What's the Plan for Women, Now That Rahm Is to Be Our Mayor?

03/01/2011 11:51 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Rebecca Sive Author of: Every Day Is Election Day: A Woman's Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House. Speaker on strategies for women who seek political influence and power.Lecturer at Chicago Harris, University of Chicago

As to what Chicago women should do/should worry about/should scream and holler about, now that Rahm is to be our mayor, well, as the proverbial expression goes: there's good news and there's bad news.

At the outset of this campaign, I wrote "Rahmbo, Rahmno: The Case for a Woman to Replace Mayor Daley." Here is a bit of what I said:

Black, brown or white, most of the Chicago families suffering in poverty are woman-headed families.

Black, brown, or white, most of the Chicago families, whose children are getting killed, are woman-headed families.

Black, brown, or white, most of the Chicago families who are homeless are woman-headed families.

Black, brown, or white, most of the Chicago families who can't find an affordable apartment in a safe neighborhood are woman-headed families.

Black, brown, or white, most of the Chicagoans who can't find jobs, who also have children to feed, clothe, and get to school every day, are women.

Black, brown or white, most of the Chicago families, desperate for change they can believe in, are woman-headed families.

Well, now that a woman won't (be our mayor), it's time for RahmYes, but only under certain conditions.

Here is what I think RahmYes needs to look like.

And while you didn't ask which news you'd prefer to hear first, since it's probably good to end this call-to-action on a positive note, I'm starting with the bad news.

Here's that hit list, the top-five list of hits Chicago women will take if we don't organize, pronto:

  1. Downtown wants a global city, not a neighborhood city. Downtown wants downtown jobs, downtown infrastructure, downtown amenities for its executives, clients and business partners, and, from downtown, good transportation to the well-to-do suburbs and O'Hare.

    If the neighborhoods just supply low-cost service workers, that will do, thank you very much.

    Indeed, that Rahm would maintain Chicago as the global city Mayor Daley asserts it has become was one of the main arguments I heard, from the very September git-go, for electing Rahm.

    On a day-to-day basis, this downtown agenda means TIF money downtown; more good elementary schools near downtown (that, not-so-incidentally, pull good students away from neighborhood schools; whatever); more infrastructure improvements that connect Chicago to the world: Hello O'Hare expansion, say.

    Downtown's agenda also means lots of mayoral foreign travel to woo foreign business to downtown, instead of mayoral travel to Chicago's neighborhoods. For, after all, there are only so many hours in the day, even for early riser, apparently indefatigable Mayor Rahm.

  • Downtown wants magnet high schools, not neighborhood high schools. Not everybody's (downtown) kid can go to Latin, or Parker, or the Lab School, or even Whitney Young or Walter Payton.
  • Downtown wants no new taxes, especially in light of the recent increase in state personal income and corporate tax rates. Enough already with the taxes. It's hard enough -- already -- to compete with cheaper Southern states, much less the rest of the global cities. Proof: within 48 hours of his election, Rahm declared there will be no property tax hike.
  • Downtown wants more downtown amenities, to keep its executive workers happy, and so they keep choosing downtown jobs, not suburban ones. This means more money for downtown parks, festivals, concerts, art, you name it, not for their neighborhood versions.
  • Downtown wants more downtown family conveniences for the executive, and retired executive, families moving into all that new downtown construction. This means just one thing: economic development strategies that promote downtown commerce, at the likely expense of promoting neighborhood commerce.
  • This is a greatest hits list, in the positive sense, for those of us who have good downtown jobs, and/or live near downtown, or who would like to send our children to good, nearby schools, (but don't have the clout to get them into the good ones that presently exist). But, it's the proverbial hit-list for the majority of needy Chicagoans, the hundreds of thousands of Chicago families, mostly headed by women, who live west of Ashland Avenue, or south of Roosevelt Road, or north of Irving Park Road.

    Notwithstanding, I promised good news. Here it is, also in a top-five greatest hits version.

    1. The women of Chicago haven't had as wide open a field for organizing the troops and positively influencing municipal policy in decades. Why? Well, here's why, just for starters: new mayor, new City Council, new City Hall staffers, and, most important: Mayor Rahm having to keep happy the rainbow coalition that elected him. That means just this one terrific thing: the opportunity to create positive change. How wonderful is that? Just count the ways.
    2. Mayor Rahm has the ear, whenever he wants it, of the leader of the free world, a man who just happens to be a Chicago-centric president. Think about it: we can ask Mayor Rahm, whenever, and as often as needed, to advocate on our behalf with the president. It doesn't get any better than that, either.

    3. Indeed, we can ask Mayor Rahm, also whenever and as often as needed, to advocate on behalf of all of America's urban women, on behalf of the millions and millions of them who need all the presidential help they can get right about now.

      Chicago women can develop the federal policies benefiting America's women; we just have to propose them to our mayor; and, if needed, push him to tell the president all about them. Bingo, bingo, bingo; this is fantastic; this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    4. Chicago is chock full of policy experts on women's issues. We've had decades to develop this expertise; we've created the organizations that deploy this expertise on behalf of Chicago's women and families; we now know what works, and what doesn't. Time to insist on sharing this expertise with our new mayor as he addresses municipal problems. For, lest he forget, the municipal problems he needs to solve are women's problems: see above.
    5. Chicago is also chock full of political money, political power, and political influence among our women elected officials, women political donors, business women who care about public issues, and emerging women leaders, who know that every issue they seek to run on, or lead on, is a "women' issue;" they've learned this truth from their older sisters.

    6. These Chicago women, all Chicago women, just need to unite across the (very same) neighborhood, race, class and ethnic lines Chicago women united across in this recent election to elect this man, this new mayor of ours.

      Time to unite to help our own selves.

      Time to spend our capital. For if not now, when? For if not us, who?

    7. In all those wards Mayor Rahm won with big numbers, not only is it women-headed families who most need the municipal services our new mayor is charged with providing (think health clinics, daycare centers, police who walk the beat, teachers who want to teach in neighborhood schools), it is also neighborhood women leaders who make the daily difference in whether those neighborhoods grow or decline. And, downtown, lest you think otherwise, growth really is better for you, too.

    8. This women's capital should be spent now, too.

    In light of all this news, RahmYes means just this, Rahm: show us, the women of Chicago, the money, and two, show us, the women of Chicago, the love. Otherwise, you really will be a one-term mayor.