Rahm for the South Side

Canvassing on Forty-seventh Street and Cottage Grove, I approached a home with a visible No Soliciting sign in the front yard. Hesitant, I considered backing away, but I figured this would be great practice.

I rang the doorbell, and through the buzzer I introduced myself as I always do: “Hi, my name is Sofia, and I’m a volunteer with the Rahm Emanuel campaign,” which was quickly interrupted by an ecstatic, “I love the Mayor!” When I asked this Chicago resident if she would be supporting Rahm in the upcoming election on February 24, she once again responded with an enthusiastic, “Absolutely!”

Canvassing in the Fourth Ward for Senator Dick Durbin’s 2014 reelection campaign had been easy: most people already knew his name and fully supported what he was doing. Due to widespread anger over school closings, Rahm Emanuel faced a bigger reelection challenge, or at least that’s what I had been told. I, however, have always been warmly welcomed by residents of the Fourth Ward,  like the one at Forty-seventh and Cottage Grove.  An enthusiastic response to Rahm was not necessarily what I expected when I began canvassing for him on the South Side, but I’ve become accustomed to it. During his time in office, Rahm has worked with communities to ensure a promising future for Chicago by investing in the city’s public schools, improving transportation, revolutionizing the city’s infrastructure, increasing transportation options, and increasing economic opportunities in every neighborhood, and it’s being noticed by his constituents on the South Side.

As a student commuting to political campaigns based in downtown Chicago, transportation has been a major concern for me since my first year. During Mayor Emanuel’s time in office, Chicago’s transit infrastructure has become stronger than ever. Mayor Emanuel is improving our transit system with $4 billion worth of investments, and is making more contributions in our future without raising sales, gas, or property taxes. Near the University of Chicago’s campus, Rahm has rebuilt the CTA’s Red Line south. Elsewhere in the city, he’s modernized the Blue Line, expanded bus service and launched Divvy, a bike sharing program, all of which have improved Chicagoans’ access to access downtown.

Often, while phone banking, constituents answer my introduction with the same question: “What’s going on with our schools?” They’re generally referring to the 2013 closing of schools on the South and West sides. I explain that this consolidation was necessary in order to better allocate school funds. Contrary to what the Chicago Teachers Union and other detractors may say, this decision, combined with Mayor Emanuel’s other policies, has improved education for Chicago’s children.  Chicago now has a longer school day, adding a total of over 200 hours to the school year. Emanuel’s education policies have led to record attendance and graduation rates and ACT scores and reduced suspensions, expulsions, and mandatory tests. In my opinion, however, Rahm’s most impressive education initiative is a  $36 million allocated in the City’s budget to provide five thousand more of our youngest students with high-quality Pre-K programs—beginning  the education of Chicago’s youth at a younger age.

Constituents in the Fourth Ward–the same ward the University of Chicago is affiliated with–are also largely concerned with Chicago’s streets. While Mayor Emanuel has been in office, Chicago’s streets have been getting safer. Chicago is returning to smarter policing, which has led to crime and murder rates that are at their lowest since the 1960s. The mayor is also focusing increasing proven preventative efforts, like hiring teenagers for summer jobs; so far, his administration has created a record 22,000 summer jobs in order to prevent violence.

Another major concern I’ve heard from constituents is the lack of safety in their neighborhoods. The mayor has overseen the promotion of hundreds of officers in order to deploy more officers from administrative positions to the streets to make our streets safer for all citizens. Mayor Emanuel is often quoted insisting that every person,in every community,has the right to feel safe. He has made this a primary concern during his time in office. Overall, Mayor Emanuel’s policies have been very effective, and Chicago closed 2013 with historic lows in crime and violence, including the fewest murders since 1965, the lowest murder rate since 1966, and the lowest overall crime rate since 1972.

Mayoral hopeful Jesús “Chuy” García has proclaimed, “fear of crime is at an all time high,” but, speaking with another constituent from the Fourth Ward, I saw these numbers at work. This particular constituent is a mother and she insisted that “this was the safest in our city” she has felt in years.Born and raised in Chicagoland, Rahm loves this city and is making the the tough decisions necessary to secure jobs, quality schools, and safe streets.

Rahm’s latest endorsement from President Obama exemplifies Mayor Emanuel’s leadership as mayor. In his latest radio endorsement, President Obama expresses his strong support for Mayor Emanuel: “If you want a mayor who does what’s right, not just what’s popular, who fights night and day for the city we love, then I hope you’ll join me. Vote for Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday, February 24.” Vote for the candidate who looks out for your best interests on February 24. Vote for Rahm Emanuel.