Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s days at City Hall are numbered, but that didn’t stop him from hitting the campaign trail recently to give a rousing defense of a key City Council ally who’s in the election fight of his life against a congressman’s daughter.
Standing onstage at a fundraiser for 30th Ward Ald. Ariel Reboyras earlier this month at an Avondale bar, Emanuel jabbed his finger into a podium as he tried to fire up the veteran alderman’s backers. Reboyras is facing a challenge in next year’s municipal elections from Jessica Gutierrez, the daughter of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who’s leaving Congress when his term ends next year.
“You got a great alderman. It’s up to you to make sure your neighbors know how good he is,” Emanuel said, his voice rising.
Emanuel then pointed to a tangible success he said the alderman has secured for the ward.
“There’s a new elementary school, it’s coming to Belmont Cragin, and there’s one reason — he’s sitting right over here,” Emanuel said while Reboyras pumped his fist, according to video of the event posted to Reboyras’ campaign Facebook page. “Could have gone anywhere, it’s going to Belmont Cragin because your alderman works for your families and your neighborhood, and you need to re-elect him.”
Emanuel’s appearance fits with the Chicago tradition of mayors doling out election support and big-ticket projects in wards to their City Council allies. It’s also in keeping with Emanuel’s political credo that “no friend gets left on the field.”
Nevertheless, Jessica Gutierrez — who works as a community outreach director for a facilities management consulting firm — is betting that Reboyras’ closeness with the lame-duck mayor will prove to be a political albatross for him. With her father’s backing, she’s campaigning on a call for change.
Congressman Gutierrez has been an Emanuel supporter and was co-chairman of the mayor’s 2015 re-election campaign. Still, the fight between his daughter and Reboyras is shaping up as a proxy fight of sorts against Emanuel.
“That endorsement from the mayor was not forthcoming because of the leadership (Reboyras) has shown in the ward — it’s because he votes with the mayor a hundred percent of the time and the mayor feels the need to pay him back,” Jessica Gutierrez said.
Emanuel sent shock waves through the Chicago political scene in early September when he announced he would not be seeking a third term.
Now, Reboyras has little choice but to rise or fall in the race by making the case that his close working relationship with Emanuel has been a boon to the Northwest Side neighborhoods he represents.
Emanuel’s handpicked Public Safety Committee chairman, Reboyras is as aligned with the outgoing mayor as just about anyone on the council. He has helped shepherd Emanuel’s Police Department reform package through the council and has almost always backed his broader agenda.
“Moving forward, I suspect that my challengers will say this is not the right way to go about business, but the bottom line is: Are we a better Chicago today than we were eight years ago? And I think the answer is yes,” he said.
And the benefits for the ward can be seen in the school project, city economic development initiatives and other City Hall largesse Emanuel bestowed on the area, Reboyras said.
Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson announced in July, as part of the school district’s new capital budget, that CPS plans to work with Belmont Cragin community leaders to choose a location for a proposed new elementary school there.
“We’ve managed to put in improvements in our parks, more playgrounds. We have a new school coming to the Belmont Cragin area. That says a lot. That’s very significant,” he said. “The fact that the mayor has helped me create additional (tax-increment financing) districts so that we can improve our business areas so that we can bring in new businesses, it says a lot and it means a lot.”
Jessica Gutierrez countered the ward is not advancing the way it should.
“I expect the alderman there for the past 15 years, who has this so-called relationship with the mayor, to be able to promote economic growth for small businesses, to be able to deliver projects like new playgrounds for residents across the ward,” she said. “I don’t see it, and residents don’t see it.”
Gutierrez said Emanuel’s support will not help Reboyras in the majority-Hispanic ward, which includes The Villa, Kilbourn Park and part of Logan Square in addition to parts of Avondale and Belmont Cragin.
“The mayor — nobody likes the mayor,” she said. “He is not popular in the Latino community.”
In the 2015 mayoral runoff election against Emanuel, challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia tallied 59 percent of the vote in the ward.
But Emanuel isn’t on the ballot this election.
Garcia is considering another run for mayor himself in the growing field vying to succeed Emanuel next year, even though he already is running this November to succeed Luis Gutierrez representing Illinois’ 4th Congressional District.
Luis Gutierrez early this month said it was more important for Garcia to run for mayor, and Jessica Gutierrez said she’s on board with the “Chuy for mayor” idea.
That leaves her trying to walk the line of pledging to be independent from the new mayor while also expressing enthusiasm for a possible Garcia win. “When he did something good I would support that, and when I disagreed with him I would speak up against it,” she said. “I think a lot of the younger generation you’re going to see coming up in the council feels that way.”
Gutierrez places herself in the progressive Democratic Party movement that’s ascendant locally and nationally. Though she’s the daughter of one of Illinois’ best-known political figures who’s a national Hispanic power player in his own right, Gutierrez says she wants to usher in a new era in the ward.
Her candidacy comes at a moment of flux in Northwest Side Hispanic politics.
When he was first elected in 2003, Reboyras was a top official in the Hispanic Democratic Organization. The powerful patronage machine allied with Mayor Richard M. Daley lost much of its clout in the mid-2000s amid a series of City Hall hiring scandals that led to the conviction of some tied to the group.
Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios — who lost the Democratic primary election this year in his re-election bid — also has seen his influence wane considerably in recent years in that part of the city.
Ray Suarez spent 24 years as 31st Ward alderman with Berrios behind him, but lost in 2015 to former television reporter Milly Santiago, who had the support of Luis Gutierrez and others. They also backed Gilbert Villegas, who took down a Berrios-endorsed candidate in the 36th Ward.
If Jessica Gutierrez is elected alderman, it would increase Luis Gutierrez’s influence on the Northwest Side as he leaves Congress after 13 terms. And it would create the latest in a long line of multigenerational Cook County political families.
Reboyras, meanwhile, is making the case to voters that he’s looking ahead to what he hopes will be another fruitful partnership with the next occupant of the mayor’s office.
“As much as I am loyal to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I will be as loyal to the next mayor, if, of course, they work with us. And in most cases they will,” he said. “And whether or not my opponents see me as a rubber stamp, a ‘yes’ voter every time, there’s a reason for that. And if I can receive more things for my community, then I’m going to vote with the mayor if it’s the right thing to do for the entire city of Chicago.”
Gutierrez reported she had about $23,000 on hand in her campaign committee at the end of June, and has reported raising about $16,400 more since then in contributions of at least $1,000 each, according to the state Board of Elections. Reboyras had about $42,000 in his fund at the end of June, and has reported raising about $51,000 since then, according to the election board.
Elvis Guzman and Edgar “Edek” Esparza also have announced they will run for 30th Ward alderman.
As for Emanuel, who leaves office in May, he said he has no intention of turning his back on Reboyras or any aldermen who have been in his corner for the past eight years: “Here’s my rule, Rahm Emanuel, former head caucus chair: No friend gets left on the field.”
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September 29, 2018 at 05:27AM