by Ben Joravsky
I read all about it in a front-page exclusive in my Sun-Times, home delivered as always.
According to the mayor, he'll be shaking down, I mean, encouraging the richest people in town to dig into their tax-exempt, off-shore accounts and kick a shekel or two to "raise money for early intervention programs for younger kids and provide jobs, mentoring, recreating and conflict-resolution programs to give trouble teens an alternative to the gang violence that claimed the life of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton."
In short, the mayor wants the ones who have the most to give a little to the ones who have the least in other ways besides contributing to charter schools who buy their teachers on the cheap.
Sorry, I could not resist a charter school dig.
"Let's put our resources and our time into making sure our kids get on the right track and get into positive activities rather than destructive ones," the mayor told the Sun-Times.
As you know, the city's track record on this corporate fundraising thing is mixed at the very least. In the last decade or so, they've raised buckets of money to build Millennium Park (good), stage an Olympics (bad), and host NATO (disastrous).
At least this is a goal we can all support.
I'm pretty sure the mayor has a good chance of raising the $50 million. In general, it's hard even for a gazillionaire to say no to the mayor. Hey, even rich guys need building permits and zoning changes.
I remember one big-time developer telling me he was kicking in 50 grand to Mayor Daley's Olympics effort, even though he secretly hoped some other city got the games.
"Keep writing all that critical stuff," he told me.
"But why are you giving money to a cause you don't believe in?" I asked.
"Because, it's the freaking mayor, dimwit."
I may have juiced up the language a little bit.
In this case, Mayor Emanuel is a phenomenal fund-raiser. In fact, I truly am in awe of his ability to get rich people to cough up the cash, generally for political campaigns.
From what I hear, Emanuel's unabashedly relentless, peppering his targets with sarcastic wisecracks. I wonder if he's ever used the infamous phone connection bit that goes like this:
Rich guy: OK, I'll give you $1,000—but not a penny more.
Solicitor: I'm sorry, my phone connection's bad. Did you say $5,000?
Rich guy: No! $1,000.
Solicitor: Got you—$5,000 it is!
Rich guy: Noooooo!!!!
Solicitor hangs up the phone.
Once the mayor raises the money, he will set up an "advisory committee of criminal justice experts and community leaders" to "measure the cost-effectiveness of funded programs and their effect on violent crime and school achievement."
Well, I'm sure there's potential for tons of good investigative reporting once they get around to doling out the gravy.
But for now, let's be positive.
Go get 'em, Mr. Mayor—squeeze those suckers like a boa constrictor.