MEDIA WATCH: Sun-Times continues to show it has a crush on Rahm Emanuel with 'analysis' filled with silly metaphors and sophomoric pop psychology instead of facts... Even in supposed critique, the mayor's 'good intentions' trump his many nasty lies into 'lofty goals'...

Does the Chicago Sun-Times still have its schoolgirl crush on Chicago's mayor? That was an interesting question over Labor Day weekend. At first, the Sunday September 1, 2013 story about Mayor Rahm Emanuel's lies, half truths, and assorted gaffs made it seem that Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman had gotten over her high school crush on Rahm Emanuel. After all, in the course of 21 paragraphs, the story headlined "Mayor's results often miss lofty goals" lists more than a dozen lies peddled by Rahm since he took office in May 2011 (although one of those was launched on the campaign trail earlier).

One of the hundreds of pseudo-news photographs supplied to the media by the "Mayor's Press Office" in Chicago shows U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Chicago historian Timuel Black, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a 2013 event honoring the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. This photo by supplied by City Hall, which said that it should be credited to Brooke Collins.But from the story's headline to the weasel wording of most of the exposures of lies or fabrications -- along with the big lies that are left out entirely, most of those dealing with gang crimes and the public schools -- a close reading of the Spielman piece shows it's just another example of the crazy Maoism that's infecting a lot of Chicago since the former White House Chief of Staff began his Hollywood-scripted thrust back to the White House in 2010. The Road to Heaven, according to the Sun-Times, is paved with good intentions. As long as Rahm means well, he gets a pass, even when he's lying, bullying, and proving himself to be the worst chief executive at Chicago's City Hall since the Kelly-Nash days of the Great Depression.

An old rule of skeptical journalism is violated in the first first paragraph of the Spielman piece: That rule? Get the facts, and leave the psychoanalysis to an expert you might want to quote.. Chicago once prided itself on being a town full of tough reporters who were trained under the motto "If your mother says she loves you, check it out!" But for the 21st Century, Chicago newspaper editors seem to think a mother's love is an excuse for any lie from a politician -- as long as that politician is named Rahm Emanuel.

For the Sun-Times, the psychological speculation begins up front of what it labels "analysis":

"Maybe it's a way of putting pressure on himself and his staff or a sign of his rush to pile up accomplishments that can be used in a run for higher office. Maybe it's his place as the middle child in a family of overachievers..."

Not -- "Maybe the guy is a lying bully who regularly humiliates his underling (especially women) and has gotten away with most of his lies and much of his bullying until he came to Chicago deciding he could run the nation's third largest city with the same silly macho he got away with as first as head of the Democratic Party's election strategy and then as Barack Obama's Chief of Staff (and, one might add, architect of some of the administration's biggest messes...)."

Instead of some silly psycho stuff, why not call a lie a lie, a liar a liar, and a bullying male chauvinist a bullying macho male chauvinist pig who has been going through female underlings at a record rate and who polluted relations with the city's teachers by proclaiming "Fuck You Lewis" to Karen Lewis, head of the teachers union?

As Rahm Emanuel moves into his third tumultuous year as mayor, his own words are beginning to catch up with him. But left out of the September 1 Sun-Times "Analysis" of the mayor are the two biggest places where Rahm's World had been at odds with the real world of Chicago from even before the mayor took office: Crime and Schools. And for this analysis, I'll leave out crime and just focus on schools.

Rahm Emanuel was barely in office when he proclaimed, over and over and over, that Chicago's public schools had what he proclaimed was the "shortest school day" in the USA. His script writers proclaimed that Houston's children got four more years of schooling during public school because Houston had a real school day, not America's shortest. When research showed that the claims about Chicago were wrong and the claims about Houston were exaggerated, Rahm just doubled down on his lie, and his lapdog Board of Education (and "Chief Executive Officer") followed the mayor. As a result, Chicago's schools began the 2012 - 2013 school year with a longer school day that didn't have the teachers and programs to make it a decent educational experience for the kids (disclosure: including two of this reporter's sons) and which added to the silly stress on parents, school staffs and children.

A group of young black children was bused to City Hall for a City Council meeting at which the council was to vote on the question of Rahm's "Longer School Day" in September 2011. Each of the children was given a sign proclaiming "90 more minutes now!" to hold. When Substance discovered that the children didn't belong to a Chicago public school (they were from the "Promise Christian Academy"), they were removed from the media event that Chicago's mayor was scripting for that day. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But there was more to the "Longer School Day" lie that the Sun-Times had already ignored, deliberately. In September 2011, a Sun-Times photo journalist and I stood outside City Hall (the LaSalle St. side) and watched one of what would become, to anyone paying attention, a pseudo-event stage managed by Rahm Emanuel's "team." Under the windows of the mayor's office, we were witnessing bus after bus of protesters show up at City Hall carrying signs demanding the "Longer School Day." But when I interviewed them, most refused to give me their names, and many couldn't even say which school they were protesting for.

We had tripped over the first iteration of Rahm's Paid Protesters while Fran Spielman was upstairs doing her City Hall press room thing.

The most delightful moment in the Paid Protester story that September came when a bunch of cute little black kids exited a bus, all wearing red blasers, and briefly joined the picket line supporting the mayor before going inside (to eventually be escorted upstairs by a police office who was waiting to take them up the back stairs). I asked them what school they were from as they held their pre-printed signs demanding that "Longer School Day," but none would talk. Finally, I got their leader, a large middle aged man in a decent suit, and wouldn't let him go until he answered. After all, if you were at Chicago's City Hall to demand a "Longer School Day," the least you should do is tell a reporter what school you were from.

"The Promise Christian Academy," he answered as the police moved in to whisk his red blazered children up the back stairs, presumably to join Rahm's supporters in the City Council chambers.

It wasn't until four months later, in january 2012, that the TV crews caught up with the Paid Protester story during the hearings on the closing of a bunch of schools, including Dyett High School and Crane High School.

The Sun-Times 2013 Labor Day "analysis" of Rahm's world missed that one.

The Sun-Times also missed the biggest lies of Rahm's world: those "billion dollar deficits" that Rahm's Chicago Public Schools "team" makes magically disappear every year. One of the ways Rahm does that is by "reducing administration" (cutting "bureaucratic waste" "to the bone" and all those cliches). By mid-summer 2011, I heard the mayor say that his "team" at CPS had cut "administration" by $400 million. We were all standing in the sun at the corner of Montrose and Central while the mayor did another one of those corporate "jobs are coming to Chicago" dog-and-pony shows that reporters were regularly ordered to feature during the years since Rahm came into power.

And in the course of his remarks he told the press that his "team" at CPS had cut bureaucracy by $400 million. I asked his press people to detail those figures, they pushed me over to the CPS press people (who refuse to respond to any questions from Substance) and the story sat there, waiting for the subsequent exaggerations. Which came.

By 2012, Rahm's "team" had cut the central bureaucracy by $600 million. And by July and August 2013, when Tim Cawley narrated the Board of Eduction's Power Point on the 2013 - 2014 budget, that number had reached "$700 million." Heck, once you are writing and talking fiction, the sky's the limit. Neither Rahm Emanuel nor any member of his "team" at CPS has ever had to explain where those crazy numbers came from. (Fact: CPS by 2011 never had more than $100 million in administrative and technical expenses in its central office, and in many departments cuts had left the departments without the staff necessary to actually operate key functions, from budget analysis to payroll...).

Then there is all that stuff about Rahm's CPS "team."

In 2011, it was headed by his hand-picked "Chief Executive Officer," a guy from Rochester New York named Jean-Claude Brizard. Brizard got to spend a humiliating year-and-a-half playing Tonto to Rahm's Lone Ranger at literally hundreds of media events and carefully staged miracle shows, featuring Rahm's greatness. (Admittedly, Brizard's pain was probably lessened by the fact that his annual salary was the highest in CPS history -- a quarter million dollars a year -- and the fact that he had already had the chance to rehearse his lines while doing the same job against Rochester's teachers union and public schools...).

Not only was Brizard muzzled except when under Rahm's watchful eye, but Rahm even added to the humiliation by referring to the Catholic CEO regularly in public by a nickname that Rahm had given him:


Like George W. Bush, Rahm Emanuel likes to denigrate those around him with nicknames, and to observers at many Rahm Emanuel media events in 2011 and 2012, the mayor seemed especially concerned to cut anyone taller than him -- male or female -- down to size. Jean-Claude Brizard became "J.C." despite the fact that it was almost blasphemous to many listeners.

When Brizard finally suffered his final humiliation and was cut off the negotiating team led by Rahm's people, it became clear that Brizard would take the fall for the mayor's mistakes in relation to the Chicago Teachers Union. Despite a subsequent rewriting of history, not once was Brizard at the bargaining table during the tense negotiations that led to the first teachers strike in a quarter century in Chicago. In fact, one day Brizard showed up at the bargaining with donuts. According to one union leaders who was there, "Brizard was told to go away, and we got the donuts."

Brizard kept his mouth shut for a year after he was dumped by Rahm, possibly because he got a golden parachute worth more than a quarter million dollars, and then a job at the College Board. But apparently the College Board job didn't require him to keep his mouth shut about Rahm, because in August 2013, he gave an interview to the right-wing Thomas B. Fordham Foundation opening part of the book on what it was really like to work for Rahm.

By then, CPS was being run by a new "team," this one headed by Rahm's second Chief Executive Officer for public schools, Barbara Byrd Bennett (Maybe she should be called RAHM EDUCEO 2.0?).

And with Byrd Bennett, Chicago's public schools, which had cut "bureaucracy" "to the bone" under Brizard got a bunch of new bureaucrats -- all from out of town -- to run offices that nobody knew before the schools needed. Chicago now had a "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation," for example. And several others. And while Rahm prattles to the press about local hiring and creating jobs a dozen here and a dozen there from outfits like Citibank, his "team" at CPS has cut more than 3,000 jobs from the city's real public schools in less than three years, while adding....

Well, maybe in Rahm's world, a "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation" is not a "bureaucrat"...

There is more, but this is enough for tonight.


Analysis: Overpromising could come back to haunt Emanuel. BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter (Published on line August 31, 2013 1:26AM).

The print edition (which appeared on page 4 on September 1, 2013) headlined the story: Mayor's results often miss lofty goals. Aldermen privately roll eyes at Emanuel's habit of overpromising

PHOTO: Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced changes to the parking meter contract that will he claims will save the city a billion dollars. Maybe it’s a way of putting pressure on himself and his staff or a sign of his rush to pile up accomplishments that can be used in a run for higher office.

Maybe it’s his place as the middle child in a family of overachievers.

Whatever it is, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is setting himself up for ridicule by overpromising, making bold savings claims that can’t be verified and by issuing a conveyor-belt of press releases that tout his every move as the first, the best and the only.

Aldermen roll their eyes and talk privately about the Emanuel spin machine all the time. But only a handful dare to talk publicly about it for fear of alienating the mayor.

The problem surfaced again this week when the Chicago Tribune poked holes in Emanuel’s claims about shrinking the city’s food deserts by 21 percent to honor a pivotal campaign promise to African-American voters who helped put him in office.

It was only the latest example of Emanuel hyperbole and moving the goal line when he falls short.

The mayor campaigned on a promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers, then revised the pledge after taking office by adding 1,000 more “cops on the beat,” more than half of them by disbanding special units.

Emanuel’s promise to save $60 million by switching garbage collection from a ward-by-ward to a grid system has also fallen short — by $42 million. Inspector General Joe Ferguson was thwarted when he tried to verify even the revised $18 million savings claim.

The mayor touted his $1.7 billion Infrastructure Trust as a ground-breaking vehicle to get private investors to bankroll projects the city could not afford to build on its own. But the Trust is still stuck in neutral more than one year later.

Emanuel sold speed cameras around schools and parks as a way to protect children, then used $30 million in anticipated fines to balance his 2013 budget, fueling speculation it was all a ruse to raise sorely needed revenue. The city has yet to raise a penny.

The mayor’s handpicked school team lowballed the amount of money cut from Chicago Public School classrooms by factoring in increases in charter school funding.

Emanuel’s projected, $338.7 million shortfall in 2014 may also turn out to be a lowball figure when police overtime and tens of millions of dollars in settlements are factored in.

Sources said the mayor instructed his top aides that Chicago taxpayers “want to see progress” and that, no matter what, they needed to project a shortfall smaller than it was last year.

Yet another example occurred Thursday, when the mayor broke ground on a new $50 million CTA Green Line station near McCormick Place.

City Hall refused to say how much, if any, of that price tag would come from a $2 parking tax, cleverly billed as a “congestion fee” even though it was confined neither to rush periods nor congested downtown and River North.

Two years ago, top mayoral aides cited the Cermak station as one of two downtown transportation projects that would be funded by the parking tax and used the project to sell the unpopular tax.

On the one-year anniversary of Emanuel taking office, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about the new mayor’s obsession with controlling the media message and packaging his plans as new, even when they’re not, using catchy new slogans like, “Building a New Chicago” and “Elevate Chicago.”

The newspaper wrote that Emanuel’s plans too often either overpromised cash savings, lacked specifics or distorted the facts to fit the script.

Now well past midterm and gearing up for a re-election bid, it’s past time for the mayor to heed that advice.

Nobody can accuse Emanuel of failing to make it a priority to eradicate food deserts for inner-city residents with precious few healthy shopping choices. What they can say is that he promised too much too soon, then revised his own definition of food deserts when he fell short of delivering.

That’s a credibility problem that can only get worse.


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