CHICAGO (AP) -- Rahm Emanuel was sworn in Monday as Chicago's first new mayor in more than two decades, a historic power shift for a city where the retiring Richard M. Daley was the only leader a whole generation had ever known.
The former White House chief of staff took the oath of office at downtown's Millennium Park, one of the signature accomplishments in Daley's efforts to transform Chicago from a gritty industrial hub into a sparkling world destination. Emanuel later headed to the fifth-floor office of City Hall that was Daley's lair for 22 years - a longer tenure than anyone, including his legendary father, ever occupied it.
"We must face the truth," Emanuel said in his inaugural speech. "It is time to take on the challenges that threaten the very future of our city: the quality of our schools, the safety of our streets, the cost and effectiveness of city government, and the urgent need to create the jobs of the future."
"The decisions we make in the next two or three years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next 20 or 30."
Emanuel inherits a city with big financial problems. His transition team predicted a $700 million budget shortfall next year, but because of some controversial decisions by Daley - most notably the push to privatize parking meters - he has limited ways to pay for school improvements or repair the city's aging infrastructure.
With Daley and his wife, Maggie, who is battling cancer, sitting nearby, Emanuel began his comments by praising his predecessor.
"A generation ago, people were writing Chicago off as a dying city," the new mayor said. "They said our downtown was failing, our neighborhoods were unlivable, our schools were the worst in the nation, and our politics had become so divisive we were referred to as Beirut on the Lake."
Daley, he said, "challenged all of us to lower our voices and raise our sights. Chicago is a different city today than the one Mayor Daley inherited, thanks to all he did."
At the same time, Emanuel walked a fine line as he sought to assess the city's problems without being directly critical of the departing mayor.
"From the moment I began my campaign for mayor, I have been clear about the hard truths and the tough choices we face. We simply can't afford the size of city government that we had in the past, and taxpayers deserve a more effective and efficient government than the one we have today."
Emanuel also showed that he would not be shy about wading into national politics, referring to efforts in other Midwestern states to eliminate union rights for many public employees as part of budget cuts.
"I reject how leaders in Wisconsin and Ohio are exploiting their fiscal crisis to achieve a political goal," he said. "That course is not the right course for Chicago's future."
Emanuel spent much of his campaign battling the perception that he was an outsider from Washington. But after thanking his old boss, President Barack Obama, and inviting a guest list filled with administration figures, Emanuel made one thing clear: He has friends in high places.
Vice President Joe Biden attended, as did Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and David Axelrod, a top Obama adviser who worked with Emanuel at the White House. A big chunk of Illinois' congressional delegation was also present.
And as if to underline the city's unique relationship with Washington, the audience also included Emanuel's successor as White House chief of staff - William Daley, the outgoing mayor's brother.
LaHood voiced what voters seemed to hope for when they elected Emanuel in February, saying his connections with Obama and others in Washington would pay off for the city.
"All of us have really committed to the idea that when there are people like Rahm, who want to solve problems and get things done in America, we're going to be there to be helpful," LaHood said.
Among the thousands who came to the park to watch the ceremony, many echoed Bob Ellis, a 56-year-old investment adviser, who said Emanuel is just the kind of tough leader the city needs.
"We are at a precipice, and we can go the way of Detroit or we can remain a great city," he said. "And to remain a great city you need to make tough decisions, and he can do that."
Axelrod also addressed an issue that was a nagging question during the campaign about whether Emanuel is more like Daley, who never wanted to be anything other than mayor of Chicago, or if he sees the mayor's office as a stepping stone to higher office.
"My strong sense is that this is the last public job, at least elective office, that Rahm will hold," Axelrod said.
When Monday's ceremony was over, Emanuel went to his office. Daley had taken the desk used by both him and his father, Richard J. Daley. So Emanuel chose the desk of another of his predecessors: Anton Cermak, the mayor who was assassinated in 1933.
He signed a few executive orders and took a few questions from reporters.
The inauguration was the culmination of a campaign in which Emanuel kept his temper and famously profane vocabulary in check and amassed a $14 million campaign war chest. He simply steamrolled his opponents.
In February, he collected 55 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff. As impressive as that victory was, it was substantially less than the 70-plus percent Daley typically received - a mandate he used to push much of what he wanted through the City Council.
Emanuel seemed to allude to his reputation when he spoke about school reform.
"As some have noted, including Amy (his wife), I am not a patient man," he said. "When it comes to improving our schools, I will not be a patient mayor."
Most Chicagoans didn't know Emanuel wanted to be mayor until last spring, when he said so during a television interview, but Axelrod said he's known it since Emanuel was in Congress, before he went to Washington to become Obama's senior advisor.
"You know, I've never seen him happier," Axelrod said. I've never seen him more engaged."
Check our live blog for updates throughout the day:
05/16/2011 5:45 PM EDT
Mayor Emanuel Gets Right To Work
Just hours after he was sworn in, Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed three executive orders on ethics. One of the orders limits new appointees from lobbying city government for two years after leaving the administration; the second "protects city employees against pressure to give gifts or make political contributions to their superiors, including department heads and the Mayor" and the third prohibits city lobbyists from making political contributions to the Mayor.
"Chicagoans want to see change in the way their city government does business," Emanuel said in a statement. "The Executive Orders I am signing today will bring that change by reining in the influence of lobbyists and protecting city employees against pressure from their superiors. These Executive Orders will help restore Chicagoans' confidence in their City government. My first official act as Mayor sends a clear message that all operations of City government must be guided by a spirit of public service."
05/16/2011 3:05 PM EDT
Check out our slideshow from today's inauguration here, featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his family, Vide President Joe Biden, Sen. Dick Durbin and more.
05/16/2011 2:24 PM EDT
Mayor Emanuel's Journey
It's been a long road for Chicago's new mayor. There were the rumors while he was still in Washington, the residency headache and the sometimes ugly campaign.
05/16/2011 1:14 PM EDT
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's inaugural address focused heavily on improving education in Chicago. He referenced his reputation as an impatient man, and said when it comes to improving the city's schools--he will act quickly.
"My responsibility is to provide our children with highly qualified and motivated teachers and I will work day and night to meet that obligation.
But let us be honest. For teachers to succeed, they must have parents as partners. To give our children the education they deserve, parents must get off the sidelines and get involved. The most important door to a child's education, is the front door of the home. And nothing I do at the schools can ever replace that. Working together, we will create a seamless partnership, from the classroom to the family room, to help our children learn and succeed."
Emanuel also mentioned that in order to improve education, make streets safer and bring jobs to the city, there would need to be a shared sacrifice. He has already discussed a spending freeze, telling the Chicago Tribune he would freeze spending on everything except paychecks and bills while the City Hall budget is analyzed.
"Let us share the necessary sacrifices fairly and justly," he said at the end of his speech. "If everyone will give a little, no one will have to give too much."
Click here to read the entire speech. (PDF)
05/16/2011 12:35 PM EDT
"Today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in our country, the city of Chicago is ready for change.
For all the parents who deserve a school system that expects every student to earn a diploma; for all the neighbors who deserve to walk home on safer streets; for all the taxpayers who deserve a city government that is more effective and costs less; and for all the people in the hardest-working city in America who deserve a strong economy so they can find jobs or create jobs -- this is your day.
As your new mayor, it is an honor to fight for the change we need and a privilege to lead the city we love.
We have much to do, but we should first acknowledge how far we have come.
A generation ago, people were writing Chicago off as a dying city. They said our downtown was failing, our neighborhoods were unlivable, our schools were the worst in the nation, and our politics had become so divisive we were referred to as Beirut on the Lake.
When Richard M. Daley took office as mayor 22 years ago, he challenged all of us to lower our voices and raise our sights. Chicago is a different city today than the one Mayor Daley inherited, thanks to all he did. This magnificent place where we gather today is a living symbol of that transformation."More to come
05/16/2011 12:25 PM EDT
Rahm Emanuel Being Sworn In
Chicago has a new mayor for the first time in more than two decades.
05/16/2011 12:20 PM EDT
David Axelrod Talks Rahm's Excitement
"He's just brimming with enthusiasm and eager to get going," Axelrod told the Chicago Tribune. "This has been a long run-up to this day, because there was no runoff election, so it's been a long transition. And that's good in a sense, because he had a chance to prepare, but the car has been idling in the garage and he's eager to take it out for a ride."
05/16/2011 12:13 PM EDT
'We Are Hustlers'
Chanel Sosa, Innovations High School senior and 2011 finalist of “Louder Than a Bomb,” is reading an intense and impressive poem about Chicago.
05/16/2011 12:00 PM EDT
...and we've got a new City Clerk.
Susana Mendoza was just sworn in by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke.
05/16/2011 11:47 AM EDT
Things running a few minutes behind schedule.
The stage is filling up, however. Rahm Emanuel and his family just walked in. Here comes Joe Biden...