Al­der­man do­nates mayor’s $20K con­tri­bu­tion amid con­cern gift could hurt re-elec­tion chances

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRAN SPIELMAN,



The chair­man of the City Coun­cil’s Black Cau­cus is purg­ing him­self of a sur­prise, $20,000 con­tri­bu­tion from Mayor Rahm Emanuel amid con­cern that it might dam­age his chances of win­ning re-elec­tion.

In­stead of keep­ing the money and putting the wind­fall into his cam­paign fund, Ald. Rod­er­ick Sawyer (6th) is distribut­ing the mayor’s check — in $2,000 in­cre­ments — to ten com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and other groups in his ward that are work­ing to stop the never-end­ing cy­cle of gang vi­o­lence and train peo­ple for jobs.

Those groups in­clude: An­to­nio’s Re­sponse; P.E.A.C.E. Cen­ter; Res­i­dent As­so­ci­a­tion of Greater Englewood (RAGE); Think Out­side Da Block; Latanya and the Youth Of Englewood; My Block, My Hood, My City; Break­ing Bread; Robert’s House; Ex-Cons for Com­mu­nity and So­cial Change (ECCSC); and Re­place Guns with Ham­mers.

The son of for­mer Mayor Eu­gene Sawyer was one of more than two dozen al­der­men to re­ceive a $20,000 check from the mayor.

The al­der­man said he ap­pre­ci­ated the mayor’s ges­ture and means no dis­re­spect.

But he was con­cerned about how the may­oral con­tri­bu­tion would have been per­ceived by vot­ers in his South Side ward who have not for­given Emanuel for his han­dling of the Laquan McDon­ald shoot­ing video.

“The re­al­ity is, my ward is 98 per­cent black and some of my con­stituents don’t re­ally have a su­per fa­vor­able opin­ion of Rahm Emanuel. We looked at that . . . and thought the best use of these funds were to sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tions in need of fund­ing,” Sawyer said.

“I talked to my com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and asked them, ‘What’s the best way to use this type of money?’ This is what they came up with. Are there po­lit­i­cal op­tics there? Sure there are. But . . . I’m not afraid to say I’ve worked with the mayor — not for the mayor on a num­ber of ini­tia­tives that have gone through City Coun­cil. Some­times, they were con­tentious. But what we’ve done is worked on a lot of good ini­tia­tives that ben­e­fit the city for the long run.”

Jay Row­ell, cam­paign man­ager for Emanuel’s now-dis­man­tling re­elec­tion cam­paign, re­fused to com­ment on Sawyer’s de­ci­sion to give away the mayor’s money.

The mayor has promised to spend his money and his time help­ing al­der­men who have taken a series of tough votes to help him just be­gin to solve Chicago’s $28 bil­lion pen­sion cri­sis.

Ear­lier this week, mil­len­nial ac­tivists who spent three years de­mand­ing jus­tice for the mur­der of McDon­ald set their sights on what they called a “com­plicit” City Coun­cil and urged younger vot­ers no­to­ri­ous for their po­lit­i­cal in­dif­fer­ence to get in­volved.

They were par­tic­u­larly de­ter­mined to tar­get African-Amer­i­can al­der­men, who were harshly crit­i­cized for sign­ing off on a $5 mil­lion set­tle­ment to the fam­ily of McDon­ald — even with­out a law­suit be­ing filed — with­out ask­ing tough enough ques­tions or see­ing the in­cen­di­ary shoot­ing video.

Sawyer has em­phat­i­cally de­nied par­tic­i­pat­ing in a cover-up. He has ar­gued that it made sense to “set­tle that case fast be­cause that $5 mil­lion set­tle­ment could have been a $50 mil­lion verdict—or even worse.”

“If peo­ple think there’s a bet­ter way to do that with­out putting the city into bank­ruptcy, please let me know,” he said.

On Fri­day, Sawyer had some sage ad­vice for mil­len­nial ac­tivists de­ter­mined to turn their street ac­tivism into a po­lit­i­cal jug­ger­naut that could change the face of the City Coun­cil.

“If they are for­tu­nate enough to be on the City Coun­cil, they’re gonna have to work with who­ever the mayor is. They can’t let per­son­al­i­ties dic­tate how they’re gonna leg­is­late. That’s maybe a les­son they need to learn,” he said.

“Mayor Emanuel and I did bat­tle when I first came in. But I got to deal with him on a per­sonal level and there be­came a healthy re­spect to­wards one an­other. We’re not go­ing out to have beer to­gether. But we… found a way to work col­lab­o­ra­tively on things that will ben­e­fit the city of Chicago in the long run. These are the lessons that should be learned. You have to work with who­ever is there.”

Sawyer’s part­ner­ship with Emanuel is pay­ing div­i­dends for the im­pov­er­ished but re­bound­ing Englewood com­mu­nity.

Chicago’s long­time fleet main­te­nance fa­cil­ity — lo­cated on prime river­front land in the North Branch In­dus­trial cor­ri­dor — is be­ing re­built on a va­cant 12.5-acre site at 210 W. 69th St. that once housed Kennedy-King Col­lege.

Ald. Rod­er­ick Sawyer


Ald. Rod­er­ick Sawyer talks with Mayor Rahm Emanuel dur­ing a City Coun­cil meet­ing in 2015.

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