With the release of Governor Rauner’s whacked-out scheme to seize control of the Chicago Public Schools, the time has come to once again explore one of my favorite themes.
That would be Mayor Rahm’s relationship with the governor—i.e., is their feud for real or just a clever ruse?
As you may recall, this has been one of my mini obsessions since Rauner staged that bizarre press conference at a north side butcher shop a few months ago, when he said he was going to send a dead fish to Rahm.
Back then Rauner was more or less gently teasing the mayor for not joining his holy crusade to return us to the 19th century, before collective bargaining, when we got to work in sweat shops.
Ah, the good old days.
Back then, I suspected this feud was a choreographed political strategy by two old pals who bonded together years ago, when one helped the other make millions.
But now I’m starting to wonder if Rauner’s anger is for real.
Before I get started, lets be clear: Rauner’s plan sounds like something that Emanuel might ordinarily get off on.
It’s a blatant attempt to use bankruptcy laws as a pretext to reward friends and punish enemies.
Thus, the governor, having declared CPS bankrupt, would get to preserve the contracts that enrich his pals—like the borrowing deals that pay outrageously high interest to bankers, while ripping up the contracts that benefit his enemies, like Chicago’s teachers.
This sounds like the sort of scheme Rahm and Rauner might dream up while they’re kicking back at the governor’s estate in Montana, drinking expensive wine, grilling tuna steaks, and fantasizing about kicking Karen Lewis’ ass.
As such it must irritate the hell out of Rauner to watch as Rahm reopens contract negotiations with Lewis and CTU.
For a while, it looked like Emanuel was determined to use the schools’ financial crisis—real or not—as a pretext for bringing on the mother of all teacher strikes, one that would potentially turn the city against the CTU.
Why else would he suddenly call off talks in June—on the verge of a settlement back—over the most frivolous of reasons?
Of course, everything’s changed since then, with all the outrage over Emanuel’s handling of the Laquan McDonald video.
Now it appears he’s slowly coming to the conclusion that it might be better to avoid a teachers’ strike this time around—what with the feds circling his police and law departments.
I’ll say this about Mayor Emanuel: he’s more pragmatist than ideologue—at least when it’s his ass on the line.
So the mayor’s inching toward signing an accord with the union. At least he’s reopened negotiations. Lord knows where he’ll go with it.
This turn of events must be driving Rauner bonkers. More than once he’s lamented that Rahm talks one way—when he’s alone with the governor—and does something else when he’s trying to win over the public.
So I think Rauner really means it when he says things like:
“The mayor is ready to back down and cave into the teachers union.” And, “The mayor has failed us.” And, “The mayor is afraid of the union. He’s not taking them on.” And, “He caved in to the teachers strike four and a half years ago. And he’s sending the message right now, he’s going to give them what they want and then say, state pay for it.”
By the way, I don’t know what contract negotiation Rauner’s talking about. At the moment it looks like the best the teachers are going to get from this deal is to avoid a pay cut. The mayor’s hardly giving them what they want.
It’s certainly chump change compared to the money Rauner raked in as a financial adviser to the teachers’ pension fund.
The disappointing thing is the mayor’s wimpy response to Rauner’s attacks. The best he has to offer was some weak-ass statement from his press secretary.
C’mon, Mayor Rahm—where’s that old f-bomb dropping hard-ass when we need you?
Maybe Rahm’s restraint is a sign that he’s truly the junior partner in this relationship. After all, Rauner was already a gazillionaire when he helped Rahm make his first million on that SBC deal years ago.
If so, it will be interesting to see if, when push comes to shove, the mayor’s got the guts to stand up to the big papa who brought him so much bread.