Where is Mayor Emanuel?

June 21, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Friday night, some are questioning the mayor's timing, while others are defending him.

Many public relations pros tell their political clients to stay clear of bad news whenever possible. Is it by design that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is out of the country when over 50 public schools are closed? Or is it a coincidence?

It has been one of the most eventful weeks in Chicago Public Schools history. Hundreds of teachers and staff laid off last Friday, and since Monday, 54 schools closed forever.

"This is my first school I've been in since kindergarten," said student Josiah Jones. "I don't even know how I feel."

The controversy would have to travel halfway around the world to be seen and heard by Rahm Emanuel. The mayor, who controls CPS, is with his family in Israel. They left last Friday, a few hours before the layoffs were announced.

"It is cowardice not to be able to stick around and answer questions and talk to reporters when you are affecting thousands of lives," said education activist Matt Farmer.

A spokeswoman said the mayor's trip was scheduled months ago for his daughter's bat mitzvah.

Meanwhile, some of Emanuel's political friends rushed to his defense.

"He's very accessible. You've had plenty of opportunities at press conferences to ask him questions, haven't you?" said Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, addressing reporters.

Emanuel does make himself available most weeks, especially when there is good news about jobs or public works projects.

Critics remember last March, when the Chicago Public Schools closing list was announced. The mayor was on a family ski trip in Utah.

"It makes me feel like the kids don't matter as much as they should if he's not here to engage with us on what this really means in our schools," said parent Jennie Biggs.

"There's always a crisis, there's always a problem," said 4th Ward Alderman Will Burn. "If that was your sort of standard for where he should be, he would never leave the City of Chicago."

The mayor and his family are scheduled to return to Chicago on Monday. No word from city hall on how soon after his return next week we will get a chance to ask about the layoffs and school closings.

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