In recent weeks, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced plans to place a Whole Foods market in an economically challenged area of the city. He also championed the renaming of a stretch of Stony Island Avenue, a major thoroughfare in the largely Black South Side, after Arthur Brazier, a renowned African-American pastor.
Additionally, the mayor recently introduced Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, the state’s only statewide Black official, at White’s campaign kickoff event.
In one event after another, Emanuel is taking steps that are seen as being aimed at enhancing his standing in Chicago’s African-American community, a group whose support for the mayor has slipped, according to recent polls.
Emanuel is halfway through his first term, which he won with strong support from African-American voters, a critical slice of the city's electorate. 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.
According to recent polls, roughly half of the city’s Black population does not approve of the mayor’s performance, compared with a third a year ago.
In a statement, the mayor’s press office said that Emanuel is “constantly doing events in the African-American community, as he is in every community of the city." The mayor’s office added that the recent undertakings in the city’s African-American community reflect only some of the "major events that have a lot of relevance to the African-American community," including the mass transit and spending on parks and playgrounds.
A former chief of staff to President Obama, Emanuel, the mayor of America's third-largest city, is seen as devoting increased attention to the African-American community.
“Clearly he is trying to reach out to the community to support activities that have an impact on neighborhoods and children,” said Chicago Alderman Willie Cochran, in an interview with BET.com. “He has efforts under way to bring additional dollars into our neighborhood for development projects across the board.”
How these efforts will affect Emanuel’s political prospects are far from clear.
“Whether they work for him politically will depend on what takes place within the city and the effectiveness of the efforts he will be taking over the next 18 months,” Cochran said.
“It’s hard to know how they will translate and whether they resonate,” the alderman added. “Actions don’t mean that the voters will be receptive, especially if they see those efforts as being disingenuous.”
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(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)