On Monday morning, aides to Kurt Summers called around to reporters trying to drum up interest in the city treasurer’s speech to the City Club of Chicago. The address was pitched as a moment in which Summers would step out of the usual political comfort zone and call Chicago’s current state as he sees it, including bold talk on violence and the city’s finances.
The advertising turned out to be false.
Summers gave a 15-minute speech titled “Rekindling the Spirit of Chicago.” The talk was unorthodox. The treasurer did not detail his objectives in his office or his work over the past year, as is typical for such City Club speeches.
Instead, it had the feel of a more political speech, one from a guy who has floated his name as a possible Democratic candidate for governor and a politician whose name has been tossed around for mayor should Rahm Emanuel call it quits, a prospect that is looking increasingly unlikely.
The promised bold talk from Summers didn’t materialize. There were no new revelations about city government, nor did he come anywhere near criticizing Emanuel’s stewardship of Chicago. After all, Emanuel appointed Summers to the treasurer’s job right before the 2015 election, giving him a sizable advantage. Before the appointment, Summers was working for Emanuel’s close friend, confidant and No. 1 campaign donor Michael Sacks at GCM Grosvenor, a money management firm focused on hedge funds, private equity, real estate an infrastructure.
During the speech, Summers put up a slide of a Wall Street Journal front page that featured a story on Chicago’s rampant violence. “This is what the world sees,” Summers said. “The narrative about Chicago is wrong.”
Summers is far from the first Chicago pol to proclaim there is more to the city than the national reputation for gun violence. He tried to make his point different by inviting and drawing attention to a handful of community leaders he declared were the “future of Chicago,” while arguing that because of them, the future is bright. Those individuals, Summers said, embodied the true spirit of the city.
“It’s the people, not the politicians,” who define Chicago, Summers said before putting himself in a class with other higher-profile politicians in the state and city. “It’s not names like Rauner, Emanuel, Madigan, Summers, Cullerton or even Preckwinkle.”
Summers then listed the names of leaders of a dozen or so civic or community organizations. The treasurer had invited the individuals and asked them to stand for recognition before calling on the full banquet room to give them a standing ovation.
“That’s a secret on ending with a standing applause,” Summers quipped.
While it was a nice moment for the community organizers and civic leaders he recognized, Summers’ speech didn’t come close to the tough talk on the city’s violence and pensions that was billed. Instead, it came off more like a dry run for a possible future run at higher office.
As for the media coverage Summers’ aides worked to generate: The press contingent in the back of the banquet room included just a single TV camera and one reporter. (Bill Ruthhart)
What’s on tap
*Mayor Emanuel will talk about his plan to add nearly 1,000 officers to the Chicago Police Department.
*Gov. Bruce Rauner will hold another Facebook Live event, this time on the state budget (or lack thereof). It’s at noon.
*Longtime statehouse lobbyist Mike McClain retires.
*Last week, we learned former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs moved in by Mayor Emanuel. Here’s where former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan landed.
From the notebook
*No budget meetings scheduled: It’s been a week since Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders met to discuss the state’s budget situation.
After a series of closed-door huddles following the Thanksgiving holiday, Rauner concluded that Democrats weren’t going to provide him with a budget proposal on their own, and he put a stop to the meetings last week. On Monday, the governor reiterated that talks would resume when House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton “say they’re ready to talk about appropriations.”
Neither Rauner’s Republicans nor Madigan’s Democrats want to put out a full budget proposal with the drastic spending cuts and major tax hikes required to balance the state’s books. To do so would give the other side a political weapon to use in the runup to the 2018 election, when Rauner is on the ballot and Republicans are hopeful they can further cut into Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
Rauner has demanded Democrats go along with some of his legislative wish list, which includes a property tax freeze, scaling back collective bargaining rights, workers’ compensation changes to help businesses cut costs and term limits. Democrats have said some of the governor’s agenda would hurt the middle class, especially the union-weakening push.
The nearly two-year standoff appears likely to continue into 2017, as the two sides can’t even find their way into a room together these days.
A temporary spending plan has kept state government operating at bare bones for the past five months, but it’s set to expire Jan. 1. Asked Monday if his administration was planning for the possibility that social services, colleges and universities and government agencies could lose funding come January, Rauner said he was "optimistic" that a budget deal would be reached instead. It was unclear what that optimism was based on, however.
Even if a full, formal budget remains elusive, Rauner said, he would agree to another temporary stopgap spending plan, if Democrats first approve term limits on elected officials and a permanent property tax freeze. But what if they don’t?
“We’ll get — we’ll get things done,” Rauner said Monday when questioned by reporters after an unrelated event in downtown Chicago.
“Because I think in the end, the majority of members of the General Assembly will do the right thing,” Rauner said. “And everything that we’re advocating has strong bipartisan support. And so I believe they will.” (Kim Geiger)
*Mikva, fallen officer get post office designations: U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley announced the Senate approved naming post offices after the late Abner Mikva and Chicago police Officer Joseph Cali, who was killed in 1975 by a sniper’s bullet while writing a parking ticket.
“I am proud to honor the bravery and service of Chicago police officer, Joseph P. Cali,” Quigley said in a statement. “Officer Cali made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, and I know that this post office will pay tribute to his dedication to the City of Chicago and all its residents.”
The U.S. Post Office facility at 6300 N. Northwest Highway in Chicago will be known as the Officer Joseph P. Cali Post Office Building. Cali, who also was a Vietnam War veteran, was 31 years old when he was killed in the 2100 block of West Lake Street. He was survived by a wife and two young daughters.
The U.S. Post Office facility at 1101 Davis St. in Evanston will be known as the Abner J. Mikva Post Office Building. Mikva died July 4 at the age of 90. He was a five-term Democratic congressman, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and White House counsel for President Bill Clinton.
“Abner Mikva was the embodiment of an honorable public servant, sharing his independent voice with each branch of government during his long career,” Kirk, a Republican, said of Mikva. (Rick Pearson)
Follow the money
*Democratic state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia reported $4,650 in donations in her run to become mayor of Aurora.
*In southern Illinois, state Rep. Jerry Costello, a Smithton Democrat newly targeted for a challenge by Republicans, moved $11,500 to Rep. John Bradley of Marion, who lost his re-election bid last month.
*Track Illinois campaign contributions in real time here and here.