CHICAGO (CBS) — In a clear warning to those who aren’t ready for his vision of city government, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel said Chicago needed some major change or it could “veer off to a Cleveland.”

Poor Cleveland. It, along with Detroit, are the cities that Americans associate with urban decline. Now Emanuel is warning Chicago could go right with it.

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“I think the decisions we make in the next two years, three years, will determine where we’re going to be in the next 20-30 years,” he said at the Chicago Tribune series, Conversations about the Future. “If we get them wrong … we could veer off to a Cleveland.”

Emanuel’s Cleveland reference came from a Tribune editorial that endorsed his mayoral candidacy.

It was an hour-long session before a packed house who’d come to hear his vision for Chicago’s future, CBS 2’s Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

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He refused to apologize for being impatient and pulled no punches when it came to issues like negotiating with the teachers’ union.

“Do not come to the table defending the status quo, come to the table, roll up your sleeves help solve these problems on behalf of these kids,” Emanuel said. “The kids of Chicago deserve a better future than we’ve given them to date.

The warning came two days after he chose an innovative educator, J.C. Brizard, who’d clashed with teachers at his current post in Rochester, N.Y., to be his schools CEO.

Yet Emanuel implied he was looking for a kinder, gentler police superintendent to replace Jody Weis, whose policies cut crime, but also hurt rank-and-file morale.

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“I wanted to have somebody that lifted the morale of the department so they were out doing what they needed to do, which is fighting crime,” he said.