CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite people’s fears about the potential for violence, and the three-day disruption of the NATO Summit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to maintain that the decision to host the Summit was a good one.
“We’re up to this,” Emanuel said Tuesday in a one-on-one interview with CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine. “I have absolute confidence Chicago’s up to this.”
Levine went behind the scenes with the mayor on Tuesday, the last day of Emanuel’s first year in office, talking about progress toward the goals he set, as well as preparations for gathering of 60 world leaders in Chicago this weekend.
Emanuel was anxious to talk about progress toward goals of safe streets, strong schools, and stable finances.
But the mayor instead found himself being asked “what were you thinking when you offered to host the summit?”
“This will be one weekend, starting on Saturday afternoon, Sunday, Monday, open for evening rush hour,” Emanuel said. “I’m not saying it’s not an inconvenience. Will it be a challenge? No doubt. Should there be perspective?”
The mayor answered that question with a sly grin.
Asked if local business owners are overreacting by covering windows and fragile outdoor decorations with plywood, Emanuel said, “Here’s my view, there’s great opportunity to bring the world to Chicago, and Chicago to the world. And we will do all the parts that we need to do as a city to host that. People have their ability to express their views, and we will provide public safety, and the president who chose his hometown to host this event will be able to do it.”
The mayor had spent this final day of his first year in office cutting the ribbon at a new health and wellness center on the West Side, celebrating with college-bound graduates of Urban Prep Academy at U.S. Cellular Field during White Sox game, and meeting with pastors and police about his latest push to solve what’s proven to be the toughest challenge he’s faced.
“What’s frustrating … it’s more than frustrating, is not being able to make the type of progress I want to make on crime,” Emanuel said.
He still has a sense of humor, and a down-to-earth view of himself as mayor and father.
“When they were younger, you went to every activity. Now they’re at the point they don’t want me at any activity,” he said.
He loves the interaction with people, and understands their impatience, perhaps evidenced by Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune poll indicating only slightly more than half of those polled approved of the job he’s doing.
“I’ve got three more years to deliver the results that I pledged. Do I think people sense an energy, a focus, a determination? Yes,” he said. “That said, I’m not happy with where we are, and we have work to be done, and trust me, I’m pushing it.”
Emanuel said he’s focusing on creating jobs, streamlining city services, partnering with labor unions, and luring more visitors to Chicago.
Fears of renewed Council Wars have proven unfounded. Compromise came as a surprise.
“You misjudged me,” he said with a smile.
The mayor said he reads everything written about him, good and bad, but doesn’t dwell on either.