How to survive Mayor Rahm—learn from ACT UP | Bleader

How to survive Mayor Rahm—learn from ACT UP

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How to Survive a Plague
  • How to Survive a Plague
Got an e-mail the other day from a faithful reader—call her Jane—looking for an audience to air her irritation with Mayor Rahm.

Gee, wonder why she came to me?

What got her going was Fran Spielman's article in the Sun-Times in which the mayor laid out his legislative agenda—that is, what laws and initiatives he hoped to get the General Assembly and governor to pass.

Number three on the list—after "pension reform" and bringing a casino to Chicago—was gay marriage.

As in doing what he can to make it legal in Illinois.

Now, nothing against gay marriage. Jane made it clear she endorses gay marriage every bit, if not more, than the mayor. Me, too!

And if the mayor wants to use his bully pulpit to promote this important issue, more power to him.

But, number three on the list? I mean, the mayor might have at least made a perfunctory mention about working to increase state aid for public education. You know, just to make it look good.

Strictly speaking, gay marriage isn't even a city issue—it's a state one. And while Mayor Emanuel's an internationally known media superstar, his support for gay marriage is already well known and not likely to change many votes in the General Assembly.

Okay, he's grandstanding. As Spielman's article points out, "As a candidate for mayor, Emanuel showcased his broad support in the gay community and promised to return the favor by pressing the Illinois General Assembly to approve gay marriage."

Fine, he wants to show his appreciation to gays for their support. But what about some of the other people who voted for him—like black residents?

"Lord knows, black folks voted in high numbers for him but pension 'reform,' his number one priority, disproportionately screws them," writes Jane, who is black. "For black folks that have such a thing as retirement security, it's probably because of their government pension."

She makes a compelling point. The mayor's pension "reforms" could cut the benefits going to government retirees. This affects all retirees—black, white, and Hispanic. But it hits particularly hard at black communities, where the backbone has generally been police, teachers, and other city employees. It's the same with the mayor's budget "efficiencies." I'll let Mick tell you all about that.

Similarly, the mayor's push for a casino essentially amounts to a tax on the people foolish enough to gamble—hitting hardest at the poor and working class.

So, basically, the mayor's proposing to balance the books on the backs of the people who can least afford to do the balancing. If you know what I mean.

In short, he's Barack Obama on social issues, like gay marriage. And Mitt Romney on economic ones.

Jane concludes by writing something I've been hearing more and more lately: "Chicago is the absolute perfect place for black people to flex their political muscle—there is no reason Rahm should feel he can take the black vote for granted. And, yet, he holds the occasional window dressing presser in Englewood, has no plan for violence or jobs, and screws the disproportionately black city workforce. It's offensive as hell."

Well, I can't agree with her more. It's hard to believe the council's black aldermen still vote for the mayor's TIF deals and budgets after he's fired so many black employees. For that matter, I'll never understood why so many black residents voted for him in the first place.

I know, there was that Obama "endorsement." But, let's face it, voters: you were duped!

Jane's e-mail got me thinking about this great movie I saw a few months ago. It's called How to Survive a Plague and it's directed by David France. Great flick—run, run, run to rent it.

It's a documentary about the ACT UP activists in the '80s and '90s, who had to raise holy hell just to get mainstream politicians to act like they gave a shit about the thousands of gay people dying of AIDS.

With their rallies, protests and demonstrations—all peaceful, of course—the ACT UP activists were taking a page from the civil rights protesters of the '50s, '60s, and '70s.

Looks like we've come full circle.

It's high time for black and/or working-class activists in Chicago to learn from the gay activists who learned from them. Or at least their predecessors.

Get out and rattle some cages and raise your voices. It's probably the only way you'll get Mayor Rahm's attention. Well, other than getting really rich. Then he'll usher you right in.

Obviously, the go-along-to-get-along-strategy isn't working.

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