ABC7 Exclusive: Rahm Emanuel's vision for Chicago

March 3, 2011 8:17:45 PM PST
In his first extensive, one-on-one television interview since Election Day, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel shared his plans for the city with ABC7's political reporter Charles Thomas.

Emanuel says he hopes to have his City Hall team, a new police superintendent and Chicago Public Schools CEO in place when he's sworn in May 16.

"I will work very hard at being mayor, and I think you would acknowledge it's not like I've taken a moment's rest since Election Day," he said.

The mayor-elect returned to 79th and Racine Thursday as a new-age conquering hero. He had visited several times the area since last October.

During four months of non-stop campaigning, the 51-year-old former congressman became focused on what would become a signature issue: the so-called food deserts on the South and West sides that expose the differences between the city's privileged and underserved neighborhoods where fresh food is difficult if not impossible to buy.

"I will not accept in the city of Chicago, 600,000 without basic access to fruits and vegetables and fresh meats," said Emanuel.

And there are other differences hel has noted in Chicago's less privileged neighborhoods.

"What we consider for our neighborhood schools manifests itself differently," said Emanuel. "Parts of our city, that crime problem translates to life and death that's just different."

Emanuel was elected by 55 percent of the city's voters in a six-candidate race. He considers it a mandate for reform.

"Voters have been clear. They want reform, they want change, they know business as usual has got to come to an end. The status quo is unacceptable," he said.

But the mayor-elect stopped short of saying he planned to control the City Council and Chicago politics as much as outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley.

"The mayor is the mayor. I will be the leader, I'll set the agenda in a partnership where I'll call the City Council to be that partner for reform," said Emanuel.

Emanuel, who will need City Council approval for his reform agenda as well as appointments, also said being a mayor as strong as Daley is not one of his goals.

"It's not to be strong in the sense that you have control. It's to be effective so you bring results to the public," he said.

Emanuel told ABC7 he would not use the Chicago mayor's office to seek a national profile.

"The only profile that will come nationally will be because of what we do locally," he said.

Emanuel said voters should be concerned that he wanted to be mayor for 20 plus years. He told ABC7 that for him it's one term at a time.

"You asked me how long I'm gonna go, I think this is all ridiculous...don't worry about that," said Emanuel.

On Friday, Mayor-elect Emanuel goes to Washington D.C. for a meeting with President Barack Obama at his old workplace, the White House.

"We can no longer afford, as a city, not making sure we're tapping all the resources of either Washington or Springfield to help us achieve what need to achieve as a city," said Emanuel.