is the economic engine that drives northern Illinois and the suburbs. And if Chicago collapses like Detroit did, Chicago’s suburban communities will suffer, too.
The relationship between Chicago and its suburbs is a lot different than Detroit and its suburbs. There’s no comparison. We’re much tighter, and the powers that control Chicago in Springfield control the fate of the suburbs, too.
So, I care about who wins. Personally, my favorite candidate in the Feb. 24 election was Ald. Bob Fioretti. Fioretti had a stronger handle on Chicagoland issues as a member of the Chicago City Council, which deals with $8.9 billion in spending. In contrast, Garcia was a lackluster former Chicago alderman manipulated by slickster Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Garcia is now a member of the Cook County board, dealing with a budget of only $3.9 billion.
I always found it hard to believe that Gutierrez wasn’t playing both sides when he backed Emanuel. Gutierrez and Garcia were always attached at the political hip.
Ironically, looking back, if Gutierrez had endorsed Garcia, Emanuel might have done worse and Garcia would have done better.
But Fioretti was never popular with the leftwing movement that surrounded Garcia, and he couldn’t cut away at Emanuel’s base. Fioretti couldn’t compete with Emanuel’s campaign cash, more than $14 million. But, had Fioretti made it into the runoff April 7, I know he would have won.
But Fioretti is tragic spilled milk at this point. On April 7, Chicago voters will have to choose between Emanuel and Garcia. As an American Arab, I am no fan of Emanuel, even though I endorsed him four years ago believing that he would be fair.
Instead, his first act was to abolish the Arab Advisory Commission, then pull the rug out from under the Arabesque Festival. He shut out most American Arabs from his administration and prefers to work with non-Arab Muslims instead.
Garcia has catered to the disenfranchised American Arabs, promising to restore the Advisory Commission, the Arabesque Festival and treat American Arabs like human beings, something Emanuel has not done.
But the future of Chicago is about more than Emanuel’s discrimination against American Arabs. It’s about which of the two is more qualified to run Chicago.
Emanuel isn’t great but Garcia would be worse.
I’d rather see Emanuel win and continue my campaign to convince him to recognize American Arabs rights, rather than see Garcia win and drag the city down. There’s somewhat of a future with Emanuel, but little hope with Garcia.