UPDATED 11/13/10 – 2:55 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Rahm Emanuel formally announced his candidacy for mayor of Chicago on Saturday, saying “I want to fight for a better future for all the people of Chicago.”
Emanuel’s announcement came as no surprise, as he has been campaigning for weeks, ever since stepping down as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff on Oct. 1.
“Only the opportunity to help President Obama as his chief of staff could have pried me away from here,” Emanuel said Saturday. “And only the opportunity to lead this city could have pried me away from the president’s side.”
Speaking at a school in the Albany Park neighborhood that he represented as a member of Congress, Emanuel said, “because I love this city – the place my family came to, the place where I was born – I want to fight for a better future for all the people of Chicago. And that’s why, today, I’m announcing my candidacy for mayor.”
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He pledged not to raise taxes and to award city contracts to the lowest bidders, not those with the most political connections.
“This is no time to even talk about raising taxes,” Emanuel said. “But we cannot keep putting off hard choices and hoping things will get better, while drawing down each year on rapidly diminishing reserves.”
Emanuel also pledged that, if elected, he would hold regular town hall meetings with Chicago residents to hear their concerns and so that they can provide suggestions to him and his department heads. He also said he’d establish an online “suggestion box” to allow residents to send in ideas on how the city can save money.
“We need engaged citizens and well-informed elected officials,” Emanuel said.
He proposed privatizing the city’s garbage collection to save money, phasing out the city’s “head tax” on employers and including spending of TIF funds in the city budget.
Those running him have not waited to offer criticism or call him an outsider.
Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun has accused Emanuel of abandoning President Obama.
And former School Board President Gery Chico has mocked Emanuel, saying that Emanuel is so out of touch after years in Washington that he had to stage a listening tour to find out what is happening in his own city.
“Nobody has to tell me what the importance is of the various issues to our residents,” he said. “I know them.”
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But Emanuel touted his listening tour while announcing his candidacy.
“My “Tell It Like It Is” tour reminded me of the pride that all Chicagoans take in our city. It also reminded me that Chicagoans aren’t shy with their opinions,” Emanuel said.
“We have strong feelings and we’re not afraid to state them. Of course, some of us use better language than others,” he added, joking about his famous penchant for profanity.
Asked for his reaction to Emanuel’s speech, Chico told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine, “I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words.”
“I’ve been here for 20 years working in the trenches, getting my nails dirty, working on the issues that are important to the quality of life of our citizens,” Chico added. “It’s really about actions, it’s not about speeches.”
Chico said that he believes his experience as a former chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, former president of the Chicago Board of Education, former chairman of the Chicago Park District and former chairman of the City Colleges makes him a better choice for mayor than Emanuel.
“You have to look at the résumés, you have to look at the history,” Chico said. “My history’s in Chicago, most of his history’s in Washington and I think that’s what the voters have to judge. … I don’t take away from anybody what their lives’ experiences are, but Washington is Washington and Chicago is Chicago. It’s pretty plain.”
Many consider Emanuel the early favorite simply because he has a big campaign warchest and everyone knows who he is and what he’s done, a résumé that includes White House chief of staff, three-term congressman and Clinton White House staffer. But Chico said that once the debate gets going, he believes Emanuel won’t seem like “King Kong” any more.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and State Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) are both expected to announce their candidacies on Sunday. Moseley-Braun opened her campaign headquarters earlier this week, and city clerk Miguel del Valle has said that he’s running.
Emanuel said Saturday that he hopes the candidates for mayor will avoid negative ads and personal attacks.
“With so much at stake, we cannot accept a campaign based on negative attacks and character assassination.”