Here's the transcript of a sometimes contentious, sometimes humorous Feb. 8, 2012, interview of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in which he provides the most expansive view yet on his pledge of transparency, his governing style and his interactions with reporters. Emanuel was interviewed by Chicago Tribune reporter David Kidwell. Also present were Tribune photographer Nancy Stone and mayoral aide Sarah Hamilton. (Kidwell is DK; Emanuel is RE; Stone is NS; Hamilton is SH.)
RE: (to Stone) Nice to see you as always. You I like.
NS: I never write one thing you say.
RE: That's right.
RE: Want some water?
DK: No thanks. You have a beer over there?
RE: Yeah (laughing) — no.
RE: How you doing?
DK: Good, could be better.
RE: Why's that?
DK: I'll know more after we're done.
RE: That's up to you man. It's good to meet you and I know you will get the story right (garbled).
DK: My editor put in the photo assignment, this is not my fault.
RE: Again, I like her. I hate you. As my mother used to say. I used to my mother, you know, three boys, I was the middle one. I said, You love Zeke — my older brother — you love Zeke more than you love me and she said I hate you all equally.
SH: That's a perfect response.
RE: It's totally a Jewish mother thing. I hate you all equally.
DK: We were just talking how she is going to stay here until the end because it gets better.
RE: What you mean?
DK: When you are throwing me out of the office the pictures get better.
RE: That's not going to happen.
DK: So, as you know, I've been the person in charge of following your transparency pledge and we've been writing stories about it and I'm now sort of getting to the end of this email thing, this correspondence. And I am curious whether or not you personally have ever received or read anything with the words "speed camera" in it? Have you ever sent an email or ever received an email with the words …
RE: Can't tell you.
DK: How do you communicate with your staff?
RE: Here's the thing. We have two different things so this is going to be an awkward conversation. You're into transparency. I have a list of everything I have ever made in this government in nine months transparent, which I am sure will see not the single light of day in your story.
What I understood, you wanted emails, which I happen to think are phone conversations on paper, electronic, that's really what email is. I thought you were interested, or at least that was the point and the spirit of the conversation, how I govern, how I manage and how I make a decision. Now if that's the case, I have a lot I want to talk about. That's transparency, that's nine months worth of work. In only nine months taking on 40 years of history, and I'm not done. I've got another 3 ½ years. You'll make a judgment along the way at the end did we move the ball forward in making city government more transparent. I think that record, that is voluminous, speaks about the nine months worth of work.
Now let me answer the point of the question. The question was not transparency. The question was how I govern. So in my view, that's why I said to my staff, here I've been the chief of staff to the president of the united states, I have been a congressman, I have been elected four times. I have been in the leadership of the United States House of Representatives. I have been a senior adviser to the president of the United States, Probably the most public person, and this is in the record, who has been accountable along the way.
Now I have, whether that was as President Clinton's senior adviser, responsible with my ZIP code and address on it, for the Brady Bill, crime — the assault weapon ban, the crime bill, the NAFTA, welfare reform, and led the effort on the balanced-budget negotiations in particular with the kids health care bill in that section.
As a congressman, I have two things as it relates to — three. One is I was responsible for what nobody thought possible (garbled) over the life or death efforts of 2006. Also, I passed (garbled) with a young senator from Illinois the most comprehensive ethics reform legislation in more than a decade, even Common Cause said. Third, I was also the chief of staff to the president on international domestic issues at probably one of the most difficult times. And while you could say I wasn't particularly liked under Clinton where I handled particular legislative items, I was responsible for the management of the white house and the integration of policy and politics.
Now as mayor, you could point to a number of things, whether that's on the legislative front down in Springfield, moving education reform, moving workman's comp reform, or moving the DREAM Act. Also, moving the speed cameras. Here at City Council, moving my first budget with a series of issues that have been debated in this city for, some of them, two decades, some of them for years. And finally getting them to closure, both of them, public safety, fiscal issues, government reform. Etc.
So, when you look at it, I have had my fair share of failures like anybody who is out there in the arena that sits there. You can look at that and say both here's a record of … that I was the point person on certain things all along my public life.
Now, how do I govern? I mean, how do I manage, which was the question of the transparency request. Which was not just transparency, which was — because that will answer that — how do I govern? That was the point and the spirit of the question.
I am a very ... I do a couple things that I think … One is I am a very serious — I keep lists and I hold people because I believe in getting things done and being accountable.
Everybody, and to the point of a slight, every day or every two days I write down things I need to get done, or let me suggest things they need to get done. And I keep them. And I want to know, so I write down lists. Now, you stand up for second.
RE: Come on.
DK: Am I supposed to follow you?
RE: Well you can if you want, it will be kind of awkward if you don't.
(Mayor shows a list on the wall framed for his departure from the Obama administration.
Back at conference table.)
RE: Now I came back from my trip this break and I laid out to everybody the six things I thought were very big, including my day-to-day things that I wanted to get done every day, like the county city thing we announced yesterday. But what are the big things I need to see at the end of this year. I establish them, and I do it consultation with others or whatever, but I think here are my north stars, OK.
And then, what are the things we are doing to accomplish that north star and are essential to what we have to get done. I think it is very hard to govern without setting some goals and objectives and then measuring yourself along the way. Now I do that also with the staff. I mean the simplest thing, I am thinking of this like time and light. Like this whole tree-trimming thing that we have now put on a grid and a blitz. (Tribune reporter John) Byrne has done some reports and I notice that we are a year behind on tree trimming so I said what happened and they told me how we got to that point. So I said what is our method of getting out of this, and two backs and forwards and a couple of things. Set up a grid, created teams that are blitz. Now we go into a ward (garbled) and I can measure it. Now we've taken two months out of the year backlog and he thinks if the winter holds — as tree trimming is better in the winter than summer — we have a high potential of taking another three months. So and now I am going to measure that.
So when you say, and I know you want to get to your transparency, but your transparency request was about I want all the emails so I can figure out how you govern. I am telling you how I govern. And I meet with my staff and everybody has to report on where we are and everybody has to agree — not has to agree — they can interject and say your six goals I don't agree with number four let's talk about something else and I'm open to that, but I think we just have those goals. And now I am making sure we are methodically executing and achieving what I think is essential so that the city continues to grow economically and continues to have the kind of quality of life at large for the families in this city.
DK: With all due respect, I'm far more interested …
RE: (interrupting) I don't mean … I don't think you have any respect for me so don't worry about it.
DK: Well, I don't know you. Hopefully, after this.
RE: With all due respect (laughing)...
DK: With all due respect, I am far more interested in how you govern than how you say you govern. And so, the emails I want because they are public records not because they show how you govern. Hopefully they will show how you govern.
RE: We don't do fishing expeditions. I'm here …
DK: I do. I do fishing expeditions. That's what I do for a living. As it stands right now on speed cameras and on vehicle stickers and on the water rates — the three issues we have asked for emails on — the Tribune, and by virtue of the Tribune the public, has no way to know how this office reached these decisions, how they germinated, how they grew, how they developed other than from what you say behind a microphone. And we are trying to figure out how that squares with your pledge to make this a whole new day of transparency.
RE: Look, I did. I said I was going to make. Well, first of all because you will be very interested in this, from establishing the ethics task force, going through the performance metrics, making information available, the reform legislation we passed, comprehensive lobbyist disclosure which in fact your paper uses regularly, noncompetitive contracting posted online. There's a series of things that deal with transparency which is very consistent since I was the one that made the pledge. Very consistent with what I said about the government, but you may want to twist that. That's your right, but you cannot deny this.
DK: I am not trying to deny …
RE: (talking over)
DK: And every time we have written a story we have included this list. The problem is this transparency you are talking about does not extend to this office.
RE: I am not going to argue about. I am not going to argue. You are going to go write whatever you want so let's go to what we want to talk about. How I make a decision. I could walk through like what I am doing on community colleges. I could walk through what I have done on speed cameras. You have basic information that has been taken to me by both the Chicago Police Department as well as by the Chicago Public Schools, as well as stuff I have picked up and I will give you an op-ed or a letter that the priest from a school on the West Side has talked about his accidents. But basically we had a series of data that shows Chicago kids, shows that we have a problem and look, I am not looking for another hard issue. I don't go searching out for hard issues, OK? I've got an inbox filled with them. But I also have a problem. Which we have a problem as a city, not me alone, which is the safety of our children. And I can sit there and say that this is too politically difficult, or I can take it out because I have done a number of things that I think are essential to protecting our children, that's what the curfew was for. That's what making sure that both Safe Passage as well as (garbled) were not affected in the budget for CPS as is in my own budget. We had done work on the crossing guards so that didn't get affected, everything else got affected. So we have a long record there, and the speed cameras near our schools and near our parks came to me through CPD and CPS leadership and I also so everybody knows — I know you think there's another motivation …
DK: I don't think there's another motivation. I don't know whether there's another motivation.
RE: You guys don't, don't, don't do that. That's not accurate. All the resources and I even put it into the legislation. All the resources will go — are dedicated toward increasing public safety for children near schools and parks. And I want to do something else. I made it very narrow, very specific to schools and parks and I made it very specific that the resources, if and when they come, will go back into achieving the same goal that they were set up to do which is the safety of our children.
DK: How do you communicate with your top staff? Do you ever use email?
RE: I call them a lot.
DK: Do you ever use email?
RE: Sure I use email.
DK: Do you text?
RE: No, not really.
DK: Do you use your private cellphone?
RE: (continuing text answer) … not unless I get my 11-year-old to do it for me.
DK: Do you have a city-issued cellphone?
RE: I have a cellphone, I don't know if it's. You know I don't really … got to tell you something.
DK: You don't have to tell me that?
RE: No, I didn't say that. Will you just give me a for one second? Stop assuming everyone is guilty until proven innocent.
DK: No (laughing).
RE: What I was about to do was answer your question.
DK: OK, go ahead.
DK: Yes, I thought I heard you say you don't have to tell me.
RE: I didn't say that. I just kind of leaned forward.
DK: OK, all right. Go ahead.
RE: OK, of all the issues I've got to handle, you think I check on whether I've got a city-issued telephone? You really think I spend my time — no let me ask you a question — that I've asked is this a city-issued telephone? I have issues of public safety, educational reform, fiscal reform, recruiting companies, checking on the quality of life of our school, our city rather culture and I've asked is this a city-issued telephone. You and I have obviously different ways of how to evaluate how I spend my time. I don't know. I'll find out for you. We'll get you an answer, but the notion that I sat there and said is this city-issued, I have no idea.
DK: The question is whether or not you have conducted city business through email or on your phone or on your …?
RE: (interrupting) I have a cellphone. I call my staff on my cellphone. That's the answer.
DK: And you email them?
RE: I have a government email, I deal with it. I assume it's a government email. I've got to be honest with you in all due respect …
DK: (laughing) You don't respect me, come on.
RE: No, but you ask me these questions, and you go ahead and write your story that I couldn't answer whether it was government issued. I'm going to give you that. And I will get you the answer, but the notion that the mayor of the city of Chicago — with everything that I have to deal with — as reporters, your own online people have written, asked, made posted statements.
My job, people did elect me. This is maybe where we disagree. Did I make a pledge to be transparent. I believe I am fulfilling that pledge and I have 3½ years to go to keep doing it. And I believe I am doing it.
Two, I never pledge, and I cannot remember a single TV ad I wrote or speech I gave where I said I am going to check in to see if I've got a government-issued telephone. So the way I spend my time is making sure we are achieving the goals I set out in front of the public to do, which is how the schools are going, how is our crime efforts going, are we strengthening our schools, are we preparing ourselves as a city for the future, are we doing the types of things we need to do to put our fiscal house in order. I said those are the three building blocks. I am executing it. I will have a staff person find out the answer to the question.
DK: Let me tell you why I asked the question. I asked the question because I don't like to be lied to any more than you do, and when we asked for a log of emails — of all emails — wait, I let you finish, let me finish — when I asked for a log of emails of all speed camera-related emails in the city, we got a list of 1,000, 1,200, 1,300 emails and not one email went to Rahm Emanuel or went to Brizard or went to the police chief.
RE: OK, so now you have found out that I conducted it on a phone call, and I meet with … CPS comes in, leadership comes in once a week. We go over a lot in that meeting. OK. (Police Superintendent) Garry McCarthy and I, as this morning, I walked in, my secretary's on. The first two calls I want to make is to Garry and JC just to check in anything. So we handled it in a phone call. God forbid I did it by phone.
DK: What that suggests to me is that you have never received an email on speed cameras.
RE: I don't know.
DK: So you don't know?
RE: No, in all due respect to you, and again since we are lying to each other about respect here, I don't know if I got an email on it. I know what I did. I know what I tried to get done. Why I did it. And How I executed it and how the legislation is drafted, and it fulfills everything I said I was going to do.
DK: Do you think it is any of the taxpayers' business how this office …
RE: (interrupting) Nobody has asked me in the public but you.
DK: Well, I am asking you now. Do you think it is any of the taxpayers' business how this office came to develop its plan for red cameras, other than what you say before a microphone or what Sarah says in a press release?
RE: That's for you. You will write your story and I am not going to sit here and opine about the value of that.
DK: That's a fundamental question, whether or not it's …
RE: You think it's a fundamental question, doesn't mean I agree with you.
DK: Everything this office has done has suggested that it's not the taxpayers' business how this office communicates amongst itself.
RE: Let me ask you a question. Since you're asking the question, let me be (garbled). If people want to know what you're asking, why don't they? You're asking, and I am giving you what I think is available. I'm giving you this opportunity to ask me about my management, which is what you asked about, and I'm walking you through how I manage, how I set up goals, why I set those goals. Like I said on community colleges, whether you want to, obviously you're not that particularly interested, or on school reform. I think certain things are essential to get done. Here are three things are important to the city's future. And that I put a plan together, that I make sure the staff is held accountable for executing that plan. I have a long record from my time both with President Clinton to Congress to President Obama to being there and then executing what I said the goals are, how I manage to get those goals.
Whether it was speed cameras or whether it was … what are the other two issues you are interested in?
DK: Vehicle stickers and water rates.
RE: Vehicle stickers and water rates. Water rates, you know, (Water Commissioner) Tom Powers came in while we were going through the budget, laid out the history of what our problems are. It was in a meeting, here, with a map laid out in front of me what the problems are as it relates to the antiquated water system. There was just a report, either in your paper or no Bloomberg, about that this country is facing a $1.2 trillion deficit just two weeks ago. And Tom walked me through how bad our system is, both water, sewer pumping stations, etc., and he said how much we spend on just emergencies like wells yesterday or last week, over the weekend, which was a 99-year-old pipe. Again, I don't go chasing tough issues. Listen, you asked me. Tom presented here as every commissioner did when we were talking about this and I asked him questions: What are you doing? Are you set up to do what you're supposed to do? Is this the best way to do it? What do you got to do to change? Tom presented what was the basic problem currently of the water infrastructure and the sewer system. Then I went through a process of what would it take to fix it and I asked him to come back with a series of plans. He came back and there were like five or six options. Then, like always I narrowed it down, I'm doing this by memory, two to three. We massaged a couple of those both on what the work would be, how to get it, and then I basically made a decision that I was going to present to the public through the budget speech in an attempt to deal with what has been an underfinanced, and we're not me, this is true across the country. We are launching the largest water infrastructure investment of any city. This is a cloud, problem even your own paper has written about because we spend somewhere around, I'm doing this by memory so I could be off, $30 to $35 million dollars doing emergency work and I have been working on, you know, how I am going to do this and in Congress I did what the problem is and what we thought it would take to fix it. What was originally proposed is not what I then ultimately settled on, but it is something we agreed to do to get the job done.
That's how it went, and it was all done in meetings and I apologize to you. I really am sorry that you are not happy that you don't have emails on it, or texts or phone calls. What you have is a series of meetings that were held around this table and how we developed the budget. It was literally at this table. Tom was sitting there. Barrett was sitting there. I forgot who the other person is. And that's how it came about.
DK: We are just curious how it could possibly be that the mayor of this city hasn't received or sent or been copied on any emails regarding those three major issues.
RE: I just told you what happened.
DK: I understand you had meetings. Everybody has meetings. You don't have any communications. You don't have any actual communications with email or texts. And every time we've seen B roll of you it seems to me you are communicating with your thumbs and we can't justify those two things.
RE: How do you know it's not a direction from Amy.
DK: We have no idea.
RE: Yeah well it's none of your business what my wife says to me. So that said, I just told you. Tom sat here, briefed on the problem and now you can evaluate what you want to evaluate at large you can also evaluate what you want as I said we're not (garbled) it. I am not playing with emergency work over the next 10 years and on the system that was set up on financing it would take us 50 years to deal with the backlog of the problem. So I made a proposal to the City Council, we worked through the issues, and it passed. That's how it happened.
DK: Do you avoid email? Do you tell people, don't email me? Do you have a …
RE: Again, you want to know how I set goals and hold people accountable. I have cards I write every other day what I've got to get done. I showed you what the president wrote.
DK: Is there a policy on emailing you or you emailing other people?
DK: I mean, is there … You have to understand why it's confusing to us that you, in our log of emails, you are completely absent.
RE: I think what I find interesting is that you are fixated. You go write your story. It's interesting, for you, and you'll do that. I think what people want to know and they will judge me on, as you said the taxpayers, am I getting the job done. They will hold me accountable, and their job is to see what I am doing on a day-to-day basis and to see if I am doing what I pledged to do. Now, I pledged to do three things, core things. I said we've got the fundamentals right: Safety, straightforward, schools, the stability of our finances, and the safety of our streets. I did talk about transparency and I feel — to what I said — I am achieving it. Achieving, not achieved. And I don't put any period at the end of the sentence. This is only nine months into it, but there is no doubt given the backlog of potentiality from a transparency standpoint, I am making government information available, I am making sure people have access to it, I am bringing back a level of trust.
We have a different view. Here's the thing, we have a different view. Or maybe it's an assumption, I should say, not view. When I said in the campaign we are going to be transparent, I believe in the 11 pages I have handed you with nine months' worth of work throughout this city, that I am on my way to fulfilling that. You've walked in with a different assumption, well that may be nice but that's not what we want you to assume. And so maybe we have to deal with what the assumption was. What I said and what you think you heard back during the campaign. I believe I am fulfilling what I am doing. I'm not done.
DK: The mayor's office is opaque.
DK: The only information that we get from the mayor's office about how you function on a day-to-day basis is what you say — what you deem to say — when you are standing behind a microphone. When we push for internal communications, when we push for cellphone records… I mean, do you think the taxpayers who pay your salary, and who elected you, have a right to know who you talk to on a daily basis about city business, their business?
RE: The taxpayers will hold me accountable.
DK: Do you think they have a right to know who you talk to, who your advisers are?
RE: Sure, they know. They see who my staff is. They've seen who they are. You write about staff. I talk to a lot of people. I don't just talk to my staff. This morning I talked to Gene?
DK: Do they have a right to know who you communicated with on speed cameras? There's a lot of people who don't like this idea.
RE: There's also people that do.
DK: That's not answering my question.
RE: No, no, no, no, no. No, there are people that also do.
DK: Do you think the taxpayers of the city of Chicago have a right to know who your top advisers are, who you seek out for advice on speed cameras?
RE: Listen, not only do they have a right to, it's all available. That's what you refuse to accept. It is available, because …
DK: How? How is it available? How do I know who you talked to on speed cameras. Because you said it?
RE: The chief of staff's name is not only public, her salary is public. All my senior advisers, not only their names are there, their salaries are there, which is a new level of transparency that has not existed before.
RE: Wait, you know what? Hold on a second. Off the record, wait a second Sarah. Off the record. Off the record now.
(Mayor reaches onto table to turn off recorder)
DK: I am trying to get questions answered.
RE: And I am answering your questions, but as I said off the record, if you want and you're not happy, you will express it the way you want to do it. I am here answering your questions. I have a lot of other things to do. I am giving you the time to talk about how I manage.
DK: I appreciate that.
RE: And I don't appreciate your insults.
DK: I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything as an insult.
RE: I would hope you wouldn't.
DK: The idea that peoples' salaries are public is some sort of accomplishment of yours is a little bit of a stretch.
RE: I didn't say it was an accomplishment. I said. You asked who are my senior advisers and who they are. I said that information is public.
DK: What about outside the building? I don't know who. The public, and me, has no idea who you have spoken with, the lobbyists you have met with. They have no idea what this administration has done to develop or germinate the idea of speed cameras. There are many, many theories out there, most are conjecture, and my job is to cut through that and get past what you say to what actually happened, and I can't do that because this office isn't transparent about those efforts.
RE: You are going to write your little thing about what you've already concluded.
DK: I am not concluding anything, that's why I am here. I am hoping we can get some answers to this stuff.
RE: I just told you what happened with Tom Powers. We'll go to the water, lay it out. Tom Powers sat in here as we were preparing the budget. And that's the process.
DK: No, that's the process … I have no communications from anybody to verify that. I don't know what was said.
RE: That doesn't mean it's not true.
DK: Right, I am not here to …
RE: And I am not wrong because I just told you.
DK: Like I said when I started, I am much, much more interested in how you govern rather than how you say you govern. And right now, we have asked for 165 emails on speed cameras .
RE: You will handle that with (Corporation Counsel) Steve Patton. There is a process here where the chief executive is allowed to actually have honest communication with the staff, whether you respect that or not is something else, That said, Steve will work out what we can and can't give. I have given you the opportunity to ask me how I come to a conclusion, I just walked you through on water. I walked you through speed cameras. What's your third issue?
DK: What I am interested in …
RE: What was your third issue?
DK: Vehicle stickers.
RE: OK vehicle stickers. That I don't. Vehicle stickers.
DK: We still haven't so far received any emails on any of those other two issues. We've received 22 emails of 165 and you think the rest of the emails are all secret.
RE: Can you do that again?
RE: The way … You just have a very interesting style. Here's the deal.
DK: My beef isn't with Steve Patton. It isn't with Sarah Hamilton. And my beef isn't with (Law Department spokesman) Roderick Drew. You set the agendas. You, the mayor, has decided that these emails are secret.
RE: I have decided. Steve Patton guides me on legal, and these are legal issues. They are not just your interpretation, and Steve will work through them. I have given you the opportunity to walk through the three issues, how I developed what I developed. I don't go searching for tough issues. We have to set the tough issues for the city, my job is to attack them and to be accountable for the city if I think they are important to meeting the three objectives for the city — those being the safety of our streets, the strength of our schools, and the stability of our finances. Nothing could have been more public than a budget presented with numbers to it. Nothing could have been more public than I set the legislative agenda. It's not like I ran away from doing cameras and my actions are all public there and I am …
DK: We asked for 165 emails. We got 22 of them. What's the secret?
RE: Here's the …
DK: What's the big secret?
RE: Here's what you've decided. You've decided on your focus. Go focus on your emails. You'll do that.
DK: Emails or any other correspondence by the people who made these decisions.
RE: What I am saying to you is that is not the only way to find out the answers to your question. You asked a question. The question is how do I govern. I am here to answer the question on that. Too bad, that's not what you want. What you want is to focus on emails.
DK: You don't even know whether your phone is city paid-for.
RE: I don't.
DK: Right, so I ask for the records. I am trying to get the records and I can't get them.
RE: Here's the deal. Here's the deal. We're going over the same thing. Is there anything else you need?
DK: Yes (mayor laughs). There are a number of things in the city's campaign...
RE: The city's campaign.
DK: The city's campaign to push and get this speed camera thing going and passed that were inaccurate and wrong. You brought it up, the idea that this city has some sort of unique problem with pedestrian deaths. I want to know where the evidence is, because I can't find it.
RE: You were also wrong. OK. Where speed cameras were put up, we've had 60 percent drop in fatalities and you have never noted that. That's why you said in yesterday's story, or two days ago, speed cameras are not successful.
DK: Do you have a report?
RE: Yeah. It says 60 percent. Your paper said. There's actually a report here in the city with speed cameras up, 60 percent reduction in fatalities.
DK: I'm talking about …
RE: No no, wait a second. You just asked a question and I showed it to you.
DK: I am talking about. When I asked the question I asked about the campaign to get this thing passed.
RE: And I was involved. I was making phone calls. I saw it. I saw the legislation. It's public …
(Mayor walks out)
DK: OK, let the record show the mayor has left the room
SH: He'll be back.
DK: Are you guys taping this too?
RE: You guys have continued to repeat wrong information because it doesn't fit your story line. You keep saying that the cameras, there's no evidence. I'll get you the facts. It's actually a 60 percent reduction in fatalities. It's one of the questions I asked beforehand. Your paper as recently as Monday …
DK: You mean throughout the country?
RE: No, in the city. Your story, I know you do this, your story says that there's no evidence, when in fact right here under your nose is the evidence. And I've repeated it to you guys and you refuse. I've had people call you with it and you refuse to publish it.
Now I'm not going to. Now here's the deal, OK. It's not very productive for you and it's not very productive for me. So, I've told you how I govern. I've given you that and we've gone around and around because you've decided emails is the way you get to show I am who I am. We have given you. I have given you on the three issues, how I govern in generic. How I govern in specific and everything I have done. The speed cameras is a piece of legislation in Springfield debated and passed. The water issue is a budget issue that was debated. I introduced it I spoke about it and I am on record. What was the third issue again?
The vehicle stickers. I don't have right now by memory and I will get back to you. I've walked you through stuff. But you are going to fixate on, if you can't get emails that's it, I'm not transparent.
DK: It's not about emails, Mr. Mayor. Look let me explain to you ...
RE: No, Let me explain to you something. We've been here a half-hour and close to 30 questions of yours are on emails. So I all due respect you telling me right here with a straight face it's not about emails is really kind of not accurate. And I have listened to you.
DK: Let me explain to you what it's about, again. The emails are an avenue to get there, but it's about how you govern. Not how you say you govern. But how you govern, and in order to do that we took your transparency pledge on its face and we asked for not only emails but interoffice correspondence, we asked for cellphone bills. (Mayor talking over question)
DK: Can I ask the question?
RE: You're not asking a question, you're making a statement. I've done exactly what I pledged to do, which is why I said to you when I try to go back three questions. The assumptions are behind what I said. I am making … I have been in an executive position, and I mean this insulting so get it right, you haven't. You have not been in the White House. You have not been in the mayor's office. And the ability to govern allows you the ability to have honest conversations about the process and we have that, OK, and you have the right to get information and I am making that information available and that's why you can't.
DK: Are you saying that these conversations can't be honest if they're done in the open?
RE: No, and you have this on tape and I am not going to let you twist it. I am not going to let you twist it, and you're going to have to do something that is very ... and I am going to say it right … you're going to have to actually do it right and honest.
I have to have the ability to have people tell me their opinions and that is what every chief executive relies on whether you are in the private or public sector, including your own newspaper. I made a pledge to make information public and I am doing that, then you say, Well, that's not what you pledged. That is what I pledged. I pledged to make sure city government and the information it has is public.
I also have the responsibility to govern. If in fact every communication cannot be done, some communication and you guys will have to respect that because FOIA doesn't allow for everything, that's why Steve Patton is important. Other than that everybody will just say things are great, there's a white picket fence.
The ability to have a meeting, to have an honest discussion requires certain information, consistent with the law, will be made available. Certain information, when my staff has given me unfiltered opinion, I need that as a chief executive and that doesn't mean you get to sit at the table.
You have the right to ask for information. We have a responsibility to get that information. I am consistent with my pledge no matter what you will opine upon it, and opine I mean. I am consistent with exactly, since I made the pledge, not you. I am consistent with this pledge and I am not done yet. And it is consistent given the history of this city.
And I have made that information public and I continue to make it public and I continue the idea of transparency as recently on the city building code making sure that everybody had where the building owners were because that to me is very consistent with my transparency pledge. You may not see it in that realm. I, the person who made the pledge, do.
No, I have also told you since you are interested in how I govern, the opaqueness around my office — I don't think my office is opaque, because my work is very public and Steve's job and Sarah's job is to give you, to make sure the information you want you can get and there are some lines they draw because that's consistent with everybody's position in public life.
They are parts of how I have to conduct my office. If meetings that I have — I have a senior staff meeting every day. That's probably the most important meeting of the day, but that's not going to be something you're going to get because I can't have them say, Hey we have this issue here this is what we're doing, OK, and I've got to be able to have that conversation.
Now, as it relates to information, as it relates to stuff, analysis, I am trying to lift the veil. You say, Unless I have the emails I don't want to get that. That's OK. I believe emails, there's a piece of emails that obviously — as other information — that Steve will make sure that you can have. There's other information that is part of operating a government.
DK: Of the 165 emails we asked for, we got 22.
RE: Call Steve, work it out with him. There's a legal piece to this whether you want to try to hold me up on a petard. There's a legal piece to this.
DK: I spoke with Steve, and Steve acknowledges that there is nothing in the law that precludes you as a policymaker from releasing these.
RE: Well I have not looked at them to tell you whether I am going to release them. I don't spend my time doing that. That is Steve and Sarah's job. My job is to do my job for the voters. And I am consistent with it. Again I am not done fulfilling my pledge of making city government transparent. As recently as last week I made another part of city government transparent. So people who are renting a condo, buying a condo or renting a home now know where some of the buildings owners are in implementing their fire code. I consider that, and I am just telling you, I believe that is consistent with my pledge. And you may not and that is where our assumptions about what I said, and really this is a fundamental — it just may be a difference — I believe that's consistent with a pledge of being transparent.
DK: But you have to understand that when the public…
RE: You have to appreciate what I just said without ignoring it.
DK: I am trying to get questions answered, and so I have to staccato these things. I have a tape and I will go back and I will listen.
RE: I got it.
DK: All right, you have to understand when the public, us and the public (mayor laughing), can't see 90 percent of the internal communications that go behind a very public issue of concern why it is difficult to square that with transparency. I mean do you understand why that might be a concern? Why that might suggest that there is opaqueness?
RE: I know why it's a concern to you. And I know, since I am out in the public more than you, I know where I am with the public. And they will have a right to vote on me. They had a right to vote on me in February of 2010, 2011, and they will have the right in four years to decide whether I deserve another term. and I also know this: In a very real way, I can't speak to the city stickers but I can speak to water, that came in a meeting by Tom Powers. It came in a presentation, he developed the material, analyzed it. I presented it to the public. I presented my judgment. There is nothing more transparent in my view. I didn't pass a bill in night. I didn't make a decision with nobody knowing. I stood with two feet in front of the City Council and said let me address this issue. There was nothing more transparent and public. It was fully out there, OK, and what you don't like because it's not in your category, you want to assume all politicians have done something dark and nefarious. Tom Powers sat here, we have a crisis in the city and unless we address it, it is going to get worse. I took that information, we made some decisions, refined his proposals to me, which is what you ask your water commissioner to do, and then I stood. This is where you have narrowed the word of transparency. There is nothing more transparent than standing up in front of the City Council calling for an increase in water rates to go to pay for a critical crisis that is in our city. That's fully transparent.
Now you have narrowed your definition of transparency to fit your story line. Now what can be more transparent and public than standing in front of the City Council and then a monthlong debate and then it passes — that is, in all due respect, not only transparent, democracy.
And so, you have narrowed your definition. I am trying to get you to widen it. You've decided to have a definition of transparency to work for a story line you've decided before the story started. I have actually stood in front of the City Council and announced what I was doing. I have stood and worked the legislative body to pass a piece of legislation and I understand the politics of it and what went into it and went public with it.
You've narrowed your definition to work for you. Nothing is more up front and transparent than standing in front of the City Council and advocating for something that has been long debated, even advocated by your own paper, that we have to make an investment. And I have done that. And that is fully public and transparent and if I had a definition I would pull the word transparent and we would see who is closer to the definition, me or you, and I guarantee you one thing: I know I am right.
DK: I want to know whether your definition of transparency extends to the inner workings of this office.
RE: Part of it, it does. And part of it …
DK: How do you make the inner workings of this office transparent?
RE: Here's where we won't get fully to your satisfaction. You are not allowed to sit in all my senior staff meetings. And until that happens you will never be satisfied. That's my assumption based on this last 45 minutes that has been thoroughly enjoyable to me. You think you have a right to sit in here. I think I have a right to get unfettered honest opinions from my senior staff so that I can make decisions.
Some of it you'll have. You don't have a right to my phone calls. I have a right to have those phone calls.
DK: I have never asserted a right to your phone calls. I have a right to your bill. I have a right to know who you talk to. I don't have a right to hear your conversations.
RE: You don't have a right … You have a right to who I talk to? Where?
DK: You just got through telling me that the people have a right to know who advises you, who you talk to. If you talk on a city-owned phone I have a right to know what those phone number are.
RE: You only have a right to know that I use it.
DK: The phone bills are public.
RE: OK, so deal with it.
DK: I've tried. According to (Emanuel spokeswoman) Jenny Hoyle, you don't have one.
RE: Then you now have the answers, why are you asking me?
DK: Well I am just curious whether there's a … According to Jenny Hoyle and Sarah, you don't have an email account either, on any of these issue we've asked about.
RE: Well look, I have given you what I have in public. Look, you already know what you are going to do and so here's what we got. You are going to decide to narrow the definition of transparent. I stood in front of people. This is not like, by way of reference, in contrast to draw the definition even clearer. Neither the water issue or the speed cameras was a no-bid contract. Nothing could be more public. Nothing.
DK: We've …
RE: NO. NO.
DK: We've covered every aspect of that.
RE: And you've covered some of it wrong. You've covered some of it wrong. As recently as Monday, my good friend, you said there is no data. Get him the report that your paper refuses, you or somebody on your staff refuses to write — 60 percent fatality reduction where speed cameras have been placed in Chicago.
Now, if the report is wrong you should go analyze that report. I based it on that report. OK, now nothing. This was not a no-bid contract. This was fully public and available and I stood there and annunciated why I am doing what I'm doing. Here is what we have to do and then the City Council, which you even in your own paper acknowledge was a more thorough democratic process, evaluated, and everybody came to the conclusion, they voted on it. And we are now going to proceed. That is not a no-bid contract, that is not somebody getting awarded something, somebody taking care of somebody. I announced it in front of the City Council with a full press corps present to analyze it. And, like the wells pipe that just broke, 99 years old, that is what it will deal with.
DK: There are number of things from when you were pushing for this before the Legislature and having press conferences. For instance, you invoked the name of Diamond Robinson, the 6-year-old who died in an automobile accident on the weekend after hours and suggested these are the consequences of not having speed cameras, but what didn't get said was that her death wouldn't have been prevented by a speed camera. There are number of things. The city has said Chicago was the worst in the nation in terms of pedestrian deaths, when according to your own pedestrian studies is not the case. It's one of the best of the major cities.
RE: No, wait a second, the assumption there is there is nothing else to do.
DK: No the assumption is that there was a campaign of misinformation along the line to getting this thing pushed.
RE: No, I pushed this because …
DK: I am not saying it is a bad idea, I am saying what we were told is inaccurate.
RE: I have done stuff very upfront and public on behalf of the city, and it's not like I considered that they were going to be popular, but they are the right things to do on behalf of protecting our kids, and I have also been very clear that I am going to use the resources to continue to protect our kids if there are resources. I would be happy if there were none, but I am not out there searching for tough issues. This is about saving lives, and I have done what I needed to do to do that. This is about improving our physical infrastructure because we as a city — it's crumbling. When you write stories about its crumbling it requires somebody to take action and that is what I am accountable for doing and I could not have been more transparent.
SH: We are at about an hour.
DK: Is there anything you can tell our readers about how — other than what you say in a microphone or what she releases in a press release — how they can know what goes on in the very large office of the mayor in terms of how these things come up, what are the internal agendas behind these things, what the opinions of the policymakers are? Are these things none of their business?
RE: That's not a question. That's a trumped-up question. It is not a question. You opinionated. That's a trumped-up question. Give me a question.
DK: We have asked your office to give us some sort of an indication of all of the things that happen in this office that go into these ideas, and what we have is essentially nothing.
RE: You have decided what you are writing.
DK: No, I am trying to be reasonable. I am trying to ask you these questions and you don't want to answer them.
RE: I know you think you are trying to be reasonable, I am not trying to not answer them. I am answering them.
DK: There is a disconnect and I want to make sure as two reasonable people … I am trying to be reasonable.
RE: We are not being reasonable, we are past that, both you and I.
DK: There is a disconnect between what you say behind a microphone and what you say in a public forum and what happens behind the scenes.
RE: You made a conclusion. That's a conclusion.
DK: No it's not.
RE: You said there is a disconnect. That's a conclusion. How do you know there's a disconnect?
DK: There's a difference between what you say publicly and all of the things that happen behind the scenes that lead us …
RE: You have made a conclusion. You are not interested.
DK: I am interested.
RE: No no no. You have a frame, and you are going to write to that frame.
DK: The frame is that we can't see what goes on behind this door. We can't … There's nothing …
RE: No, there is information that is very public. I stood in front of the City Council and made a pledge. I announced I was going after legislation to help protect our kids and I made changes along the way and refined it. Now just because you don't get an email somebody sends me and I don't know even if an email exists, doesn't — you know, I do handle things in meetings. I do handle things in phone calls and I have a responsibility to people who give me their opinion, and I then take action. And again, to contrast it, whether you like this or not, none of what you are talking about was like a no-bid contract. It was fully public and I was up-front with people about what I was doing, what I wanted to do, and why I thought there was a need to do it and accomplish it.
And then other people, not me — City Council, Springfield — had a chance to weigh in on it. That is what democracy is like.
DK: In fairness to this office, there are a lot of people out there who believe that one of the main reasons for these speed cameras is in direct opposition to what your stated reason is, and that it's revenue.
RE: I got that. I can't imagine (garbled) with the help of the Chicago Tribune.
DK: Do you think that the idea that we can't see …
RE to SH: Do me a favor, have David pull the study, the 60 percent.
DK: Is it a concern of yours the fact that the public can't see what happened.
RE: Is it a concern to you that you wrote a story …
DK: I can't get a question out.
RE: That's not true, you've been here an hour.
DK: Let me ask a question.
RE: That's not true, you have gotten a question. I have answered them and you have, just don't...
DK: Let me ask the question please. It is of any concern to you, that the fact that we can't see 90 percent of the correspondence that led to this would feed into the theory …
RE: I'll ask my staff about what we can make available, but I don't want to get into a position where I can't get honest opinions. So, between what you want and what I've got to do to be able to govern, we will find where we can find a happy middle ground. OK, but I have to be able to govern and that means people giving me unfettered and open opinion. Other than that, you know. And that's not unique to me being mayor. This is a public policy for every mayor, every chief executive, every governor, every president and every press corps. So it's not unique to me and I am not going to let you play that game. And it's not like I am unique in the sense of opinion. I need to get opinions, advice from my staff and I am going to continue to do that. I will never allow that to get hampered. They have provided you information, and as I continue to say, there is nothing of these subjects that hasn't been out in the public.
DK: Is there anything that we can do or that the public can do …
RE: The public has never asked me for this stuff.
DK (continuing question): to get a better idea of who it is you seek out for advice both in the building and out of the building on each of these issues?
RE: Look I'll tell you. I have a wide circle of people I continue to talk to, OK, and seek advice. I don't ignore it.
DK: Is most of that by the phone?
RE: Yeah, a lot. Anybody will tell you. It's been written about so it's not like — you've done enough profile stories. I am an aggressive worker of the phone.
DK: But you do have an email. Some of it gets done by email?
RE: That's a phone conversation in my view.
DK: Do you think under the law, under the public records law, they are the same thing?
RE: I believe, and I am not talking about the law, I believe that a large part of what is done by email, yes, no, OK, is all like a phone call. It's not like what you guys think is a written memo.
DK: And therefore it should be privileged?
RE: No, you are not putting words in my mouth. Don't do that.
DK: Well, I mean phone calls are privileged. We can't listen in on your phone calls. I am trying to understand what that means.
RE: Like you know. I talked to Glenn Tilton (chair of United Airlines' parent company) today. I talked to Jim McNerney at Boeing. I talked today to Eric Lefkofsky over at Groupon. I talked to, I happened to run into Anthony Beale yesterday, the alderman, talked to him. I happened to see (Ald.) Pat Dowell. Which you guys saw publicly at the city county stuff, and we talked offline not even about that but other things. I do a lot by phone. And as the City Council members have even noted that I call them by phone regularly and they call me by phone regularly. I do do a lot of work by phone. I prefer that.
DK: In an ideal world would the public be able to see …
RE: My phone calls? No (laughing).
DK: No how these issues are seeded. How your staff compiles them. How they study them. I mean there are emails that we have been denied about budget analysis, about how…
RE: I think when they are analyzing the budget they are answering my questions, they have to be able to do it with … They are writing it for me, not for you.
DK: Do you think that the opinions of your staff, I know you think they are privileged, but do you think they are in the public interest?
RE: No, what I think is important to that … here the number of traffic fatalities within a quarter-mile of the 107 red light cameras installed between 2006 and 2009 experienced a 60 percent reduction in fatalities in a two year before and a two year after study. We will get you all this. Your paper wrote as of Monday there is no evidence and here is actually the documentation. So do I think people are allowed information? Yeah, not only that, accurate ones.
Let me also say this. That comment was recently, Monday. It started a while ago. I have repeatedly shown you this study and its repeatedly not getting into the paper.
DK: I will be happy to look into but I can't address it because I don't know.
RE: You asked me what my responsibility to the public is. We both share some responsibilities.
So, I have been and I continue to be very public about what I am doing and I am upfront about what I am doing and then I don't even control it. It is for others to evaluate and then make a decision. The first bill I did, the first piece I did on the speed cameras is not the same bill that passed at the end. That can't be said also about the water. The water I presented and I think it ended up being the same as I presented. That's not true about the city stickers, it got changed and that's the democratic part and it was all fully public.
OK, unlike everything else, of these three issues everything has been public. It's not like it was a no-bid contract that was awarded, or for that matter something that gets renewed once a month for 10 years. This is very public, very transparent because I advocated for them. Number two, I do think my budget, and I want you to listen to this, Sarah, so it doesn't get misconstrued and manipulated. I think when I ask (budget director) Alice Holt to run down some numbers so I can think about a question that's raised she is writing for me to evaluate. I think that's for me, since I am the one that asked. You think it's for you.
DK: I think it's all a very public … (interrupted)
RE: No, but if she is writing it — let me give you an example. Like take the water thing, Tom — I am serious about this — Tom sat here and made a presentation. He made a case. He's the one that presented to me to do the water. I didn't say, Hey Tom, what do you think about water rates? Tom presented because of the problem. I then said to Tom, go back and get me what this would look like, some options to look — optionalities. He came back about a week later, two weeks later, I can give you the dates of the meetings, and gave me I think it was originally either five or six options and we basically narrowed it down to three and then we kept moving it around and refined it, refined it. I then called (Ald.) Pat O'Connor and said, I've got an issue here and I am not sure how to play with this, not to play, how to deal with this. Pat gave me an idea. And that got baked, I don't want to say baked in, but that got to be part of the presentation as well as the proposal … (to another) I Got it, I will be right there.
And then I presented to the public. Now, I think Tom Powers has a right to present to the mayor, with the notion that I am going to kind of evaluate this. And he has a … since I am asking the questions, he presented what he thought was important as we got close to the budget. I didn't go ask him to do it. He came to me with this problem, which is what I want. I want people to be able to come to me with a problem and come to me, as I said when I used to say to the Cabinet to President Obama, don't walk into this office with a problem. You can have a problem, but you better have solutions.
He then said here's what the solutions would cost. Very upfront. I am not saying people weren't rallying to do it. I looked at the problem. Could I let the problem slide more? And I said no and I dealt with it, and then very publicly I presented the case for taking a step that's not like people were rallying to do but was necessary to do. Made a judgment, is it necessary. I concluded yes because we have postponed and not dealt with this problem like every other city for 30 to 40 years. B. What was the best proposal to address the problem that could also succeed rather than just being a hail Mary pass. I refined that proposal. Tom continued to work through the numbers as well as the ideas and then I presented it.
Nothing in my view could be more transparent. I presented an idea, City Council voted on it. Tom presented to the mayor what he thought was a problem, and I think I have a right to ask my cabinet give me your best, give me your opinions, and again, I didn't think it was popular but it was necessary and right. (rising to leave)
DK: Mr. Mayor, appreciate the time.
RE: Please, give me a break.
DK: I do.
RE: No you don't.
RE: (to photographer Stone): Like I said at the beginning, I enjoyed seeing you.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun