Candidate Questionnaire: Rahm Emanuel, 50

Former White House Chief of Staff Lives in Ravenswood Manor
Rahm Emanuel
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1. How do you define the importance of arts and culture to the city of Chicago? And what do you see as the city’s role in funding the arts and fostering growth in the cultural economy?
I’ve seen the arts community help to attract a major corporation—Boeing—and its opera-loving CEO to Chicago. And I’ve seen a neighborhood transformed by the Old Town School of Folk Music on Lincoln Avenue. Chicago is a world-class city. A vibrant arts and culture scene defines a world-class city. The arts help to define who we are, and they make our city an exciting place to work and live while attracting business and tourism. I believe the city government can and must play a role that allows our arts and culture to flourish—even as I believe we must be honest about the challenges that will be presented by the budget deficit facing the city and the taxpayers.

2. Where do you stand on the proposed promoters’ ordinance, which aims to increase the regulatory and insurance requirements on local event promoters?
There is a balance to be struck—we should go after illegitimate underground promoters operating in Chicago, but we should not regulate to the point of choking off our vibrant small music venues.

3. Where do you stand on legalizing cook-on-site food trucks, as many other cities have done?
I do not believe cook-on-site food trucks should be illegal. The ordinance proposed by Aldermen Daley and Waguespack takes a good first step by allowing for preparation of fresh foods on mobile food facilities and commissaries throughout the city, while maintaining stringent health regulations and protecting local business owners. I believe we should be doing more to promote access to fresh foods throughout the city and encourage innovation in our food industry.

4. Where do you stand on the merging of the Department of Cultural Affairs with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events?
City departments should be merged if the resulting agency improves services and reduces costs by streamlining operations. This proposal deserves further study—if it meets both of these goals, I will support it.

5. What was the last live local performance you attended? When? And what did you think of it?
Two weeks ago I attended the Joffrey Ballet’s recent production at the [node:31924 link=Auditorium Theatre;]—I’m a former member of Joffrey’s company. I thought that After the Rain in particular was spectacular. I also had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Modern Wing at the [node:31543 link=Art Institute;] last year, which has really enhanced the museum.

6. What was the last local cultural institution you visited? Are you a member of any cultural institutions?
[My wife] Amy and I have been members of both the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art, and we have visited them frequently over the years. In fact, Amy worked at the Art Institute when we first started dating.

7. What is your favorite local band? How about your favorite theater company? Restaurant? Artist? Comedian or other performer?
Wilco is my favorite local band, and Jeff Tweedy is my favorite local artist—when they played all of their albums over the course of five days at the Riviera a couple years back, I made it to three shows and regret that I couldn’t make the other two. I also have to include the early Smashing Pumpkins’ albums.

I’m fond of Redmoon Theater. There are simply too many incredible restaurants to list, but as a family we love to go out in our neighborhood to Glenn’s Diner on Montrose. Just about every great comedian has come through Second City, and I never laugh harder than when I’m there.

8. What will you do to bring the arts to underserved communities, as well as to children, around the city?
The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs has largely done a good job of targeting free programming and education initiatives to underserved communities. One of my goals is to spread arts education throughout our public schools so that every child, no matter where they go to school, is exposed to the arts from kindergarten through high school. Student exposure to the arts is currently determined by where individual arts organizations decide to do outreach, the amount of private funding available to those schools in any given year and luck—that has to change.

9. Do you see Lollapalooza as a boost for the local music scene or a challenge to local venues?
Chicago is a fantastic city for local music all year round, and the fact that the Lollapalooza festival has chosen to make Chicago its home reflects that. We should work to ensure, however, that local music venues are not adversely impacted by the music festivals and events that come to Chicago.

10. Do you favor privatizing city festivals?
City festivals are about celebrating Chicago’s arts, cultural and culinary scenes, and they should remain accessible to everyone.

11. Where do you stand on allowing a casino within the city limits?
Lawmakers in Springfield return to this issue year after year—my priority would be ensuring that the city gains a net economic benefit and that the revenue stream of any gaming within the city would benefit Chicagoans and not drain funds from our city. A casino is not a panacea—we need to create good-paying jobs in Chicago in sustainable industries.

12. Would you support the sale of naming rights to Soldier Field or Wrigley Field? How about more advertising signage at Wrigley?
Any proposal on these issues must be evaluated objectively to determine whether and how they would benefit taxpayers and they must include community input. We also must make sure that Soldier Field continues to honor those who have served our country.

13. Do you have a personal connection to the arts community (i.e., are you an artist yourself, or do you have friends/family in the arts community)? If so, what is it?
The arts run through my family. I got a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School and was a dancer for a number of years. Amy worked at the Art Institute. All of my children play an instrument, and my son has done theater over the past two years.

14. Should the number of available liquor licenses for bars and clubs be increased, reduced or stay about the same?
This decision should be based on the merits of an individual proposal—it should not be made in a black box. The process must be open and transparent and it cannot be driven by clout. I would consult the Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department and the business community for recommendations.

15. Mayor Daley cites the Theater District as perhaps his most cherished cultural accomplishment. What cultural achievement would you hope to see as your most important legacy?
Just as the Theater District revitalized the Loop into a thriving entertainment area, I would like to see that same energy invested in neighborhoods around the city. Pilsen has become a hub for independent artists and small galleries. Ravenswood’s old industrial buildings are quickly being converted to artist workspaces and administrative offices for some of the city’s small theater companies. I would like to see these neighborhood-based artistic communities grow across the city by prioritizing zoning and development funding for arts and cultural hubs. I also believe we should restore the Chicago Art Expo’s rightful place next to the Basel Expo in Miami.

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