Emanuel hits Chicago streets, makes case for mayor
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 1:29 AM
CHICAGO -- Last week, Afghanistan. This week, parents protesting the proposed demolition of a park field house.
Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel hit the campaign trail on Monday and got a sudden taste of the vastly different agenda he'd face as Chicago's mayor - and the hurdles he must overcome to be elected.
A day after unveiling his campaign on a new website, Emanuel hit the streets vowing to "hear from Chicagoans - in blunt and honest terms" about what they want from their next mayor. Many were happy just to shake hands, exchange hugs, or drink coffee with President Barack Obama's hard-charging former right hand man.
But he also faced skepticism about his intentions, loyalties and whether he even has the legal right to run for mayor in a city he hasn't lived in for nearly two years. A few potential rivals also surfaced in public, though insisted it had nothing to do with him.
The blunt talk during one part of Emanuel's visit to a bustling street in the mostly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood was that he wasn't listening enough.
There, a group of parents protesting the planned demolition of a park field house briefly surrounded Emanuel's car. They said he'd promised to talk with them on the sidewalk, but instead, after entering a restaurant to shake hands with patrons, he quickly headed to his car without stopping.
Michelle Palencia, whose 6-year-old son attends a school that uses the field house as a library, said the group confronted Emanuel because no one else is listening.
"He said, 'I promise,'" Palencia said. "That's all we've been hearing is promises."
Palencia said Emanuel did say he would call her - and she will be waiting.
Skeptics and well-wishers alike greeted Emanuel as he campaigned at a downtown train station, a South Side restaurant and along Pilsen's busy 18th Street.
Outside Izola's restaurant, a bastion for Chicago's black leaders and a favorite of the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington, a fair number of curiosity seekers said they'd never even heard of Emanuel. Inside, treated to a $13 breakfast with Emanuel, a trio of local men told him their concerns - unemployment, education, crime.
"He's going to have to convince us he's going to make a difference," said diner Paul Bryson, 46, a bathroom remodeler.