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Emanuel On Rauner: 'Emperor Wears No Clothes'

Illinois’ top two politicians were back in the boxing ring again Tuesday, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel throwing the latest jab, referring to Gov. Bruce Rauner as "the emperor (who) wears no clothes."

The latest chapter of the public battle between the one-time friends centers around $215 million dollars for Chicago Public Schools that Rauner vetoed in December, blowing a major hole in the school district’s budget mid-year.

Rauner said that money was contingent on the passage of a larger state pension reform bill, which hasn’t happened. Rauner has argued that CPS’ current fiscal woes are due to what he has called “decades of financial mismanagement.”

A memo from the governor’s office leaked Monday morning suggested that Emanuel could use special tax increment financing dollars for CPS instead. Hours later, Grammy-award winning artist and Chicago native Chance the Rapper joined the fight, donating $1 million to CPS because he was “frustrated and disappointed” by what he called the governor’s “inaction” on a funding fix for the school district.

At an unrelated event Tuesday, Emanuel dismissed Rauner’s TIF funding idea, telling reporters that Chicagoans already pay enough for teacher pensions.

“The emperor wears no clothes,” Emanuel said of Rauner, banging his fist on the lectern. “Governor (Jim) Edgar gave him recommendations, Governor (George) Ryan gave him recommendations, I have given him recommendations. Everybody has tried to give him advice, everybody walks out with the same thing, including Chance the Rapper: ‘Just do your job.’”

The mayor suggested that Rauner should instead introduce a balanced state budget.

In response to the emperor comment, Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said in a statement, “Sounds like someone has a Napoleon complex.”  

During his announcement Monday, Chance accused Rauner of “breaking his promise” and holding kids “hostage” because of “political positioning” by vetoing the $215 million for CPS, language frequently used by CPS officials and the mayor. Reporters around the city pointed out the rhetorical similarity in their coverage of the musician’s announcement. Chance’s father, Ken Bennett, used to be an aide to Mayor Emanuel.

When asked Tuesday if Emanuel or his staffers had spoken to Chance, Emanuel seemed frustrated by the question.

“I did not talk to him. And let me say one thing. The assumption or accusation or insinuation is condescending to Chance,” Emanuel said, adding later he thinks “it’s condescending to assume that Chance couldn’t come to the conclusion on his own that this is wrong.”

For his part, Rauner said Tuesday that he’s focused on school districts across the state.

“I share [Chance’s] passion for improving public schools in Chicago and I share a passion for improving public schools in all communities, Waukegan and Maywood and Blue Island and Decatur and Danville,” Rauner said.

But, the governor added, the money for CPS doesn’t just appear out of thin air.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Chance the Rapper commented on Twitter about the Rauner-Emanuel battle: “This whole f--- thing is embarrassing to be honest.”

Becky Vevea contributed to this report. 

Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. You can follow her at @laurenchooljian.

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