ByÂ Mark Guarino, Christian Science Monitor
Mr. Emanuel rode into office with a huge margin of victory, but his tidal wave of popularity may be showing strains, observers say.
â€œIf youâ€™re looking at this as a baseball game, heâ€™s had a very good first inning. But there are eight innings to go. The challenges get a lot more intense,â€ saysÂ Andy Shaw, who leads a civic watchdog group.
In his first media flap, Emanuel stormed out of an interview withÂ NBC affiliate reporterÂ Mary Ann Ahern, showing his famous temper for the first time since leavingÂ Washington. Ms. Ahern had pressed the mayor to explain why his three children would be attending TheÂ University of Chicago Lab School, one of Chicagoâ€™s most elite and costly private schools, despite calling public school reform a priority of his administration.
After stating that his â€œchildren are not in a public positionâ€ and that he was â€œmaking this decision as a father,â€ Emanuel dropped the microphone and walked off. On the video he could be heard saying, â€œIâ€™m done. Especially after that.â€ The mayorâ€™s office declined to comment on the incident.
Some City Hall watchers point to this incident as the end of the honeymoon period for Emanuel, who entered office pledging more transparency in city government, a promise he has kept in spades.
The City of Chicago website now has a searchable database of employee salaries and all lobbyist activities, including campaign contributions, gifts, and loans. Emanuel also eliminated all petty cash funds and slashed 94 percent of the city credit cards. Reforms to the cityâ€™s contracting process now put the bidding online, in an auction format.
Open government was hardly a hallmark of his predecessor,Â Richard M. Daley, so any movement to modernize city hall in that fashion is â€œa slam dunk,â€ says Mr. Shaw, president of theÂ Better Government Association, a civic watchdog group in Chicago. These transparency measures â€œwere all very easy,â€ he says. â€œAlmost anybody could have written that script.â€
The more complex issues, like solving the cityâ€™s $31 million budget hole and rescuing its embattled public school system, have less obvious solutions, Shaw notes.
In his opening salvos, Emanuel has taken the offense against the cityâ€™s teacher and labor unions. In June, theÂ Chicago Board of Education â€“ under his purview â€“ axed a 4 percent pay raise for the cityâ€™s teachers, arguing that union members had received two similar raises since 2003 while their students â€œgot the shaft.â€ The cityâ€™s public school system is saddled with a $724 million deficit, Emanuel says.
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