Can someone who didn't grow up in the city be an effective mayor?
Rahm Emanuel’s opponents don’t think so. In a debate last night sponsored by the Chicago Urban League and Fox News Chicago, Gery Chico took aim at Emanuel’s North Shore upbringing.
Chico said he was 'scared for my children' as they traveled back and fourth [sic] to [public] schools, but, he said, 'Growing up in our city in the Back of the Yards and living with the threat of violence even in my own neighborhood stays with you. There are people like Mr. Emanuel, who grew up in the wealthy North Shore and probably never experienced that.'
Chico expanded his criticism of Emanuel after the debate: 'He went to the wealthiest high school in the state of Illinois [New Trier]. I do not see how you can relate to the people of the city of Chicago when you have not walked these streets and lived here. If you come from Wilmette, Winnetka, Lake Forest, that’s what you think like. I didn’t go to some elite high school. I went to Kelly high school.'
This is a ploy on Chico’s part to paint Emanuel—who was born in Chicago and has already survived challenges to his residency claims—as an outsider, and Emanuel, as has been his custom in this race, held his tongue. All of the candidates are trying to position themselves as a man or woman of the people, of the neighborhoods. If you listen to Miguel del Valle speak, he constantly talks about “the neighborhoods.”
Last night, he said, "I know what it's like to be in the neighborhoods and not have a job for a length of time.”
Sometimes to eye-rolling effect. In today’s Tribune, for example, the candidates were asked what some of their guilty TV and movie pleasures were.
Braun: “Science fiction movies. Comedy TV shows.”
Emanuel: “Coen brothers movies.”
Del Valle: “Oh, definitely ‘King of Queens.’ . . . It’s not a reality show and it’s based in New York, but it sure reminds me of real-life neighborhood living in Chicago.”
That’s some quirky neighborhood!
But the question remains, does Emanuel’s Wilmette pedigree outweigh his time living and working in Chicago, and representing the Fifth Congressional District?