Rahm Emanuel and non-profit arts groups

May 16, 2011

When I asked Rahm about making nonprofits, including arts groups, pay property taxes (I admit it--I'm Spartacus!), I didn't actually expect to put him on the spot.  I presumed he had an answer already figured out, and that he would share or not share it depending on his mood.

I didn't expect a two-minute deer-in-headlights tap dance, followed by an attempt simply not to answer, followed by a five-minute free-associative filibuster during which he made the perfectly reasonable point that no sector of the economy will be exempt from budget cuts or demands for revenue increases. Who knew this would be the headline of the conference? Who knew that his press person would then make a big point of walking it back? 

Here's what I take away from this peculiar encounter: first, that Rahm likes to be popular (the question came in a room he thought he held in the palm of his hand because he talked about attending opera and theater and being a dancer married to a scholar of medieval art) and avoids things that will cost him popularity; and second, that he expects to enjoy the same immunity from challenge his predecessor has enjoyed.

As to the first of these, I can only infer in turn that he intends to run for something else, or at least to be reelected (whereas right now Chicago needs a mayor who will do what's necessary even if it costs him his job). As to the second, I can only remark: In your dreams, buddy.

And now: Awaaaaaaay we go!