Emanuel hits streets, outlines priorities, the morning after election win

February 23, 2011

By Lynette Kalsnes

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(Getty/file)
Fresh off his victory last night, Chicago's new mayor-elect, Rahm Emanuel, had a busy day already today. The former White House chief of staff and Illinois Congressman avoided a runoff by taking 55 percent of the vote last night. Before noon today, he'd hit the gym, greeted commuters, done interviews, visited a train station and held a press conference. At the Red Line stop at 95th on Chicago's South Side, Emanuel traded handshakes and hugs with people headed for work. People clustered around him, snapping cell phone pictures. Janice Reynolds came out to the Red Line stop hoping to meet Emanuel. She looked around and asked, "Where's our new mayor?" Reynolds said she was excited by Emanuel's victory. She watched the returns on TV Tuesday night, and said she celebrated with family and friends. She had a simple message she wanted to give to Emanuel. "Congratulations and waiting for you to do your job like you promised us," Reynolds said. During his appearance at the train station and at the press conference, Emanuel reiterated the same themes of his campaign about starting fresh to tackle the city's problems. He said he was heartened by support from voters across racial and ethnic lines. "Because people know that these challenges are common challenges, from the safety of our streets to the strength of our neighborhood schools to the stability of our economy (that) need to be met with common purpose as we find and struggle for the common ground," he said. He called for a different relationship with City Council than some of his predecessors. He said he wants to reform city government by forming a partnership with City Council. "They cannot be a rubber stamp," Emanuel said. "That's unacceptable to me. The challenges are too big. They can't be what they were in the last few years. They don't want it, the city doesn't want it, I don't want it." But he said the city needs to avoid the other extreme of the Council Wars that took place under Mayor Harold Washington in the '80s. Emanuel pointed to many problems facing the city such as the economy, streets that aren't safe for kids and a looming budget deficit. He said he does not plan to raise property taxes. Instead, he said he'll partly fill the budget gap by negotiating with employees' unions and scrutinizing city spending. Emanuel takes office in mid-May. He promised he'll start work quickly on the transition.
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