SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
When Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as the Mayor of Chicago last month, he said the city was ready for change.
Mayor RAHM EMANUEL (Democrat, Chicago): New times demand new answers; old problems cry out for better results. This morning, we leave behind the old ways and old divisions and begin a new day for Chicago.
SIMON: Mr. Emanuel succeeded Richard M. Daley, who was in City Hall for 22 years - the longest of any mayor in Chicago's history; maybe of any major city. Rahm Emanuel was once Mayor Daley's chief fundraiser, then he became a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, then a Chicago Congressman, and, of course, as President Obama's chief of staff before running for mayor.
Mayor Emanuel joins us now from Baltimore, where he is attending the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. EMANUEL: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: In your inauguration speech, you said we are a much greater city because of the lifetime of service that Mayor Daley gave us. So, what needs changing in Chicago?
Mr. EMANUEL: Well, he had left behind a great city, but like all great cities -he'd be the first to acknowledge - it has challenges ahead of if it's going to secure its future. And that means we can't be doing the same thing over and over again and hope for or expect a different result.
SIMON: Mr. Mayor, before you became mayor, when you got various nicknames - and you were famous for sending Eli's cheesecakes to your political friends...
Mr. EMANUEL: If I like this interview, I'm going to send you one.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: But, thank you. Of course, you know, obviously, you're very famous for sending - at least once - dead fish to a pollster. What's your style going to be as mayor, as opposed to be the president's chief of staff or working for President Clinton? Is it cheesecakes or dead fishes?
Mr. EMANUEL: No, I think I'm going to tell people the truth. Stylistically, I want to work together, I want to find solutions but what I will not do and what I will not accept is doing more of the same. In the first 30 days, we reassigned police officers from back office operations, unaccountable sections - 650 officers, we put them on the street as beat officers. And I said we're now going to hold the commander accountable. You can no longer tell me you don't have the resources.
In the same way, every school in the city of Chicago in the next year will have a five-year performance contract. I'm going to bring a level of accountability and honesty that hasn't, in my view - as it relates to being honest with the taxpayers - honest with the people who pay the bills, of what needs to get done. Which is why on my 30th day I went into the press briefing room and held out a report card on those first 30 days, not just a list accomplishments but to hold myself accountable to the taxpayers who pay the bills.
SIMON: You gave yourself an incomplete, right?
Mr. EMANUEL: It is an incomplete and then I gave an A to my staff, 'cause they're doing hard work. Every one of them could succeed in private sector. They chose public sector for the right reasons; to do something with their time, and I appreciate that. And they have worked very hard. And my work within the first 30 days is just the beginning down payment on the change that I promised in the election.
SIMON: Mr. Mayor, what are the differences between giving advice from across the table and then being on the other side of the table and having to make the decision?
Mr. EMANUEL: Well, how much more time we got on this interview?
SIMON: Take what you like.
Mr. EMANUEL: No. You know, first of all, my joke is I always knew being the mayor would be a great job. I had no idea how great a job it was going to be. If I'd known that, I would have primaried(ph) Rich Daley four years ago. It's a great job.
Now, I'm going to make mistakes, as I already have, and I'll make more going forward. The good news is those are mine. I own them. You know, as I told you about the police officers?
Mr. EMANUEL: Just give you one anecdote: We announced the first 500 of the 650 on a day. About a week later, I was at a library and I said, are we near the seventh district? Staff said yes. So, I said, let's go. So, I went into the police precinct and I walked in and I said, is the commander here? He came down. I said we just gave you 57 officers; tell me what your plan is? I mean, where else can you make that?
And you can see firsthand the results of what you're talking about and you can see how it's going to impact people's lives.
SIMON: So, is national politics, by contrast, a lot of talk?
Mr. EMANUEL: No. National politics, the decisions there have a huge import on me as a mayor. Are we going to have an infrastructure bill to help us rebuild our roads and bridges? I can do so much; without a national policy I can't. And my views, Scott, I got to tell you, first of all, I have three wonderful kids, a great wife, but I have worked with two fabulous presidents on a national level. I've been elected to Congress by the people on the north side of the city of Chicago, served in leadership and now I'm fortunate enough, with still my parents alive, to be elected to the city as mayor of the city of Chicago, the greatest city in the country. I'm very, very fortunate. And I loved working for President Obama. I learned a tremendous amount working with him and President Clinton, and I'll put all that work on behalf of the city I love and the people I work for.
SIMON: Speaking with us from the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Baltimore, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mr. EMANUEL: It was an honor.