CHICAGO — In a major power shift for a city that thrives on tradition, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel takes over as Chicago's first new mayor in two decades on Monday when he replaces the retiring Richard M. Daley, the only mayor a whole generation of Chicagoans has ever known.
Vice President Joe Biden was expected to attend the morning inauguration ceremony at a popular downtown park before Emanuel heads over to City Hall and, for the first time since he was elected in February, walks into the fifth-floor office that was Daley's lair for 22 years.
"When I go there, which will be right after I get sworn in ... unless I take a wrong turn, that will be the first time, it will be with my family," said Emanuel, who plans to have his wife, Amy Rule, their three children, his two brothers and parents in tow.
Biden's attendance is testament, in part, to Emanuel's high profile in Washington where he worked until October. He quit as President Barack Obama's top aide to come back to Chicago to run for mayor.
"I'm glad he's decided to come and represent the administration and I'm also glad on a personal level because of our friendship," Emanuel said last week. "It's about Chicago, it's not about me."
Emanuel inherits a city with big money problems. Not only has Emanuel's transition team predicted a $700 million budget shortfall next year, but thanks to some controversial decisions by Daley — most notably the push to privatize parking meters — he has limited avenues to find funds to improve schools and repair the city's aging infrastructure.
It's a challenge Emanuel has not shied away from.
Emanuel, who represented Chicago in Congress before he left for Washington, made his feelings about his desire to be mayor known more than a year ago during an interview on Charlie Rose's PBS talk show. He said "it's no secret" that he wanted to run for mayor if Daley didn't seek re-election.
When Daley announced last fall that he wouldn't seek a seventh term after 22 years in office — longer than any other mayor in the city's history — some wondered if Emanuel had known anything when he made that comment. But if he did, that didn't stop him from just days before Daley's stunning announcement renewing his lease with the tenant who rented his Chicago home while the Emanuels lived in Washington.
That decision to rent his house was at the center of, as it turns out, the only thing that stood between Emanuel and the mayor's office: the legal battle over whether or not he was a resident of Chicago and eligible to run for mayor.
That fight ended with an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in his favor, but not before an appellate court panel decided that Emanuel's time away from the city made him ineligible to run and knocked his name off the ballot.
With that out of the way, Emanuel simply steamrolled over his opponents. Branded as a Washington outsider by other candidates including former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, Emanuel didn't miss an opportunity to remind voters that, unlike his opponents, he had friends in high places, even as he sought to convince them that he was one of them.
There was the campaign stop by former President Bill Clinton and the visit to Chicago by the Chinese President Hu Jintao — a visit, Emanuel reminded reporters that included a private meeting between the two.
Armed with a $14 million campaign war chest that dwarfed those of his opponents, the only question in the last weeks of the race was whether Emanuel would get 50 percent of the votes plus one vote to avoid a runoff.
Emanuel, who kept his temper and his legendary profane vocabulary under wraps during the campaign, ended up collecting 55 percent of the vote.
Once elected, Emanuel wasted little time putting his administration together, bringing with him a number of people from his days in Washington. For key posts, he went far outside the city.
He hired the schools chief in Rochester, N.Y. to run the city's massive school system. He went to Newark, N.J., to find his police superintendent, choosing the head of that department rather than promote someone already in the department. And where Daley hired a local newspaper reporter as his press secretary, Emanuel hired his away from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.
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