With his popularity slipping, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting some words of encouragement from a former rival on the eve of the two-year anniversary of his election as Chicago mayor.
"He's doing a very, very good job under extremely difficult conditions," Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee, said Wednesday.
"I wonder if he knew when he began that it would be as tough as it is."
After analyzing 30 divided roll calls over the last two years, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers recently concluded that Emanuel has enjoyed more iron-fisted control over the City Council than former mayors Richard M. Daley, Richard J. Daley or Ed Kelly, the Democratic machine co-founder.
Burke was asked whether that honeymoon would continue with Emanuel proposing controversial changes in the city's parking meters and a three-year phase-out of the city's 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care.
"I detect that the Council recognizes that he's got serious challenges and I detect that my colleagues are prepared to support him to do whatever is necessary to take on these challenges, solve these challenges and move Chicago ahead," Burke said.
But, what about the polls that show Emanuel's popularity slipping as prepares to confront two huge controversies that threaten to further erode his standing among black voters who helped put him in office: the temporary shut down of the CTA's Red Line South and the permanent closing of 54 Chicago Public schools?
"Polls come and go and opponents come and go. I've seen a lot in 40-plus years," Burke said.
"I've learned that, in Chicago politics, you always have to keep your eyes and ears open and look out for what happens next week and next month. It's a constantly changing and exciting environment."
Emanuel and Burke are former political rivals who appear to have put aside their differences.
Two years ago, Emanuel blamed Burke for laying the groundwork for the residency challenge that nearly knocked the former White House chief-of-staff off the mayoral ballot.
During a campaign debate, Emanuel rocked the boat with a pre-election threat to re-organize the City Council - and strip Burke of his police bodyguards and, possibly his chairmanship.
"There will be shared sacrifice, including for Ed Burke and all the City Council. If Ed Burke has six police officers, that just can't continue," Emanuel said then.
But, after a peacemaking session brokered and hosted by Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), Emanuel's City Council floor leader, Emanuel ultimately decided to retain Burke as Finance Committee Chairman and, at least initially, retained the bodyguard detail before cutting it in half.