Chicago’s Mayor Sees Sagging Support From Black Residents

With continued gun violence and massive school closings, Rahm Emanuel is facing some backlash from Black Chicagoans.

Posted: 08/15/2013 05:10 PM EDT

In Chicago, where gun violence has taken center stage, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is feeling the effects of that spotlight, with his popularity declining among African-American and lower income voters.

Emanuel is halfway through his first term, which he won with strong support from African-American voters. However, many officials and community activists suggest that his poll numbers have reflected the continued problem of gun violence in Chicago as well as the decision to close several public schools in largely Black neighborhoods.

“A lot of the conditions were there before he came to office, but he’s the one people hold accountable,” said Damon Stewart, an attorney and activist who works with youth in Chicago, speaking with BET.com.

“He has made unpopular choices, specifically to consolidate schools,” said Stewart, who is also a member of the board of the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation. “The majority of those school closings have been in the Black and Hispanic communities. “

Stewart said that Emanuel has “implemented a number of policies with the police to address the issue of gun violence.” However, he added, “those programs have probably not yet resonated with the public, which is why you see his poll numbers where they are.”

A poll by the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV earlier this year indicated that 50 percent of respondents approve of the job the mayor has done in leading Chicago, with 40 percent disapproving. That represents an 11-percent increase in his disapproval rating, the poll said.

Among African-American respondents, however, the mayor received just a 40 percent approval rating, down about five points from a poll taken a year earlier.

That view was echoed by Will Burns, a Chicago alderman, who said that much of the news in the city’s Black community has not been positive.

“The school closings have been disproportionately in the African-American community,” Burns said, in an interview with BET.com. “When you look at 2012, we had a pretty high murder rate. It’s gone down since then, but it still affects the perceptions of the mayor and his administration.”

However, Burns added that Emanuel is making efforts to target economic development initiatives in the city’s African-American and Latino areas.

Emanuel is a former congressman from Chicago who also served as chief of staff to President Obama.

“The mayor has made economic development an important part of his initiative in the black community and that will have an impact on his poll numbers,” Burns said. “But, on balance, more of the economic news has been bad than good. I think that, in the next two years, the administration will highlight the things they have done to focus on all Chicagoans.”

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(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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