Suburban mayors look for Mayor Emanuel’s help

There is often a tension between a big city and suburbs: these communities have different goals and access to resources. With a new mayor in Chicago, suburban leaders say they are looking to work with Rahm Emanuel:

But suburban leaders said Wednesday that they expect Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to recognize that the city he will soon lead and the surrounding communities are better off working together instead of fighting each other.

“I think, with his extensive government experience, he understands that we’re all in this together,” said Elmwood Park Village President Peter Silvestri, whose town is in Illinois’ 5th Congressional District, a seat once held by Emanuel.

Silvestri was among several leaders who also said they were hopeful that Emanuel, who has a reputation as a bare-knuckled political operative, will follow Mayor Richard Daley’s collaborative lead…

Among them is Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, who fought bitterly with Daley over the expansion of O’Hare. He said he hoped Emanuel “will respect the concerns of his neighbor and work regionally.”

Emanuel supports  a Chicago casino, an idea that hasn’t gone over well in Des Plaines, which will soon open a casino of its own…

Naperville Mayor George Pradel was another suburban leader who said he hoped Emanuel would maintain a strong relationship with his suburban counterparts.

The Chicago mayor has influence on several issues that concern Naperville, including ongoing plans to build a western bypass around O’Hare and rates for Lake Michigan water, Pradel said. Naperville is the largest suburban user of water from the lake.

As a congressman, Emanuel supported an airport in south suburban Peotone and he has voiced support for extending the CTA’s Red Line to 130th Street — two important issues in the south suburbs.

Perhaps these suburban leaders do want to work with Emanuel but to me, it sounds like they are more interested in getting Emanuel’s support for their interests and projects. Perhaps Emanuel could ask these suburban leaders: and if I help you, how does your suburb plan to help the City of Chicago or the larger Chicago region?

This may be a cynical interpretation but this is the long-running history of suburban communities: many are not interested in regional or metropolitan issues except when they might threaten the quality of life in their immediate community. Going back to the 1890s and 1900s, suburbs stopped wanting to be annexed into the big city as they could provide their own basic services (water, sewers, electricity, etc.) and didn’t want to associate with cities which were seen as dirty and crime-ridden. Today, suburbs thrive on this idea of local rule: local taxes should go into local services, such as public school districts and basic local services such as police and fire. Local or regional projects are often judged on how particular suburban communities will benefit, particularly as it pertains to their tax base and property values.

In the long run, how many of these suburban communities are willing to help Mayor Emanuel?

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