By Chinta Strausberg
Just a day before jury selection of the Jason Van Dyke trial, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent shock waves throughout the city when Tuesday he announced he would not run for re-election prompting a stunned Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. to convene an emergency meeting.
Earlier with his wife, Amy, by his side, Mayor Emanuel said, “We have decided to write another chapter together” and that while he loves this city and the people “This has been the job of a lifetime but it is not a job for a lifetime,” he told reporters during a City Hall press conference.
Reaction came quick from mayoral candidates and civil rights leaders like Rev. Jackson who held a press conference at Dr. King’s Workshop. He is seeking a common ground between African Americans and Latinos while reaching out to white supporters—a page that comes out of Mayor Washington’s successful mayoral book.
Among those joining Rev. Jackson were: Rev. Janette Wilson, Rev. Leon Finney, Jr., Rev. Bernard Jakes, pastor of the Westpoint Baptist Church, Rev. Slim Coleman and his wife, Emma Lozano, former Ald. Bob Fioretti, Jessica Disu, also known as FM Supreme, executive director of the Chicago International Youth Peace Movement, attorney Aaron McCleod, executive director of special projects Trinity Church of Christ and pastor of St. Stevens Lutheran Church, Hermene Hartman, retired Northeastern professor Robert Starks, Jim Compton, Rev. Tyrone McGowan, and others.
Referring to his broad-base steering committee, Jackson said they would start the vetting process. Like when Mayor Washington first ran in 1983, Jackson said he put forth some demands before committing to run for mayor.
Now that the Mayor Emanuel is out of this race, Jackson said there must be a plebiscite with the goal of having one mayoral candidate. There must be scientific polls and the capacity to build coalitions.
“There must be a commitment to hold voter registration drives, raise money and a coalition vision that is multicultural. “If you have the credibility but can’t raise money, you can’t win,” he said. “There must be a transparent process.” He explained the formula for winning City Hall.
Rev. Jackson said you have to have 10 percent of the white Lakefront vote, 10 percent of the Latino vote and the black vote for a victory. “We will need unions as part of our coalition and churches,” said Jackson. “We will need a coalition of conscious that includes Latinos.
“We have to find common ground. There are a lot of ways to lose and one way to win, a coalition ground. Based on moving from ethnic battleground there is another common ground, a higher ground…. We’ve worked together,” Jackson said referring to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and fighting for job retention for Nabisco workers and other Latino issues.
Rev. Jackson said his cross section of supporters has begun “of building coalitions and a vetting process to find a viable (mayoral) candidate…” someone who can raise the money and issues necessary to win.
When asked what should the process be, Rev. Jackson said he has been meeting with a broad cross section of people for more than a week. “We need to vet them to see those we respect the most. We need safe streets, sidewalks and parks.” Schools, he said should mirror Neuqua Valley High School.
Asked if there would be an agenda, Rev. Jackson said when Mayor Washington ran he had several demands including his request for supporters to register 50,000 new voters and more than $250,000. More than 100,000 blacks were added to the voter rolls. Supporters exceeded his demands.
But, Washington, like Rev. Jackson, expanded his base of support by reaching out to blacks, whites and Latinos. That is what Rev. Jackson’s coalition represents—a mirror of Chicago’s population.
Rev. Jackson emphasized that the vetting process should be transparent and includes a plebiscite and a massive voter registration drive, which he has already begun.
He said the issues at stake are clear—how the mayor closed more than 50 schools “without a hearing” causing the value of homes to decline and hundreds of teachers lost their jobs.
“The Laquan McDonald thing seems to be a police cover up…,” Jackson likened like the death of Emmitt Till, the 14-year-old Chicago teen killed in 1955 in Money, MS. The Van Dyke trial involving the shooting of 17-year-old McDonald 16 times in 15 seconds.
Chicago, Jackson said, likened Chicago to a three-legged stool with 2.5 legs. “The North Side has unemployment less than 2 percent…poverty up 40 percent” in nine endangered communities. “You see drugs in, jobs out. “We know the guns are coming from Indiana. Gun trafficking is a big deal.”
To restore the city and its economic viability, Rev. Jackson said, “There must be some plan to attract cooperation’s and manufacturers” especially since so many companies have left Chicago and Illinois. “There has been no urban plan,” he said.
Jackson has repeatedly called for an urban policy conference in Chicago, but his pleas fell on death ears.
With close to 12 people running for mayor, Rev. Jackson suspects that number will dwindle by the end of this week. “I’m sure there are people who are planning right now who were not planning to get in yesterday.” Jackson said this movement would be a big build up to the Nov. 6th election “which will determine a lot around the nation.”
Making it clear and speaking on behalf of the millennial generation, peace activist Disu told reporters, “This will not be business as usual. We are looking for someone who has interest of the people in all of the communities.”
She said Chicago is one city not a tale of two cities. “What ever candidate we’re backing understands the needs of the community…. What we don’t want to see is a second coming of a Mayor Emanuel….”
Rev. Coleman said, “I was not surprised at his not running at all his problems around the police district, education and raising taxes. He could read the polls. He’s a smart and intelligent man, been in politics for a long time. I think the base of support that he once had in the African American community is not there. I think that was the determining factor.
“What is interesting about this coalition is it represents what kept him from running,” Coleman said.
Starks, professor emeritus, Northeastern University and chairman of the board of the Black United Fund of Illinois, believes that the mayor “is afraid of the outcome of the Van Dyke/McDonald trial and the referendum that former Gov. Pat Quinn put together because that would probably eliminate him anyway.
“The black community is absolutely against him, and he knows he cannot win without the support of the black community,” Starks stated.