Much has been made these past few years of the divide between progressive constituencies and businesses across the country. As a progressive and strong supporter of President Obama who also helped build one of the top privately held insurance brokerages in the country and continues today working with businesses on risk and human capital challenges, there is an important point lost in this debate that I believe progressive Chicagoans should consider before they cast their vote for Mayor on April 7th.
Good business sense and progressive policies actually go hand-in-hand. Efficient government frees up crucial resources that can be dedicated to progressive aims and that strong focus on the bottom line earns crucial trust from voters on how politicians spend their hard-earned tax dollars. Additionally, progressive goals often have solid, pro-business repercussions.
Rahm Emanuel understands this all very well as his three terms in the White House under two Presidents taught him that you can have both. Examine some of his major initiatives and you see this philosophy in action.
Mayor Emanuel pushed through Chicago's historic increase in the minimum wage to $13. This is a progressive move that will put more money in ordinary people's pockets that also happens to be pro-business as it increases consumer spending and grows our economy.
He has smartly focused on making Chicago the most immigrant friendly City in the country by integrating undocumented immigrants into our system instead of excluding them. This keeps the engine of entrepreneurism turning while also honoring the immigrant roots that built Chicago into the forward thinking city it is today.
Rahm used some of that trust he built with voters to take a big political risk and rebuild the south branch of the Red Line in five months instead of two years - strengthening our public transit system and local economy while also giving people a break on their commute. He invested the savings from that move in further upgrades to stations along the branch.
Finally, no one has enacted as ambitious an environmental agenda of any major city in the country as Rahm has these past four years. That's saved Chicagoans money on their energy bills, lowered their water consumption, and finally brought recycling to every Chicago household.
These are just a few examples from literally dozens that encompass the past four years of Rahm's administration. They are part of the reason he's earned the endorsement of progressive groups like the Sierra Club, fifteen separate unions, and leaders like Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Bobby Rush. That he's done so while also earning strong support from business groups like the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce proves Rahm Emanuel has accomplishments with both coalitions.
Progressives should remember that values are not enough when choosing their leaders - they also must have a plan to achieve them and the trust from voters to be given the responsibility. For that reason, Chicagoans should cast their ballot for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It's the progressive and pro-business choice.
John Atkinson is a Managing Director with Willis Group, serves as a Director of One Million Degrees and the Board of Illinois Business Immigration Coalition.
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