The Mayor + Accountability

It has been a remarkable couple weeks here in Chicago since a judge forced the release of a video showing the murder of Laquan McDonald.

I could link all day/ all night to the pressure for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In the news, in opinion, in the streets.


I supported Rahm Emmanuel for election in both 2011 and 2015.

As is my custom, I wrote a blog post explaining my voting decisions. I had a number of bullet points as to why I was voting for him in the February election, and I also noted “two discordant notes”:

The Mayor should post his schedule and list of the people with whom he has met in the administration of his duties. There’s no reason why he can’t do this. My guess is that he meets with lots of rich and powerful people, which is a great way to get big things done in a market economy. I believe that meeting with poor and disenfranchised people is worthwhile as well. You are what you measure.

There’s no reason for the Mayor to spend so much time and money on trying to remove and/or silence other elected officials who disagree with him on occasion. We’re a big city, with hundreds of thousands of adults living here. We can handle some differences in opinion/ approach.

The underlying agita here is that the Mayor just doesn’t care about poor people— that he doesn’t listen to anyone who 1/ isn’t rich and 2/ doesn’t already agree with him.

I wrote about his Sweater Ad during the election. That was when he “owned” the fact that he sometimes doesn’t listen. I was hoping that would change:

But I also appreciate processes and procedures, especially genuine ones that allow for real people to drive policy and solutions. I do a lot of this work in my professional life— I am deeply devoted hearing people and responding to their needs. It’s the most human thing we can do for each other. The goal is better lives, and that feels better.

In a second Emanuel term, I would love to see more structures for listening to residents. This is what elections are for— to elect the people we want, and to get them to make us feel the way we want to feel.

Let’s work with our Mayor on that.

But with the exception of the return of the budget hearings, there have been no structures for listening. I took photos at the first session. The mayor was forced from the stage in the second session, and once the third scheduled meeting was done, there was no more talk of the mayor appearing at open forums.

There is a persistent, abiding notion that the Mayor just doesn’t care what regular residents think. It’s at the core of his trouble.

Out of the river of damning text published about our Mayor and his inadequate response to the crisis of police violence and corruption, the words that hurt the most were in this Washington Post piece, “Rahm Emmanuel is in Deep, Deep Trouble“, published yesterday:

The natural thing to do would be to spend time in Chicago’s community rebuilding trust — listening to people instead of talking to them, Williamson calls it, stressing that Emanuel’s first priority should be how to keep Chicago governable rather than how to keep his job.

But mending relationships takes time, and as the protests on the streets of Emanuel’s beloved city make clear, the time for sincere action from Chicago’s mayor might have already passed in the eyes of those who matter.

I am accountable for my efforts in the political process. I voted for and advocated for the Mayor during the election. This is my accounting. And I crave this listening.

And, as he keeps saying, our Mayor is accountable to us. I want to help build those structures for listening that I wrote about back in March.  I want to hold him to his promises from back then and his “Justice, Culture, and Community” speech this week to City Council. The whole world sees him struggle now. It’s not pretty. I am disappointed.


Runoff Election Day, April 2015: We are in a Golden Age of Civic Engagement

It is axiomatic to say that it’s hard to recognize you are in a golden age while you are in one. Chicago: we are in a golden age of civic engagement. Treasure it, build it, please don’t let it go.

Today is election day in Chicago. I strongly urge you to vote to retain our Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, in office. He’s earned more time. In the last six weeks I’ve written much about why I support him, on this website and on social media. Please vote today for Rahm Emanuel.

It has been a stressful six weeks. I’ve stuck my neck out for this guy, personally. And that is part of the golden age. I’ve seen hundreds of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, supporters of both candidates, do the same. Taking stands, with integrity, openly, and with love.

I’ve reviewed budget books for the last four years to check facts on funding levels for the Chicago Public Library. I’ve looked up the ordinance covering the Inspector General’s authority. I’ve seen, finally, more media voices in the coverage of TIF spending.  I’ve seen more real talk about the pension crisis than I’ve heard, ever.  I’ve listened to people peppering the Mayor with tough questions at a get-out-the-vote event. Watched debate after debate.

I’ve participated in Twitter fights. I’ve defended my vote on long Facebook threads, and watched as friends have done the same. All of this with respect, and the unquestioned understanding that it won’t affect our real relationships.

I’ve watched with growing awe at the early voting numbers, brought to me by Aldertrack, a service I’ve seen grow over the last eight years into an essential tool for the people of this city. They cover everything, every race, with the detail and attention each ward— each precinct— each person, deserves.

I’ve seen one candidate promise to listen more and the other promise to figure out what’s going on if elected. I strongly prefer the one in office, the one who already knows what he’s talking about, the one who I believe can guide us out.

But the last six weeks, the rest of us have learned— or remembered— that we have the knowledge, the power, and the tools to hold everyone to their promises. Let’s not stop.



Technology, Equity, and Who’s Mayor

I read this article this morning, looking for myself, since I am in technology and I support the Mayor for re-election: “Can Chicago’s Tech Community Carry Rahm Emanuel To Victory?

I found lots of places and themes that are familiar to me (1871 as a hub for innovation, the growth in tech jobs, and the Mayor’s concrete efforts to make Chicago a more inviting place for tech businesses).

What I didn’t find is anything about the parallel growth in support for public computer centers, and the training in digital skills, and the support for the hundreds of technologists and regular residents I work with all the time in order to make technology work for everyone.

It’s a common oversight. There’s a natural tendency to focus on heroic tech people, gleaming downtown workspaces, and gaudy corporate job announcements. But we’ve got a pretty special sauce here in Chicago, and the Mayor’s policies and people have played a significant role in that.

Technology isn’t just a driver of raw economic growth— it’s an engine of equity for all. Where getting an email account is necessary for getting an entry-level job, where being connected to the Internet is essential for receiving social services, and where we can use networks to plan our lives together. I want more of that.

Public Computer Center, King Library, Chicago

Public Computer Center, King Library, Chicago


The Sweater Ad, Feelings, and the Methods for Listening

Mayor Rahm Emanuel published a new campaign video last week.

The ad has gotten lots of attention and has been covered by media in the context of the runoff to be held on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

The Washington Post put it this way: Rahm Emanuel’s remarkable confession.

The 30-second ad, which began running on Tuesday in Chicago, shows a very different side of Emanuel — all soft-spokenness and humility. “I can rub people the wrong way. Or talk when I should listen,” Emanuel acknowledges in the spot. “I own that.” Later, he admits: “I’m not going to always get it right.”


Emanuel is trying to make a simple argument in this ad: I may be a jerk (and I know I am one and I’m sorry), but I’m your jerk. And don’t let my abrasiveness get in the way of the accomplishments I have racked up in my first four years.

I don’t know if “remarkable” is the right word for it, as it seems a completely reasonable and normal thing, when running for office, to address issues that voters have with you as a candidate.

As I’ve indicated before, I support Rahm Emanuel for Mayor (here’s a possibly helpful post re: where I’m coming from).

I take the Mayor at his word. He’s trying to address the feelings that people express about how he works and how his decision-making process runs. He doesn’t always make people feel good, but I think his policies are, in large part, winners.

One example is the minimum wage. The Mayor has supported “$13 minimum wage by 2018 that will inject $800 million into the Chicago economy and lift 80,000 residents out of poverty—including 8,000 single mothers.”

To me, that’s a win. It makes me feel good to know that Chicago is out front on this issue. But I’ve seen lots of issues with how he came to support it. Here’s a good timeline. To me, this seems a focus on process and feelings rather than results. By nature, I like results.

But I also appreciate processes and procedures, especially genuine ones that allow for real people to drive policy and solutions. I do a lot of this work in my professional life— I am deeply devoted hearing people and responding to their  needs. It’s the most human thing we can do for each other. The goal is better lives, and that feels better.

In a second Emanuel term, I would love to see more structures for listening to residents. This is what election are for— to elect the people we want, and to get them to make us feel the way we want to feel.

Let’s work with our Mayor on that.

Sometimes things don't feel good; sometimes they do.

Sometimes things don’t feel good; sometimes they do.

The FCC “Political File” Ruling and Price Transparency

Last week the Federal Communications Commission ruled that stations affiliated with the top four national networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) and serve the top 50 markets must post “political file documents” online.

All stations— regardless of size— already have to maintain such files and make them available to the public. Stations balked at this rule, however, because they’re concerned that their competitors will be able to easily see revenues from political ads and overall rates charged. Here’s a snip from the Chicago Tribune story, “FCC passes online political ad rule: Stations will be required to post campaign spending info“:

For months, broadcasters have objected to the new rule, arguing that even though they already must disclose it, posting it online would give competitors access to commercially sensitive rate information. Broadcasters last week had proposed a compromise to instead post a campaign’s total ad buy, rather than specific information on the exact amount paid per ad. Stations are required to sell candidates time at the lowest unit rate.

We hear these kinds of arguments all the time, and they feel more and more like the fading bleats of lambs. There is a brutal efficiency to spreadsheeting rates for ad time. We’ve all experienced the pain of hidden truths in markets (no one else really wants the house you’re bidding on, the car dealership is about to stop selling that Dodge Dart, the grocer is about to throw out those tomatoes anyway). People make bank off of knowledge gaps, and closing them can be scary. Let’s go ahead and be scared for a while.

It was interesting to see the FCC struggle with requiring stations to post in a standard format for reporting this data. Here’s snips:

We will not establish specific formatting requirements for documents posted to the online public file at this time. Some commenters promoted making the data well-structured as searchable as possible, and downloadable.


We agree that certain information in the public file would be of much greater benefit to the public if made available in a structured or database-friendly format that can be aggregated, manipulated, and more easily analyzed; this continues to be our ultimate goal.

This is evidence of growing pains inside this particular industry that are repeated nearly everywhere else. We can expect that wily stations may upload their documents in non-searchable PDFs so that they can comply with the rule while making analysis as difficult as possible.

One day at a time.

FCC 12 44A1 (Text)