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In his first speech as mayor, Rahm Emanuel made it clear that the one thing that isn’t going to change in the next four years is his commitment to change.
“The city of Chicago is ready for change.... It is an honor to fight for the change we need…. I am proud to lead a city united in common purpose and driven by a common thirst for change…. ”
This came before and after he praised the changes—the "transformation" of a "reborn" Chicago—brought by his retiring predecessor, Richard M. Daley.
But Emanuel said he has a mandate for a new transformation. Last week he laid out an ambitious if often amorphous list of goals for fixing, reforming, moving, and especially changing Chicago. Now, of course, the new mayor has to segue from promising to delivering these changes, and in his inaugural address he repeated his resolve to work together with everyone who doesn't get in his way.
Emanuel again listed school reforms as his top priority and issued his now-standard calls for teacher accountability, parental involvement, and—during a lull in cheers from dozens of schoolchildren bused in for the occasion—more student time in the classroom.
He didn’t say how it will all happen, but he did issue a warning to anyone who's not in favor: He and his new schools team have “zero tolerance for the status quo.”
“I am not a patient man,” he said. “When it comes to improving our schools, I will not be a patient mayor.”
The new mayor also asked for support for his yet-to-be-specified plans for improving public safety, streamlining city government, and creating jobs.
“I fully understand that there will be those who oppose my efforts,” he said. “Some are sure to say, ‘This is the way we do things—we can’t try something new’ or ‘Those are the rules—we can’t change them.’ This is a prescription for failure.”
Emanuel said he is not interested in using the city’s financial problems to demonize political opponents and advance a broader agenda in the manner of the governors of Wisconsin and Ohio. He said he was willing to work with anyone who had ideas—including unions. "Anyone open to change will have a seat at the table."
But he didn't bring up the distinct possibility that some people might disagree about what precisely needs to be changed or how it should be done. This was a day for unity, not dissension.
“From now on,” Emanuel said, “when it comes to change, Chicago will not take no for an answer.”