Chicagoans join Emanuel at inaugural events

May 14, 2011 8:35:11 PM PDT
On Saturday night, a private party caps a long day of inaugural activities for Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel started the day with a citywide day of service, and then took part in a free family concert in Grant Park. Emanuel will be sworn in as mayor at noon on Monday but on Saturday it was about residents working together. Emanuel says it's about his desire for Chicagoans to be engaged in improving the city.

At Saturday night's invitation-only cocktail party, Emanuel's friends and supporters drank a toast to the Mayor-elect's success.

"It takes a larger than life figure to lead a great city, and Rahm is that kind of personality," said White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod.

"He's got a lot of energy. He's smart. He's been around. He knows this town," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"I think we've got a lot of challenges in front of us. And I think the new city council and the new mayor are ready to handle them," said Alderman Danny Solis, 25th Ward.

For Emanuel, the day began on the South and West sides at two community gardens where he helped residents pull weeds.

Emanuel will be sworn in as mayor at noon on Monday but on Saturday it was about residents working

Chicago's Mayor-elect weeded and planted flowers at two community gardens including this one in west Garfield Park run by the Taylor family.

"We work in our community, we work in our neighborhood, and for him to actually come all the way out here to us, to the real people, I think it is great, great acknowledgement," said Angela Taylor, who's family runs the community garden in west Garfield Park.

It's estimated 3,000 volunteers participated in the Saturday event in neighborhoods across the city.

"He is starting to get your mind involved, your mindset involved, how much good service is and volunteering," said day of service volunteer Crystal Williams.

After a day of volunteering, Emanuel kept with his familiar theme of bringing Chicago together with a free concert. Chilly, wet weather kept bigger crowds away but not Pat Tillman.

"You just never know when it's weather like this what people are going to do, but we braved it," Tillman said.

The band Chicago dazzled the crowd along with plenty of local talent like JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound.

"It is so exciting. I'm just happy that Rahm remembered us and wanted us to play, specifically. It will be great," JC Brooks said.

The inaugural weekend activities come just a day after retiring mayor Richard Daley left his City Hall office for the last time.

As Emanuel is poised to take over a city with its share of challenges, he once again pledged Saturday to put the people first.

"We are all having a great time. We got a lot of challenges with a lot of opportunities to do big things for this great city," Emanuel said.

Though this weekend is all about song and service, the city's fiscal crisis will soon be front and center. Emanuel has promised to cut $75 million from the city's budget in his first 100 days, but some say that's window dressing with the city facing a $650 million deficit.

"We need revenues, and they have consistently avoided any significant discussion of revenue," said political consultant Don Rose.

For Emanuel, the honeymoon will be short. For his first 100 days, he's promised a blueprint for budget and ethics reform, as well as other initiatives. He has nothing on his public schedule for Sunday.

Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park will be the backdrop for the mayoral swearing-in Monday at 10:30 a.m. The public is invited to shake the new mayor's hand at 2 p.m. Monday in his new digs -- the mayor's office, up on the fifth floor.

All inaugural events are funded through private donations. Those donating -- City Hall lobbyists are barred -- are going to a big reception Saturday night and a private party Monday night.

ABC7 Chicago will have live coverage of Mayor-elect Emanuel's inauguration. You can watch it Monday starting at 10 a.m. on ABC7 or live on this website, ABC7Chicago.com


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