Ronald Reagan used to say that the nine most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help."
I’ve got three words that have that beat: Mayor Karen Lewis.
A poll commissioned by the Chicago Sun-Times surprisingly finds Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) boss Karen Lewis would defeat Rahm Emanuel for Chicago Mayor by a comfortable nine-point margin if the election were held today. The same poll reports that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle would obliterate the maladjusted munchkin by 24 points.
For those, like the C-suite executives who finance Rahm, who have watched in horror as Karen Lewis built a Cesar Chavez-like cult following—minus the modest demeanor and the hunger strike—among Chicago public school teachers after rolling over Rahm during the 2012 strike, these numbers are unfathomable.
Yet, they should come as no surprise when one considers a few other numbers that punctuate Rahm’s colorless tenure as mayor:
- 1,186. From 2012-present (2.5 years), there have been 1,186 murders. 94% of those murder victims have been black or Latino individuals. Of course these numbers do not include the thousands and thousands of Chicagoans who have been shot, beaten or stabbed and survived. (source: HeyJackass.com)
- 21%. In 2013, only 21% of CPS fourth graders scored at or above proficiency on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) test.
- 47th. Between the years 2010-2013, Chicago ranked 47th out of the top 50 metropolitan areas in job growth (source: CareerBuilder.com). For additional context, Chicago’s unemployment rate is nearly twice that of Houston’s, a city of similar size and demographic composition. Correspondingly, it costs more than six times more to rent a U-Haul going from Chicago to Houston as it does to rent one going from Houston to Chicago.
These depressing results do not even directly contemplate the tax-and-spend-and-borrow-and-spend policies that have Chicago’s bond rating trending toward junk status, property taxes trending toward confiscatory and public sector pension funds trending toward insolvency.
Rahm can attack Chick-fil-A all he wants. Rahm can whine about the need for more federal dollars for yet another raft of after-school programs. Rahm can try and sell the delusion that Englewood is on the cusp of an urban Renaissance because city taxpayers are financing the location of a Whole Foods there.
What Rahm and his unimaginative, rent-seeking donor co-conspirators cannot do is convince people to trust his press releases over the experience of their daily lives.
What Rahm and his unimaginative, rent-seeking donor co-conspirators cannot do is persuade anyone that this is the best performance to expect from a $7 billion unit of government. $7 billion and the city has abjectly and objectively failed in its primary responsibility of providing for the physical security of Chicago families.
What Rahm and his unimaginative, rent-seeking donor co-conspirators cannot do is spin anyone into believing an Obama Presidential Library or a DePaul arena at McCormick Place is the highest, best use of their money. They properly see this as the sort of empire-building emblematic of the Daley regime.
Could it get worse? It can always get worse.
Karen Lewis—and Toni Preckwinkle for that matter—would redistribute everything that isn’t nailed down except perhaps the picnic tables in the Cook County Forest Preserve lest the picnic table inspectors be displaced. LaSalle street tax? Check (for you to write). City income tax? Check (for you to write). Bigger and better property tax hikes? Check (for you to write).
Rahm crested to victory on Obama’s coattails and a mountain of campaign cash in 2011. He had three years to be the agent for structural reform who was willing to make difficult decisions that he had promised to be.
What the Sun-Times poll tells us is that Chicagoans have measured Rahm’s performance and now would prefer a potted plant over the Tiny Dancer—or even worse, Karen Lewis.