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An Open Letter to Mayor Emanuel
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times

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I love this city.

I grew up first on the Near North Side, and then moved as a teenager to the South Loop. I have worked in media here since 1984, and have covered so many murders, scandals, hate crimes, and so much corruption it would make any sane person want to move somewhere else.

I have seen the racism and classism infect all areas of our city, including the LGBT community. I have wept for the people who have died of HIV because of bias and neglect, and as LGBT people have been harassed by police and murdered for who they are. I have also experienced more than my share of crime, both violent and nonviolent. But I still love this city.

I have also watched with joy as LGBTs became part of this system—as we saw openly gay elected and appointed officials, the first gay police officers rise through the ranks, and as our LGBT community finally started to be treated near to equals in this city.

But it has never been close to enough. I have wondered what it would take to finally crack open this segregated city, this city that works for those who work it, who rob us, who distract us with baubles and center-lane trees, charter schools and desperate grasps for international attention by spending money on stadiums instead of schools, affordable housing, and true neighborhood development.

My mother wondered some of these same things, and she was my role model growing up. She worked against the horrible racism of red-lining, denying Blacks the ability to get mortgages, causing a multi-generational wealth gap we are seeing the consequences of today. She was editor of the Chicago Defender, worked for the United Mortgage Bankers of America against segregated banking policies, worked for Dempsey Travis on his book An Autobiography of Black Chicago, covered Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham and Chicago, and helped on public housing issues in Chicago and Gary.

She saw some of the worst this city has to offer, yet she also saw its beauty and possibility. She died in 1996, unable to see her dreams, or King's, ever come close to being finished. Yet she never stopped loving this city.

But almost 20 years after her death, what is happening now in Chicago and across this country gives me much hope. These protests are full of passion and pain. They are not monolithic or top-down, they are multi-pronged and sometimes messy. But they are real.

This presents you now several choices, Mr. Mayor. You must dig deep to decide if you truly love this city as you say you do. If you are truly remorseful and awake now.

Because your mistakes are real. Even if most of the systemic problems are ones you inherited, you asked for this job—twice. Five years in, you are not the new guy with a pass on these matters. Richard J. Daley, Richard M. Daley, and even probably the mayors in between them have huge responsibility here. They are not off the hook, but you are on the throne now.

Whether and when you saw the videos of Laquan McDonald, Ronald Johnson or others killed by police does not matter. What matters is you are the mayor of this city, and you need to take responsibility. For decades, even centuries, the status quo won, the official stories and reports won over the complaints and cries of citizens and their survivors. But we are beyond that now, because unlike the 1970 Gil Scott-Heron poem and song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," this revolution is very much being televised, and videotaped, and Tweeted, by both citizens and police.

And this is a good thing, Mayor. We ( many of us ) once were blind, but now we see. This can help us change the systems of racism and classism of this bifurcated city of ours.

So what should you do? Yes, you won the election for a second term. Yes, some people are trying to pressure you to resign, while others are pushing for a recall election, a time-consuming and costly solution. The law does not allow much room here, but you could take steps to soothe the city and allow for the people to have their voice heard, without costing the city much more pain and money.

We have an election this March for other local and national offices.

You, Mayor, could ask for a new election for mayor of this city. Fair and square, a new election.

It's tricky, yes, in part because of the ridiculous change to our mayoral election to make it a bipartisan race, with a runoff only if someone doesn't get 50% of the vote. So we'd have to get clever with the partisan primary in March, but we're all smart people, it could happen. And a runoff could be staged in April if no one gets 50% of the vote.

What a grand gesture you could make. Many people believe you were only going to run for two terms anyway. You have your eyes on some future prize. Do you really want three more years without it being with a mandate from the voters? This would rip the city apart even more.

But to you and anyone who wants to run this city—we must change. We must move resources from prisons and jails to schools and job training, create massive affordable housing on the thousands of vacant lots in this city ( tiny homes for the homeless ), fully develop each of the city's 77 neighborhoods, stop the TIFF nonsense, change the culture of our entire city to be about the citizens, and not the corporations and rich people who get out-size support for their dreams. And, of course, among many other changes, police reform must be a major priority.

We all have dreams, including you. This is a city of dreamers. But it has never been a city of equally funded dreams.

Please, Mayor. Do the right thing—let our people vote.

Tracy Baim is co-founder and publisher of Windy City Times. She is also founder of the new Pride Action Tank.

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