Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel returned from a vacation in Indonesia over the holidays on Monday, and he wasted no time in taking a defensive stance regarding his absence during Chicago’s miserable weather, according to a Chicago Tribune report on Monday evening.
The mayor - "Remote Rahm" as he is being called in some circles - and his family (wife and three children) returned from half-way around the globe, and he spent a good part of his day letting Chicagoans know he is now back in the city. His first move was to go to a Chicago Streets and Sanitation garage. While there, he reportedly thanked the workers for plowing the snow that hit the city all weekend long.
After that public display, Emanuel and a number of his city officials stood before media and their cameras to discuss the cold. How this news conference improved the situation in which Chicagoans are subjected to a record-setting 15 degrees below zero temperature accompanied with death-defying wind chills is unclear.
As if that wasn’t enough for Emanuel to try to let everyone know he is back from his warm-climate holiday vacation, he hit a warming center in the afternoon where he was photographed with the residents of the center.
Before heading home to perhaps unpack or deal with some jetlag in the sack, he made sure he covered the onslaught of criticism for his absence in the past week or so by saying, “Whether it’s the weather or not, I’m sure people will always find reasons to raise some questions.” One might argue that one wouldn’t have nearly as many questions (commonly referred to as criticisms) if he had been in the city.
Regarding the embarrassing “we’re-not-closed --- wait, now-we-are-closed” Chicago Public School fiasco over the weekend, CPS’s CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett appears to have taken the blame by saying she made recommendations to Emanuel about closing the schools after monitoring the weather situation. This couldn’t mean that she didn’t know what every weatherman and weatherwoman in Chicago was saying about it being dangerously cold on Monday and Tuesday, could it? Nonetheless, she claimed it just looked like a last minute decision to close the schools, but - she claims - it was really a pro-active decision all along.
One would argue that asserting all weekend long that the schools would definitely be open and warm to accept students on Monday morning when it was predicted to be some fifteen degrees below zero is not pro-active. Instead, it’s silly and left Chicagoans misinformed and very-possibly inconvenienced if they didn’t hear about the change in plans Sunday evening.
Even though that weather forecast and news would have been available to Emanuel on the other side of the world, he must have allowed Byrd-Bennett to call the eleventh-hour shots she called. The bottom line was that after severe criticism for announcing that schools would be open on Monday as early as Saturday, it was announced on late Sunday afternoon that the schools would be closed. Again, according to Byrd-Bennett, the decision was not a last minute decision – it was "pro-active."
Emanuel suggested that being on vacation half-way around the globe doesn’t really mean he isn’t working. He said, “Communication equipment - be that text, cell phone, email - allows you to stay in contact on a regular basis.” Someone might want to clue Emanuel in. Chicagoans know about current communication options available to a person in the 21st Century. But – whether Emanuel realizes it or not – his constituents also know that all the communications in the world aren’t nearly the same as actually being present and sharing an experience.