In a shocking decision announced Tuesday morning, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared he would not seek a third term in office.
With his wife Amy at his side, Emanuel, his voice occasionally cracking with emotion, told reporters from City Hall’s fifth floor of his affection for leading Chicago, but had decided to “write a new chapter” in his life.
“Today, the time has come to make another tough choice. As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I have decided not to seek re-election,” Emanuel said early Tuesday morning.
Mr. Emanuel’s decision to leave office at the end of his second term arrives just one ahead of jury selection in the trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke stands accused of murder in the October 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald. A scandal which likely impacted Emanuel’s decision not to seek reelection, Emanuel was often confronted with unpleasant questions over his alleged role in concealing the police dash-cam tape capturing the incident.
While Emanuel boasted of a city reversing course and improving a disastrous public pension crisis and boosting the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) during his two terms in office, Chicago was plagued with an increase of homicide rates and a spread in violent crime across the entire city.
In 2017, Chicago witnessed 762 homicides, a 58 percent increase from 2015.
During his two terms, Emanuel faced stiff criticism for the closure of over 50 schools, most in minority neighborhoods, massive borrowing to close gaping budget deficits, and a dramatic turnover in the leadership of the CPS.
To ameliorate Chicago’s fiscal insanity, Emanuel often resorted to borrowing and came under fire for dramatic property tax increases in the amount of $1.1 billion, a 29 percent tax increase on water and sewer service, a 56 percent increase on phone taxes, and soaring rates for water, sewer and city stickers.
Additionally, Emanuel raised taxes on hotel and parking, and increased parking fines.
First elected in 2011, Emanuel barely survived a runoff election in 2015 amid the Laquan McDonald scandal, eventually defeating Alderman Jesus Garcia to return to office.
However, Emanuel’s political situation grew dire over the past year, and his refusal to address soaring crime rates inspired an inordinate number of challengers to his rule over the Windy City.
Of the 11 declared candidates seeking to replace Emanuel, three leading contenders are former CPS school chief, Paul Vallas; former president of the Chicago police board, Lori Lightfoot; and former police superintendent, Garry McCarthy.
Emanuel, 58, did not reveal future plans after he leaves office. Chicago will hold its mayoral election in February 2019.
[Bock Club Chicago] [Chicago Tribune] [Photo courtesy Getty Images/TSN/Chicago Tribune/NPR]