- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) — Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was sworn in Monday as Chicago’s first new mayor in two decades, a historic power shift in a city where the retiring Richard M. Daley was the only mayor a whole generation of Chicagoans has ever known.

Mr. Emanuel was sworn in during a morning inauguration ceremony at the popular downtown Millennium Park, one of the signature accomplishments in Mr. Daley’s efforts to transform the city. Mr. Emanuel later planned to head over to City Hall and, for the first time since he was elected in February, walk into the fifth-floor office that was Mr. Daley’s lair for 22 years.

“We must face the truth,” Mr. Emanuel said in his inaugural speech. “It is time to take on the challenges that threaten the very future of our city: the quality of our schools, the safety of our streets, the cost and effectiveness of city government, and the urgent need to create the jobs of the future right here in Chicago.”

“The decisions we make in the next two or three years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next 20 or 30.”

Mr. Emanuel’s swearing-in completes an interesting role swap between City Hall and the White House: Mr. Emanuel’s replacement as President Obama’s chief of staff is the outgoing mayor’s younger brother, William Daley.

In a mark of Mr. Emanuel’s continuing ties with Washington, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was in attendance at the inauguration, as was William Daley, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geitner and two other Cabinet secretaries. Also scheduled to be there were the ambassadors of Mexico and six other countries.

Mr. Emanuel inherits a city with big money problems. Not only has Mr. Emanuel’s transition team predicted a $700 million budget shortfall next year, but thanks to some controversial decisions by Mr. Daley — most notably the push to privatize parking meters — he has limited avenues to find funds to improve schools and repair the city’s aging infrastructure.

It’s a challenge Mr. Emanuel has not shied away from.

Mr. Emanuel, who represented Chicago in Congress before working for Mr. Obama, made his feelings about his desire to be mayor known more than a year ago during an interview on Charlie Rose’s PBS talk show. He said “it’s no secret” that he wanted to run for mayor if Mr. Daley didn’t seek re-election.

When Mr. Daley announced last fall that he wouldn’t seek a seventh term after 22 years in office — longer than any other mayor in the city’s history — some wondered if Mr. Emanuel had known anything when he made that comment. But if he did, that didn’t stop him, just days before Mr. Daley’s stunning announcement, from renewing his lease with the tenant who rented his Chicago home while the Emanuels lived in Washington.

That decision to rent his house was at the center of, as it turns out, the only thing that stood between Mr. Emanuel and the mayor’s office: the legal battle over whether or not he was a resident of Chicago and eligible to run for mayor.

That fight ended with an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in his favor, but not before an appellate court panel decided that Mr. Emanuel’s time away from the city made him ineligible to run and knocked his name off the ballot.

With that out of the way, Mr. Emanuel simply steamrolled over his opponents. Branded as a Washington outsider by other candidates, including former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and former Chicago schools President Gery Chico, Mr. Emanuel didn’t miss an opportunity to remind voters that, unlike his opponents, he had friends in high places, even as he sought to persuade them that he was one of them.

There was the campaign stop by former President Bill Clinton and the visit to Chicago by Chinese President Hu Jintao — a visit, Mr. Emanuel reminded reporters, that included a private meeting between the two.

Armed with a $14 million campaign war chest that dwarfed those of his opponents, the only question in the last weeks of the race was whether Mr. Emanuel would get 50 percent of the votes plus one vote to avoid a runoff.

Mr. Emanuel, who kept his temper and his legendary profane vocabulary under wraps during the campaign, ended up collecting 55 percent of the vote.

Once elected, Mr. Emanuel wasted little time putting his administration together, bringing with him a number of people from his days in Washington. For key posts, he went far outside the city.

He hired the schools chief in Rochester, N.Y., to run the city’s massive school system. He went to Newark, N.J., to find his police superintendent, choosing the head of that department rather than promote someone already in the department. And where Mr. Daley hired a local newspaper reporter as his press secretary, Mr. Emanuel hired his away from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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