- Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photos
- Just give Rahm his casino already, will ya?
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Mayor Rahm gave Chicago’s public school teachers one of his trademark middle fingers to the face.
So much for his postelection transformation into Mayor Nice Guy.
But don’t worry, folks, it’s part of the mayor’s overall strategy to suck up to Governor Rauner in exchange for a casino.
So, teachers, you’ll be happy to know you’re a bargaining chip in a larger fight.
Let’s break it down . . .
After being forced into a runoff—oh, happy day—Mayor Rahm said that he’d learned his lesson and from here on out would be less needlessly combative.
And in one of his more significant postelection moves, he called his bitterest local adversary, Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and said something like “Karen, let’s be friends!”
Just like Tracee Ellis Ross and Golden Brooks in Girlfriends—one of the seminal sitcoms of the 00s.
Hopelessly optimistic wannabe believer that I am, I figured Mayor Rahm would at the very least follow up by picking up the option year of the teachers’ contract.
And then, out of appreciation, Karen and Rahm would walk hand in hand to Springfield to join house speaker Michael Madigan in the battle against Governor Rauner’s budget-cutting attack on civilization as we know it.
Say this for Mayor Rahm, even at the height of his experiment with rampant Republicanism, he never went after toddlers with AIDS.
Now back to his thing about teachers.
Instead of picking up the option on their contract—and giving them a 3 percent raise—he offered to effectively cut their pay by 7 percent.
Which pissed off Karen Lewis and the teachers so much that they’ve filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state and are talking strike.
The mayor’s boosters are telling me not to fall for the strike talk.
Instead, they say, the mayor’s contract offer is just a classic gambit in contract negotiations: come in low so you don’t have to give that much when you finally come to terms.
OK. Let’s contrast that with the mayor’s opening offer in his negotiations with various banks to whom Chicago owes hundreds of millions of dollars.
In this case, Mayor Emanuel’s offering to borrow at least $200 million to pay the banks so he can get out of the horrendous borrowing deals the city shouldn’t have made in the first place.
So it’s $200 million for the banks, 7 percent cut for teachers.
You know, it looks like every week is Banker Appreciation Week in Mayor Rahm’s Chicago.
Personally, I’d want my mayor to fight the banks as hard as he fights the teachers.
I realize, of course, that playing hardball with banks could have nasty ramifications. Like expensive court battles, credit rating drops, or cutoffs in campaign contributions.
But playing hardball with teachers also has ramifications. Like, for starters, a strike.
Alas, the mayor’s made his choice. Hardball for teachers, softball for bankers. If you don’t like it, vote him out of office.
Oh, wait, that didn’t work—thanks to the millions he raked in from all kinds of . . . bankers.
For what it’s worth, Rahm’s boosters also tell me he isn’t playing hardball with teachers so much as putting on a show for Governor Rauner.
As we all know, Governor Rauner has an almost pathological antipathy toward teachers’ unions.
In short, Rahm’s talking tough to teachers to convince Rauner that Chicago’s worthy of a casino, whose revenues we need to help pay off various pension obligations.
By the way, let’s just talk about casinos for a moment.
As a true-blue liberal libertarian—a contradiction if I’ve ever heard one—I’m pretty much for legalizing and taxing the hell out of all the vices, gambling included.
But of all the vices to choose to tax, Mayor Rahm, why pick gambling as opposed to marijuana?
Hell, heroin’s arguably less destructive to society than gambling.
Anyway, once Rahm gets his casino, he’ll presumably make a legitimate offer to CTU that will enable us to forgo another strike.
And peace will reign in Chicago.
That’s the plan. As always, I remain ever optimistic.