Rahm Emanuel reflects on tenure as mayor of Chicago

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to give Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot the keys to the mayor's office on Monday, and she’s vowing to bring reform to a reluctant City Council, echoing his rhetoric eight years ago.

Mayor Emanuel still blames Ald. Ed Burke for a failed effort to kick him off the ballot for mayor back in 2011. When Mayor Emanuel won, his first impulse was to pay Ald. Burke back, Chicago-style.

“Now, could I have removed him as Finance Committee Chairman? Yes! I could have! I would have won the battle, lost the war,” Mayor Emanuel said. 

Mayor Emanuel says the war was for control of city government's troubled finances and of key personnel appointments, all requiring approval from a City Council majority, a higher priority than battling Burke.

“He then became an ally, somebody who knows where all the bodies are buried and knows how to count votes,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Four pensions got revenue sources. Eight budgets that whittled away constantly at the structural deficit. Five separate ethics packages.

"There’s not a thing he didn't vote for,” Mayor Emanuel continued. “I put him in the boat, on the team, pulling. I have to look at eight years’ worth of votes, everything I needed to get done. If I had taken him out as Finance Committee Chairman, I’d have created a political opposition in the city council that actually would have organized against."

All of that is true, but according to federal prosecutors, Ald. Burke recently used his clout to try to extort big bucks from a local businessman.

Mayor Emanuel never mentioned Lori Lightfoot by name, but she confronts the same dilemma he did eight years ago: The tension between forcing reform on a reluctant City Council versus the mayor's need for the city council to approve the big items on his or her agenda.