Rahm Emanuel would have rightly felt jubilant at having breezed past his nearest rivals to win the race for the mayoral office, but the former White House Chief of Staff has inherited a fair share of thorns with the crown. In a city besieged with problems ranging from dire financial straits to a struggling public school system, Emanuel has to really get his act together to make an impression after his predecessor Richard M. Daley, who has been the longest-serving mayor in Chicago's history with 22 years in office.
Reining the Deficit
The most cogent obstacles in the path of the new mayor are related to the financial crisis. The impact of the recent recession has brought Chicago to a state of financial crisis not witnessed since the Great Depression. The city struggles under a whopping $654-million budget deficit, which could even touch $1 billion if public pension funds are to be adequately funded. Without painful austerity measures or significant increase in tax revenue, Emanuel is going to be sorely stretched. While his campaign did hint at spending cuts, reduction in entrenched bureaucracy, eliminations of redundancy, a revamp of garbage collection and other reforms, the extent to which these can help bridge the deficit is vague at best.
Managing a Fractious Polity
As The Chicago Tribune points out, many of Emanuel's campaign promises or plans were based on reforms or measures that, in order to be successfully implemented, would require the cooperation and commitment of groups beyond his control. For example, during his campaign, Emanuel had mentioned that he would reduce the overall rate of sales tax paid by customers in the city, but to make up for the lost revenue he would have to extend the tax to certain luxury items. This, however, is something that would require the approval of the Illinois legislature.
One particularly vulnerable but extremely critical area has been identified in the mayor's relations with the City Council, where a number of new entrants as well as veteran members are already known to have raised a cry for greater autonomy and authority. This would be particularly significant as Ald. Ed Burke 14th, the Dean of the Council, had been backing Emanuel's rival Gery Chico in the mayoral contest. Burke is known to have enough political muscle and influence to make life difficult for a mayor he does not support. The Associated Press further reports that more than a half dozen unions endorsed Chico, including the police and fire unions, and these would also look at putting up a fight against any budget cut legislation that the mayor brings.
In addition to all of this, Emanuel would be expected to clean up the mess in Chicago's underperforming school system which comprises the nation's third largest school district, as well as bolster the police department which is reportedly plagued by an acute shortage of staff and low morale.