Emanuel: ‘Let’s get to work’


Esther Bell

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel gave the 2017 Infrastructure Address at the Laborers Training Center at 5700 W Homer Street on Jan. 9 promising job creation and investments in transportation.

By Eric Bradach

“A future that works for all of us and is even brighter than our past” were the closing words and summary of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2017 Infrastructure Address Feb. 9.

On the five-year anniversary of his first speech on this topic, Emanuel emphasized Chicago’s achievements and his plan—Building a New Chicago—to rebuild the city’s aging infrastructure and build a 21st century foundation for city’s economy.

Emanuel said the city created more than 60,000 jobs building roads, schools, parks, playgrounds, bridges and more since 2012, and the projects assembled for the next three years will create more than 40,000 jobs.

“When we make a concerted investment in a connected future, economic development and job creation follow,” Emanuel said.

Major improvements have included changes to transportation and education, which has led to job growth.

“[Chicago Transit Authority] is in the midst of the largest modernization in its history,” he said. “Our mass transit system was built for the needs of the past, not the demands of the future. So we’re not just rebuilding the CTA, we’re reshaping it to meet Chicago’s future.”

In addition to Red and Purple Line modernization projects, CTA is set to complete the rebuilding of the century-old Wilson station and construction of a new Washington-Wabash station in 2017 to serve as a gateway to Millennium Park, according to Emanuel. 

“Chicago cannot be known as the city that works if we cannot efficiently get our people to and from work,” he said.

Emanuel said two new runways have been added to Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the last three years, and when the third is completed, O’Hare will have the most “efficient runway systems of any airport in the country.”

Renauld Mitchell, a local architect who attended Emanuel’s speech, said the new additions to O’Hare are “excellent” and [places the city] in a position to compete.”

Emanuel said 272 new classrooms are currently being built including science and computer labs in Chicago Public Schools.

“Chicago’s students are making unprecedented gains in the classroom,” he said. “We are going to support them with an unprecedented modernization of our elementary schools, middle schools and high schools,” the mayor said.

Emanuel said “education does not end at 12th grade,” which is why the city created the STAR Scholarship to provide any CPS student who graduates high school with a B- average, [2.67 GPA], free tuition at Chicago’s City Colleges. The program will not discriminate against undocumented immigrants, he added.

One of the shadows hanging over Chicago is the possible loss of federal funding under President Donald Trump. However, Roberto Perez, a business agent at with Laborers’ Local 225, said if Chicago has Emanuel supporting it, then it will be all right.

Another dilemma facing the city has been the lack of a state budget, and Emanuel touted the city’s triumphs in the more than a year-and-a-half budget impasse in Springfield.

“My hope is Springfield will be a reliable partner—not an obstacle—in building a new Chicago,” the mayor said. “In the meantime, we are moving forward because delay is not an option or a sound economic strategy.”