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WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel hit the cover of Time Magazine, with his struggles to run Chicago---to fight crime and most recently the controversial closing of 50 public schools-- "as a proxy for a broader fight nationwide over the identity of the Democratic Party."

Emanuel posed for the cover of the upcoming edition on the Quincy/Wells "L' platform. The cover story is by David Von Drehle.

The headlines:


Rahm Emanuel Left the White House to Run a Broke, Violence-Plagued City, and He's Having the Time of His Life

The article offers nothing new to Chicago readers.

DESIREE_ROGERS_25322663.JPGWASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel tapped Desiree Rogers--former White House Social Secretary, now CEO of Johnson Publishing--to chair the board of the city's non-profit tourism marketing organization, Choose Chicago.
Rogers replaces Bruce Rauner, who stepped down, exploring a GOP bid for Illinois governor.

The Sun-Times Mike Sneed had the scoop earlier.

Below, from City Hall....

Experienced Business Leader to Guide Tourism Organization toward Mayor's Goal of 50 Million Annual Visitors

Monday morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the appointment of Desiree Rogers as Chair of the Choose Chicago board. Rogers replaces Bruce Rauner, who resigned from the position earlier in May to pursue personal interests.

"Desiree Rogers is a world-class business executive and a truly proud Chicagoan, and her unique talents and experience are a perfect fit for this important role," said Mayor Emanuel. "I am confident that she will help Choose Chicago reach the next level as it continues to find creative ways to lure tourists and convention business. I am excited at the prospect of working alongside Desiree again and I celebrate both her appointment and her success."


Flooding on the Edens Expressway Thursday morning forces lane closure.  (Sun-Times photo by Jon Seidel)

Good morning. Thunderstorms, high today 72 [Forecast]


Horrific Texas fertilizer plant explosion kills at least 5, injuries scores more and forces the evacuation of the small town of West, about 20 miles north of Waco. [Sun-Times] [NBC]


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle fly to Boston for a bomb blast  memorial, "Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service" at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.[Boston Globe] The 10 a.m. Chicago time service will be carried live on multiple platforms.


Parts of the Ike, Stevenson expressways shut down by heavy rains, flooding. Metra, CTA, O'Hare and Midway Airports reporting delays and cancellations. Flash flood warnings. For the latest and updates [Sun-Times] 

Sex, drugs, no rock n'roll 
Going to pot... The Illinois House voted to legalize medical marijuana and mandate abstinence in sex education classes for grades 6-12. [Sun-Times][Crain's Chicago Business]

Both bills now move to the state Senate. Lawmakers taking a break from the heavy in pension reform. 

Gun-control measures fail

GOP Senators blocked multiple gun-control measures. [Wall Street Journal] [Washington Post]

Obama called the defeat "shameful" [Sun-Times]

The underlying gun bill--with the anti-traffickling provision named after the slain Chicago teen, Hadiya Pendleton-- is expected to be sidelined today. [Sweet, Sun-Times]

Big loss for Obama. [Politico] [Ezra Klein, Bloomberg]

Obama has a lot on his plate. [Real Clear Politics] [Roll Call]

Major takeaway: Obama slapped with big loss on legacy issue. With the Senate shutdown, unlikely the House will act on gun bills.

Weather forces Rahm to delay Washington trip

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was supposed to be in Washington today and Friday; he was grounded in Chicago because of the weather. He was the headliner for an immigration forum hosted by The Atlantic. Tomorrow, Emanuel joins former President Bill Clinton to launch an "Infrastructure Financing for Cities Task Force."  

Emanuel was going to conduct rounds in the White House and huddle with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Boston bomb suspect

Videos of the Boston Marathon finish line blast site yielded the faces of suspects. Now authorities have to find them.[Boston Globe 

Ricin suspect arrested

A Mississippi man was arrested in connection with the mailing of letters containing poison to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Since the anthrax attacks of 2001, all White House and congressional mail is screened. [Sweet, Sun-Times] [Washington Post]

The suspect is an Elvis impersonator [CBS/DC]


*White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on Time Magazine's new list out this morning of 100 most influential people in the world.

*Obama dined last night with a group of Democratic senators at a hotel near the White House. This follows two dinners with GOP senators. A White House official said they discussed immigration, guns and the Boston bomb blasts.  Durbin was there along with...according to the official ...Dem Senators Michael Bennet, Chris Coons, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, Mark Warner, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden.

*Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on Wednesday received the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Champion Award from the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation. Context: Rush is on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

*Hello, Illinois.... Mike Schrimpf former Republican Governors Association communications director, is new communications chief for Bruce Rauner's gubernatorial exploratory drive. [Politico] 

*DLA Piper Chicago office associate Katie Jahnke Dale working with DC colleagues on a new partnership between DLA's New Perimeter global pro bono affiliate and the State Department to combat human trafficking across the globe.


Pressers....House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at 10:30 a.m. Chicago time; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at 9:45 a.m. Chicago time, both in the Capitol.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Secretary of State John Kerry, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at various Senate committees testifying on fy2014 budget requests

In Springfield, Governor Pat Quinn delivers remarks at the 5th Annual Muslim Action Day breakfast at the Mansion; later, a speech in the State Capitol in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meetings.... Illinois Riverboat Gaming Board, Video Gaming Board.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin headlines the City Club of Chicago lunch.

Nobel Laureate Gary S. Becker delivers the 3rd annual CME Group Lecture on Global Financial Markets, "Will American Retain its Economic Leadership?

Author Thomas Dyja discusses his book, "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream" at the Harold Washington Library.

Chef and Bravo host Curtis Stone discusses his cookbook "What's for Dinner?" at the Barnes & Noble in Skokie's Old Orchard shopping center.


Cubs owners prey on your hopes by promising titles with Wrigley repairs. [Morrissey, Sun-Times]

Bulls clinch a playoff berth; will play Nets on Saturday in first round. [Sun-Times]

Cubs play the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field this afternoon; White Sox away at the Toronto Blue Jays tonight.

WASHINGTON--With a big assist from Hollywood producers and studios, Mayor Rahm Emanuel scooped up $378,700 from individuals in the first quarter of 2013, building a $1.9 million warchest in his main campaign fund, Chicago for Rahm Emanuel.

A companion fund controlled by Emanuel, The Chicago Committee, reported raising $110,000 in the past three months, according to finance disclosure reports filed Monday with the State of Illinois.

To be precise, Emanuel has $1,908,696.08 on hand for a 2015 re-election bid, a sum to ponder as the Chicago Teachers Union is starting to organize against his re-election.

Emanuel's brother, Ari, is a Hollywood agent; the mayor held a fund-raiser in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

Among the Hollywood donors:
LB1 Entertainment
Lionsgate Entertainment

Disney CEO Robert Iger
Windsor Media president Terry Semel
NBC Universal President Ronald Meyer
HBO Executive Michael Lombardo
Overbrook Entertainment co-founder James Lassiter
A Squared Entertainment executive Andy Heyward

Former Disney chier Michael Eisner

Writer producer Laurie David
Writer Aaron Sorkin

Pamplona Productions writer Amy Lippman
Picturemaker Productions writer producer director Glenn Caron


Good Morning. High today 54, partly cloudy[Forecast]


In the wake of the twin blasts at the Boston Marathon, a White House official tells the Sun-Times that overnight, President Barack Obama "received updates from his Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco on the ongoing response efforts and investigation into the explosions in Boston, including the continuing federal support for those activities. 

"The President made clear that he expects to be kept up to date on any developments and directed his team to make sure that all federal resources that can support these efforts, including the investigation being led by the FBI, be made available. Later this morning the President will receive a briefing from his Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other senior members of his team."

Takeaways: The first major attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001 now overshadows a week where Congress is starting to grapple with two major items on Obama's legacy agenda, immigration and gun-control. The Boston tragedy will likely mute--for a few days--critics and supporters.

Anchors for the morning network shows--NBC, ABC, CBS--in Boston; the marathon bombings will dominate the news today.


The Senate "Gang of Eight"--including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)--unveil their long-awaited bi-partisan immigration bill with a key provision in the sweeping measure a 13-year path to citizenship for the millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. The bill would cover individuals in the U.S. prior to Dec. 31, 2011.  The  11 a.m. ET press conference was cancelled as the Boston blast dominates the day.  [Washington Post] Durbin played the key role in adding Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) to the "Gang of Eight." First Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill is set for Friday.

Boston bombings

The aftermath...From the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications: "At this time, we are not aware of any additional threats." Tighter security in Washington D.C. on Tuesday morning, especially around the landmarks. Ramped up security on the Metro. 

Explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon--12 seconds apart--killed three and injured at least 144. [Sun-Times] 

[Boston Globe] [Boston Herald] [CBSBoston]

Nightmare: Brothers watching marathon each lose a leg. [Boston Globe]

Photo gallery: [Sun-Times]

Map: [Sun-Times]

Obama: "We will find out who did this." Video and transcript. [Sun-Times] What Obama is learning talking about terror. [Politico]

Chicago's security challenges. [Bowman, Sun-Times] 

Bombing turns Marathon area into a war zone. [New York Times]

The hunt for the bomber(s) [Time]

London marathon on Sunday; planners are "confident" there will be no security problems. [London Telegraph]

For updates through the day: [Sun-Times]

Wrigley Field Deal: Not so fast

There are still big discrepancies between what Emanuel has agreed to support and what the Cubs say they need to preserve Wrigley for 50 years and make it the moneymaker Ricketts says he needs to turn the Cubs into a perennial contender. [Crain's Chicago Business, [Sun-Times]

Oust Rahm Drive

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis isn't waiting for 2015 to try to oust Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom she blames for closing a historic number of public schools, she said Monday, announcing an aggressive campaign to train his possible replacement. "If the mayor and his handpicked corporate school board will not listen to us, then we must find those who will," Lewis said.The popular Lewis, who hit the national stage during the historic Chicago teachers strike in September, strongly denied she'd be the one seeking to replace Emanuel. Nor would she name candidates she had in mind. Instead, the CTU and other partners are launching a new effort to get 100,000 new voters registered in time for the 2015 elections when Emanuel is expected to seek reelection. They also plan to train possible candidates for mayor, alderman and statehouse offices, and increase donations to their political action committee to financially support potential candidates. [Sun-Times] [Crain's Chicago Business] 

Meanwhile, Emanuel continues to raise a lot of money for his political war chest; see Political Business below. And note to CTU: you can't beat someone with no one. At some point, a candidate--not a concept--will need to surface if this political attack is to be taken seriously.

Gun-control fate uncertain
The immigration bill gets dropped in the Senate as the chamber grapples with gun control. Despite efforts from Vice President Joe Biden on down, the Senate votes may not be there. [Politico]

Washington Post/ABC News Poll shows "most Americans, including half of all gun owners, say it is possible to enact new laws without infringing on gun rights, and overwhelming majorities support expanded background checks at gun shows and for online gun sales." 

And on immigration, "There are deep partisan differences on the other marquee issue slated to soon start moving in the Senate: comprehensive immigration reform. Overall, support for legislation that includes a way for undocumented immigrants to live legally in the U.S. is higher than ever, with nearly two-thirds of Americans backing a pathway to legal status. However, while three-quarters of Democrats and at least six in 10 independents support such a move on immigration reform, support drops sharply among Republicans. As with gun legislation, the results are yet another reminder that Republican lawmakers face a fractured base on these two volatile issues." [Washington Post]


While the CTU ponders mounting a challenge to Emanuel, the union besides a voter drive, needs a face (as noted above) and a lot of money. Emanuel's latest campaign disclosure, filed Monday--covering Jan. 1-March 31 shows that in the first quarter of this year he raised $378,700 and has $1,908, 696.08 in his "Chicago for Rahm" war chest.

The report shows Emanuel picked up a lot of Hollywood money from producers, directors, writers and studios. I'm told he threw himself a fund-raiser when he was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for an "Education Mayors" conference. Brother Ari Emanuel is the big Hollywood agent. 

A sampling...Aaron Sorkin, $2,500; Michael Eisner, $2,500; Laurie David, $2,500; Lionsgate Entertainment, $10,500...Check out my blog later for more details....[Sweet]

.....Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) sworn-in last week, is staffing up in Chicago and Washington. Among the first wave of hires:

Audra Wilson - District Chief of Staff  (former Director of Diversity Education and Outreach and Adjunct Professor, Northwestern U. Law; former welfare advocacy staff attorney, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; former Deputy Press and Policy Director, U.S. Senate Candidate for Barack Obama.

Dante Sawyer- Chicago Office Coordinator/Constituent Services Representative -  former Field Director, Robin Kelly for Congress

Anthony Beckham - Constituent Services Representative/Caseworker - Ministry Outreach Coordinator, Robin Kelly for Congress; former small business owner        

E. Brandon Garrett - Chief of Staff - Policy and Political Advisor for Vice President Joe Biden at Obama for America; former Policy Director for the Congressional Black Caucus.                                                                                               

Kayce Ataiyero - Communications Director (former Chicago Tribune reporter, former Deputy Communications Director at Illinois State Treasurer's Office, most recently did communications in the Quinn administration).

Tony Presta - Scheduler and Office Manager (former scheduling and logistics coordinator at Illinois State Treasurer's Office, former special assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer at Cook County Government)



President Barack Obama meetings with United Arab Emirate Crown Prince Moammed Bin Zayed, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, NASCAR's  Sprint Cup series champ Brad Keselowski

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks at groundbreaking ceremony for Grundfos' new North American headquarters in Downers Grove. 

Visitation for Anne Smedinghoff, U.S. diplomat from River Forest killed in Afghanistan. Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park. 

Panel discussion on the legacy of the late Mayor Harold Washington. Chicago State University

Chicago native and Academy-award winning director William Friedkin joins Filmspotting co-founder and host Adam Kempenaar to discuss his new memoir "The Friedkin Connection." Harold Washington Library, Pritzker Auditorium. In case you did not get the reference, Friedkin directed the French Connection. He is married to  former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing, another Chicago native. [Tribune]

NPR "All Things Considered" host Michelle Norris speaks in the Columbia College "Conversations in the Arts" series. Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Very fun to guest on her show.


Cubs play the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field; White Sox  in Toronto for match with the Blue Jays. The Blackhawks and the Bulls are both off Tuesday.


Good morning. High today in the mid 60s. [Forecast]


The Cubs and city make a deal for Wrigley field renovation. Must be a miracle on Addison; a Jumbotron is on the way.  News conference 11 a.m. at Wrigley Field, but the story burst out last night; see links below.


Secretary of State John Kerry will stop in Chicago on Monday to visit the parents of Anne Smedinghoff, a young U.S. diplomat from River Forest who was killed while delivering textbooks in southern Afghanistan on April 6. [Sun-Times]


The Senate "Gang of Eight" will unveil a bi-partisan immigration bill on Tuesday morning. Congress returns from spring break with a major week ahead; the main action is over in the Senate with historic gun-control and immigration legislation debated. Prognosis: Immigration measures will be easier to pass than gun provisions.

Exclusive: Mayor Rahm Emanuel heads to Washington this week; on Thursday he's the headliner at a forum hosted by The Atlantic.


Friendly confines facelift

The Cubs will renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it under a "framework" unveiled Sunday that includes a 5,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field; an 800-square-foot see-through sign in right field; 40 night games; street fairs on weekend game days, and signage all over a new hotel and open-air plaza. [Sun-Times] [Tribune] [Crain's] [ABC7]

Negotiations between the Cubs and the city have been in extra innings. A timeline with the details. [Sun-Times] And speaking of baseball, with the release of "42," a photo gallery of Jackie Robinson in Chicago. [Sun-Times]

Senate tackles immigration, guns

It's a big week ahead for Congress--immigration, guns, and the budget, where Democratic are not happy with President Barack Obama's proposed changes to Social Security. The House has a series of budget hearings. []

On the Senate side, it's guns and immigration. Sweeping immigration proposal to be released on Tuesday [USAToday] Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) is the man to watch. [Washington Post]

On the gun front, families of shooting victims will be on Capitol Hill, along with former Rep. Gabby Gifford (D-Az.) recovering from her head wounds and her former astronaut husband, Mark Kelly. The couple is leading a major drive for gun control. May be schisms within the pro-gun community. [Washington Post]

Jesse Jackson Jr. surfaces

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. surfaced at the Saturday meeting of Operation PUSH. [ABC7] Facing sentencing at the end of June, Jackson's team is starting a "campaign" in the hopes that he will get less than four or five years in prison.

Crony conflict

One of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's biggest campaign contributors, Howard Labkon, has the president of the Fraternal Order of Police on his company's payroll -- a relationship that's come to light as Emanuel and the union try to negotiate a new contract for 10,400 Chicago cops. [Sun-Times]

Abortion doctor trial

Assessing whether there is "enough" coverage of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. [Washington Post] The developing storyline breaking into mainstream media--pushed by conservative outlets--is that the Gosnell trial is not getting the attention it deserves from national media because of an abortion rights bias.

Justin Bieber and Ann Frank

Bieber visited Ann Frank's hideout in Amsterdam, where her family and others hid from the Nazis--and his note in the guest book has triggered an uproar. Because it was more about him than her. [Bill Zwecker]

Chicago story obits

Blues guitarist Jimmy Dawkins was a son of Mississippi with a stinging West Side style. [Sun-Times' Maureen O'Donnell]

CSO trumpet great Adolph 'Bud' Herseth dies at 91 [Sun-Times' Andrew Patner]

Political Business

*Political veterans John Borovicka and Mike Alexander--each with deep government and political networks-- are teaming up to launch Alexander & Borovicka Government Solutions. The firm will work at the federal, state and city levels.


Borovicka managed Rahm Emanuel's first campaign for the House in 2001 and went on to be his Chicago District Director; ran the Chicago office of State Senator John Cullerton; worked for now Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). Borovicka was Deputy Campaign Manager for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's final reelection campaign in 2007.

Alexander has long ties to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), working in his Senate campaign and later joining his Senate staff, working in Washington and Illinois. In 2003, Alexander became the Director of Local Government Affairs for the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity (DCEO), serving under Jack Lavin, the current Chief of Staff to Governor Pat Quinn.

*Robert Weinberger,  former 10th Congressional District Democrat nominee on Sunday wed Jennefer Hirshberg, a one-time press secretary for former First Lady Nancy Reagan at a lovely ceremony in suburban Washington. Durbin--who interned with Weinberger in the office of  the late Sen. Paul Douglas (D-Ill.)-- offered the first toast.


*Obama honors the BCS National Champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide on the South Lawn of the White House.

*Gov. Pat Quinn chairs a meeting of The Big River Moves Leadership Forum to discuss economic and environmental issues facing Mississippi River states at the Blackstone Hotel.

*Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle paddles down the North Branch of the Chicago River with canoeists and kayakers. She launches from the Skokie Lagoons, Willow Road and North Forest Way.

*Quinn and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)--in her first joint appearance with the governor since her swearing-in last week-- will announce a project to update the Kankakee area's water infrastructure.

*Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno headlines the City Club of Chicago.

*Because it's April 15... Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) now a WIND-AM talk show host at a Chicago Tea Party and Tea Party Patriots Tax Day Tea Party Rally at the Daley Center. 

And happy birthday to cousin David, a Chicago parking and transportation planner whose last name really is Taxman.

Sports Today

White Sox at Toronto; Bulls at Toronto; Blackhawks host the Stars.

CHICAGO--The usually cautious first lady Michelle Obama came home Wednesday to voluntarily plunge herself into a controversy, speaking out for the first time on two life-and-death matters: On preventing youth violence in Chicago and the need for Congress to at least vote on gun control measures.

To this I can only add: Finally.

What is the point of being one of the most popular people in the U.S. with a powerful platform if you don't use it? I just hope Mrs. Obama's era of being risk-averse is over -- when it comes to protecting kids in her city, my city, our city.

I've covered Mrs. Obama for years and never saw her as emotional in public as she was in delivering her speech before some 800 Chicagoans at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan.

They were gathered together by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help bolster the fund-raising he is leading to create a $50 million pot of money to finance a variety of programs to help at-risk Chicago kids. Wednesday marked the first time Mrs. Obama has lent her considerable support specifically to a Chicago project.

What triggered Mrs. Obama's breaking up -- tearful and choking on some of her words -- was her recounting of attending the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old King College Prep student shot to death last January in a park about a mile from the Obama family home in Kenwood.

Hadiya's horrible death profoundly impacted Mrs. Obama -- raised on the South Side, a product of Chicago's public schools and park district summer camps -- because she heavily identified with the Pendleton family -- which struck her as very similar to her own.

One could almost hear the unspoken words, "but for the love of God this tragedy could have fallen on me or my own," when Mrs. Obama talked about meeting Hadiya's parents at the funeral.

"What I realized was Hadiya's family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her. But I got to grow up, and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine."

Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley was at the luncheon and he told me afterwards, "I've never seen that kind of emotion, I've never seen that depth of feeling."

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Hadiya's mother, told me afterward, "I was very appreciative she took my family story so sincerely. Choking up, her sister, Kimiko Cowley-Pettis completed her thought, that it was very meaningful that Mrs. Obama "compared herself and her upbringing to Hadiya's."

The White House on Tuesday was downplaying the possibility that Mrs. Obama was going to comment on the series of measures proposed by President Barack Obama to curb gun violence pending in Congress. Usually, Mrs. Obama does not go near anything controversial. And everything about gun control is controversial.

Instead, the suggestion was that Mrs. Obama would be handling in her speech the less controversial aspects of the comprehensive approach needed to reduce violence -- not getting into gun-control -- instead focusing on behavioral, educational, and mentoring programs such as the ones Emanuel wants to underwrite serving Chicago youths.

But these are make-or-break days for the gun-control measures. The Senate is poised to start a series of major votes on gun bills on Thursday -- first having to dispose of a Republican filibuster threat that could block everything.

The White House has been looking for enough GOP senators to put together a 60-vote filibuster-proof coalition. And Mrs. Obama on Wednesday joined in the push, crossing the invisible line she, and her handlers, have been drawing for years to keep her out of the fray.

Jumping in, Mrs. Obama said, "Right now, my husband is fighting as hard as he can, and engaging as many people as he can, to pass commonsense reforms to protect our children from gun violence. And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress."

We don't know yet if Mrs. Obama has actually started a new activism. I hope her first efforts to help Chicago's at-risk kids -- and prod Congress to curb gun violence -- won't be her last.


Good Morning. Overcast, drizzle, high today in the low 50's. Goose Island streets open again...


House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) swears in Robin Kelly at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time. Kelly holds presser afterwards to talk about her swearing-in on the House floor. Freshman Kelly is allowed to inherit the well-situated Rayburn House Office Building suite of the man she is replacing, disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. 


Two brothers shot at on the South Side, a man grazed by a bullet in Lakeview and a car-on-pedestrian accident in Goose Island were among the stories that happened between midnight and 6 a.m. in Chicago. [Sun-Times


Senate gun-control votes

Four months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the Senate today is set to hold a series of crucial votes on gun-control laws, with big resistance from the National Rifle Association. The House will not act until the Senate sends over legislation. [USA Today] President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate: guns, immigration, new budget. [Washington Post]

Sandy Hook families will be at press conference with Democratic senators in the Capitol this morning, pushing for a package of measures to curb gun violence.

Michelle Obama jumps in gun fray

With the Senate poised to act, First Lady Michelle Obama, back home in Chicago spoke out for the first time--with great emotion-- about youth violence and for the first time, gets involved in a controversial issue, urging Congress to allow votes on gun bills. [Sun-Times] And finally time she did. [Lynn Sweet] Mrs. Obama spent two hours at Harper High School on the South Side. [Mary Mitchell] [Bloomberg]

Mrs. Obama made it a day-trip. She headed from Harper back to Midway Airport, returning to Washington last night.

Quinn's gun push

With gun measures pending in Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn headlines an Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence rally "in support of common sense gun legislation" in front of the Abe Lincoln statue at the state Capitol.

Wright's daughter indicted

Imagine if this story broke during the 2008 election, when the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright--then pastor for presidential candidate Barack Obama threatened to derail his bid. Jeri Wright, his daughter, was indicted Wednesday on charges of money laundering and lying to federal investigators in an expanding 2009 state grant-fraud case.[Sun-Times]

Political Business

* Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) will be reporting more than $390,000 raised in the first quarter. Aiming to discourage the man he beat for the tenth district seat from trying again, Schneider's team noted that he raised more than former Rep. Bod Dold (R-Ill.) "raised in his first quarter in 2011."

*Ald. Tom Tunney holds a fund-raiser aimed at the LGBT community. Double entendre on invite: "Come out to support equality." Tunney Honorary co-chairs: state Rep. Deb Mell and spouse Kelly Cassidy; state Rep. Greg Harris; Ald. James Cappleman and Water District Commissioner Debra Shore. Happening at the Lincoln Park home of Brad Lippitz and Jonathan Pizer. The tab ranges from $100 to $1,000.

* Last night, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) threw  a fund-raiser at Nationals Stadium during the Nationals-White Sox game.

* Cook County Committeemen huddle today to select a replacement for the latest pol forced to resign because of corruption, former Cook County Board Members William Beavers, convicted on federal evasion charges last month.


Memorial for Roger Ebert, the beloved Sun-Times movie critic who died last week. His funeral was Monday and today, a tribute at a fitting place, the Chicago Theater, 175 N. State.

 ...Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams in announcing Chicago's completed transition to a grid garbage system at 11:30 a.m. CT, 900 East 103rd St. 

...U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin at Greene Elementary School, 3525 S. Honore on student health. ...National ACLU president Susan Herman at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. 


Donald L. Duster, the grandson of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells. Under former Gov. James R. Thompson, he led the state's Department of Business and Economic Develop. [Sun-Times Obit writer Maureen O'Donnell]

Sports Today

Bulls play New York Knicks; Cubs host San Francisco Giants; White Sox continue stand against Washington Nationals. The Nats beat them Wednesday 5-2. 

Talkers Today

HBO's "Veep" star Julia Louise-Dreyfus guests on Ellen DeGeneres; Edie Falco on Jon Stewart; Alec Baldwin on David Letterman; LL Cool J on Jay Leno; Tom Cruise on Jimmy Kimmel; Carl Reiner on Craig Ferguson and Vince Vaughn on Jimmy Fallon.

Lynn Sweet discusses her Michelle Obama column on Julie Mason's SiriusXM show, 12:03 p.m. Chicago time.

Good morning. Grab your rain gear, stormy weather ahead. [Sun-Times]

Hours after her election to the House, Robin Kelly is jetting to Washington Wednesday catching the 8 a.m. American Airlines flight. Kelly day ahead: O'Hare Airport interview, in D.C. meetings to get her operation set-up. Swearing-in Thursday afternoon, followed by a reception in her office. Kelly easily won the special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. [Sun-Times]

Two semi-trucks collided on Interstate 80 early Wednesday, killing one of the drivers and closing the expressway to westbound traffic in Joliet, Illinois state police said. [Sun-Times]

First Lady Michelle Obama heads to the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan for 11:30 a.m. lunch with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bolster his fund-raising drive to bankroll projects for at-risk youths. Mrs. Obama motorcades over to Harper High, 6520 S. Wood for 2 p.m. event.

Senate gun deal
Two key senators forged a bi-partisan compromise deal on gun background checks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announcing the details at 11 a.m. ET at a press conference in Washington. This comes as the entire Senate is poised to debate major gun legislation as early as Thursday, with a filibuster threat from GOP senators overcome on Tuesday. [Sun-Times] [Washington Post]
Prognosis: Major hurdles ahead as Senate debates gun measures next week.

Michelle Obama back home
When Mrs. Obama speaks this morning--to a group of some 700 business, civic and community leaders gathered by Emanuel, we'll be listening to see if the ever cautious First Lady speaks out about gun-control. [Lynn Sweet column] [The Hill] [Marin Report]
And Mrs. Obama is not sure about her bangs. [People]

Remembering slain diplomat
Touching service at Fenwick High School in Oak Park for alum Anne Smedinghoff, who died "in the smoking chaos of a car bomb attack in southern Afghanistan." [Sun-Times]

New life for old post office
A stunning high-rise multi-use is proposed to replace the old main Chicago Post Office with the distinctive feature of having part of the building built over the Congress Parkway. [Sun-Times Grid]

Obama $3.77 trillion budget unveiled
President Obama delivers a statement about his proposed budget from the Rose Garden at 10 a.m. [Washington Post]

Early GOP react from Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, out Wednesday morning."Reminder That You Can't Trust the Numbers That the White House Uses in Previews of Their Budget." Obama dines with GOP senators at 6:30 p.m. ET in the Old Family Dining Room. On the menu: dishing up good will.

4 takeaways from senior White House officials budget briefing:

  • *Budget contains last offer Obama earlier put on the table so the GOP should be open to it.

  • *False choice, having to choose between deficit reduction and job creation.

  • *Let's get the era of government by crisis behind us.

  • *If the GOP refuses to put revenues in the deal, there is no deal.

Political business
Emanuel's Deputy Communications Director Kathleen Strand and AllState's Corporate Communications Strategy Manager Bobby Kellman - both Hillary Clinton campaign alums - have set their wedding date. October 5 at the South Shore Cultural Center. Same place Rahm and Amy/Barack and Michelle wed.

...Obama tapped for United State Holocaust Memorial Council: Rabbi Sam Gordon from Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette and Maureen Schulman, Eli's Cheesecake public relations chief.

...Harold Washington's gang is getting together today, heading to the City Council chamber when aldermen take up a resolution proclaiming April 15 "Harold Washington Day." As the late mayor would say, "You want Harold, you got him."

Play it again. Chicago Symphony Orchestra press conference to announce projects for the 2013-14 season. ...Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams at the University of Illinois, Chicago to keynote 4th annual World Health Day symposium. ...UIC also hosting "Top Chef" quarter finalist Beverly Kim, to talk about her experience on the TV show. ..Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. ...Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) guested on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown," hosted by Chuck Todd.

Sports Today
Cubs host Milwaukee, White Sox away game with the Washington Nationals. Keep an eye out for the political fund-raisers....

Mayor Rahm Emanuel jumps on the Chicago leg of brother Ezekiel's book tour on Thursday and Friday to tout the memoir of his older brother--known as Zeke-- "Brothers Emanuel, A memoir of an American Family."

The rundown:

Thursday - Zeke and Rahm interview with CBS (will air at 10pm Thursday evening) ; Zeke has a talk and book signing at Winnetka Community House hosted by the Book Stall

Friday - Zeke and Rahm interview on WGN (live at 7:30am).

Zeke has a talk and book signing at the Union League Club ; Zeke and Rahm interviews with Chicago media

Monday - Zeke will be on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight"

WASHINGTON--Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in an interview on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" rejected the National Rifle Association proposal, announced Tuesday, to arm at least one staffer in each school. The suggestion comes as the NRA is lobbying against a package of measures to reduce gun violence.

Emanuel spoke to Tapper from Chicago.

Highlights from CNN....

- Rahm rejected the recommendation of the NRA on arming school staffers " I think that is not what schools are for and that's not where you want the time and training for principals and teachers. "

- Rahm doesn't regret not spending more time on guns as chief of staff for President Barack Obama: "for people to then kind of look back and said, you know, in the middle of either the financial or the auto scandal, he should have done X, there are choices you make."

- Rahm on Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential prospects: "she has a lot to offer"

Click below for transcript

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel debuts on CNN's new show, "The Lead with Jake Tapper," taping a segment with Tapper from CNN's Chicago bureau. Tapper's show starts at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. Chicago time.

First Lady Michelle Obama comes home on April 10 to address youth violence in her city -- and bolster Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new $50 million fund to help at-risk kids.

I'm told that Mrs. Obama's White House team reached out to Emanuel's City Hall -- asking how she can be helpful -- after she attended the Feb. 9 funeral in Chicago for Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old shot to death Jan. 29 about a mile from the Obamas' Kenwood home.

Out of that call came the idea for Mrs. Obama to headline the first major event for Emanuel's "Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund," launched last month and tasked with raising $50 million over five years to bankroll a variety of programs aimed at reducing youth violence.

That Mrs. Obama is lending her support to the initiative is significant in particular because -- campaigns aside -- she rarely makes public appearances not connected to her signature issues of combating childhood obesity and helping military families. This will also mark the first time that Mrs. Obama is making a visit home to help a Chicago charity.

Mrs. Obama was last in Chicago on Feb. 28 to mark the third anniversary of her signature "Let's Move!" anti-obesity drive with a massive event at McCormick Place.

The Pendleton murder deeply touched Mrs. Obama, who attended Pendleton's funeral with her fellow South Siders, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Mrs. Obama also hosted Hadiya's parents in her box for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. Obama, speaking at the Hyde Park Academy on Feb. 15, in a post-State of the Union swing, highlighted the city's soaring number of shooting deaths. Said Obama: "Last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that's the equivalent of a Newtown every four months."

Leading the fund-raising drive are Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds and Allstate CEO Tom Wilson. Reynolds was an early and major fund-raiser for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Mrs. Obama will speak at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan, at a lunch hosted by Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff. The theme is "Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago."

The audience will include civic, business and philanthropic leaders. Some of the guests will have already donated to the fund; others are potential donors who need more prodding.

To date, according to Emanuel's press office, some $25 million has been raised.

Mrs. Obama will press for more.

Said the White House in announcing her visit, "Mrs. Obama will be urging Chicago's business leaders to invest in expanded opportunities for youth across Chicago's neighborhoods."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

WASHINGTON--The brothers Emanuel--Mayor Rahm, doctor Zeke and agent Ari--sat for a joint interview with NBC's Brian Williams--broadcast Friday night--to publicize Zeke's memoir, "Growing Up Emanuel," about their lives growing up on the North Side of Chicago, Wilmette and beyond.


The segment was taped March 8 in a New York bar--with a Chicago flag as a backdrop. No new facts revealed, interesting still photos of the brothers as kids. Williams said they may be America's "Jewish Kennedys.'"

WASHIINGTON--Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other mayors Wednesday morning on MSNBC;s "Morning Joe" to discuss Bloomberg's innovation competition.

From MSNBC: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, NY; Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia, PA; Mayor Angel Taveras, Providence, RI; Mayor Annise Parker, Houston, TX ; Mayor Pam O'Connor, Fmr. Mayor of Santa Monica, CA; Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago, IL;

WASHINGTON--"President Rahm? Maybe," is the headline over the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza column mulling the pros and cons of a Mayor Rahm Emanuel 2016 White House run. Meanwhile, over at the Drudge Report, a scorching homepage headline "Public Turns on Godfather," pegged to his low ratings in a new Crain's Chicago Business poll.

The Rahm 2016 buzz vaulted to a higher level last week after The Daily Beast reported that Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, "is said by well-connected Democrats to be considering the idea of running for president if Hillary Clinton opts out of the 2016 race."

Emanuel, the story said, "has had discussions both over the phone and face to face in the past month with Democratic Party donors and fundraisers about a possible White House run, according to sources."

Lynn Sweet 5 takeaways on a Rahm presidential bid is HERE.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama returned home Friday and talked in a very personal way about the horrible violence in Chicago -- "the equivalent of a Newtown every four months -- but let's face it, he can't be the cop on the beat.

Figuring what to do in the short term about the soaring murder rate in the city is Mayor Rahm Emanuel's job.

Obama's speech at Hyde Park Academy was all about the big picture: root causes of crime, fatherhood and how investments to revitalize communities to create jobs with a living wage is as much an answer to curbing gun violence in U.S. cities as other measures Obama is prodding Congress to consider.

"There are entire neighborhoods where young people -- they don't see an example somebody succeeding," Obama said. "For a lot of young boys and young men in particular, they don't see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up in respect. And so that means that this is not just a gun issue; it's also an issue of the kinds of communities that we're building," Obama said.

Obama's third and last stop of his post-State of the Union swing was intensely moving: Twice this week, at the school and during the Tuesday State of the Union address, Obama talked about Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old gunned down in a park near the Obama family home on Jan. 29, days after she was in Washington for his inauguration. A week ago, First Lady Michelle was at her funeral.

Obama often uses his biography in his speeches and Friday presented particularly obvious opportunities. Obama talked about his move to Chicago to become a community organizer on the Far South Side where he worked with local people to "help young people who felt like they had nowhere to turn."

Ironically, some decades later, Obama is still grappling with the same problem, now on a massive scale.

The Obama team has labeled portions of his second term economic and education agenda -- the programs to hoist the working poor into the middle class and give disadvantaged kids a running start -- "ladders of opportunity," with the first rung preschool classes for almost everyone.

Each program faces a hurdle in Congress, with Obama bracing for tough negotiations in the weeks ahead over looming spending and budget issues. On the gun front, there appears to be the most bipartisan support -- especially in the Senate -- for closing the background check loopholes, a rather logical extension of existing law.

But I want to get back to the local impact of Obama finally coming home to talk about crime in his adopted hometown. Obama did bring a gift from the Navy -- a multimillion-dollar grant for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education at the Adm. Hyman Rickover Naval Academy, 5900 N. Glenwood.

And for all the fire Emanuel is under for the murders in the city, Obama refused to criticize his former chief of staff in any way -- instead praising him for making priorities of preschool and high school STEM education.

FOOTNOTE: After spending about four hours in Chicago, Obama headed to southern Florida to relax and perhaps play some golf this Presidents Day weekend. Mrs. Obama and their daughters are off skiing this long weekend.

WASHINGTON--Before flying to Chicago today, President Barack Obama met with outgoing Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and will be awarding medals to outstanding U.S. citizens.

After the Napolitano event, according the to the pool report, "as the pool was ushered out, POTUS declined to answer questions about Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel and about the 2016 presidential prospects of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff."

That's a reference to a Daily Beast story about Emanuel and 2016 you can read HERE.

My column on Emanuel and the 2016 White House race is HERE.

WASHINGTON--The day before President Barack Obama visits Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's City Hall was scrambling to throw cold water on a report Emanuel talked to donors about a 2016 White House bid. While it is premature to actually be running, it is not premature to speculate on the 2016 presidential contest.

The Daily Beast reported Thursday afternoon that Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, "is said by well-connected Democrats to be considering the idea of running for president if Hillary Clinton opts out of the 2016 race."

Emanuel, the story said, "has had discussions both over the phone and face to face in the past month with Democratic Party donors and fundraisers about a possible White House run, according to sources."

Five takeaways:

1. Emanuel has always been looking ahead in his political career to seize an opportunity should it present itself.

He jumped in a House race for a North Side Chicago seat as soon as it was clear the spot would be open. Once in Congress, he positioned himself to be in line to be House Speaker. Obama derailed that when he tapped Emanuel for chief of staff. The next big opening was Chicago mayor, and Emanuel grabbed that.

Being a senator or governor could only diminish Emanuel because he would have to depend on cooperating partners in Congress or in the Illinois General Assembly. As mayor with a fairly compliant City Council, Emanuel is in a position to call most every shot when it comes to running the city. The only next step for him is president.

2. Denials at this stage are of limited value. See below for the denial the Emanuel team pushed after the Washington Post reported in 2010 that Emanuel --while chief of staff--was telling people he was interested in City Hall. Months later he was in the race.

3. Emanuel swims constantly in the major donor world. Big money donors like to be wooed by people they see as important. So it doesn't hurt Emanuel for him to be mentioned as a 2016 potential even if in public he shrugs it off.

4. Everything is contingent on Hillary Clinton. Emanuel would not be where he is today without Bill Clinton. He moved from Chicago to Little Rock, Ark. to be a fund-raiser for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and landed in the White House after the win, setting the stage for him to in later years mass a personal fortune and launch a political career.

5. I will let Obama have the last word when it comes to denials. Shortly after being elected a senator from Illinois, the Sun-Times reported that Obama said he was not going to run for president.

And on January 22, 2006, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Obama has this exchange with the late Tim Russert:

Russert: "When we talked back in November of '04, after your election, I said, "There's been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your full six-year term as a United States senator from Illinois?" Obama: "Absolutely."

Obama: "I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things, but my thinking has not changed."

Russert: "But, but--so you will not run for president or vice president in 2008?"

Obama: "I will not."

Now let's take a look at what I reported last night after the Daily Beast story was posted.

"He's not running for president," Emanuel spokesman Sarah Hamilton told me, the same denial that's been issued in the past when Emanuel presidential talk flares up.

Still, to recap: last May, Emanuel signed a note for Sun-Times City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman that said "I, Rahm Emanuel, will not run for another office -- EVER."

Emanuel close friend and top advisor David Axelrod--who is also Obama's top strategist told Spielman Thursday night, "I consider myself pretty close to him,and this would be news to me," said David Axelrod, Emanuel's former White House colleague and friend of 30 years. "Right now his concerns are pretty close to home."

Asked about the constant speculation that Emanuel has his eyes on a presidential run, Axelrod said "That's the kind of buzz that will always be around him."

Emanuel does almost all his fund-raising events in secret and conducted many of his solicitations for Obama's SuperPac last year over the phone. What is at issue here is what Emanuel may have been saying to the donor world--not whether he is "running."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has laughed off every question she's been asked about any 2016 ambitions and that hasn't done anything to douse speculation she may make another White House bid.

In other words, for mega political figures like Clinton and Emanuel--who have vast access to donor networks--one does not run at this stage. One must just exist.

And when it comes to the denial department, Emanuel has a track record that is spotty.

In early 2010, the Washington Post's Sally Quinn reported that "Emanuel is said to have told people that the chief-of-staff role is an 18-month job and that he is considering a run for mayor of Chicago."

Emanuel and his team at the time issued strong denials and did everything they could to shoot down Quinn's story.

Until he started running for mayor.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama hits Chicago on Friday afternoon to highlight the "ladders to opportunity" he talked about in his State of the Union address Tuesday: education and local development programs designed to vault more people into the middle class.

Obama is speaking at the Hyde Park Career Academy, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave, and is also going to address the gun violence that took the life of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton about a mile from his Kenwood home on Jan. 29 -- a murder he spotlighted in his Tuesday speech.

He is expected to be meeting privately with about two dozen youths who are part of the "Becoming A Man" program at the school. Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with the teens who were part of that program last week.

I'm told City Hall is anticipating Obama will highlight the success of five high schools in Chicago specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics--known as STEM programs-- as well as throw a spotlight on early childhood programs Emanuel has championed. The schools are Michele Clark Academic Prep, Corliss, Chicago Vocational, Lake View and Sarah Goode STEM Academy.

The Chicago early childhood programs would be in the mix as national examples because Obama is calling for expansion of pre-school opportunities for every low-and-moderate income child in the nation, much more ambitious then the current Head Start programs serving only the very poor.

On leading more people to the middle class, Obama is proposing increasing of the federal minimum wage to $9-a-hour--up from $7.25--and a boost from the $8.25 rate imposed on Illinois employers.

The last time Obama was in Chicago was in November, to mark his re-election.

Below, from the White House, details from Obama's proposals to make sure "hard work" leads to a "decent living."


There's a basic bargain in America. It says that no matter who you are or where you're from, if you're willing to work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to find a good job, feel secure in your community, and support a family. President Obama has fought for the middle class, and has made historic investments in making sure that there are ladders of opportunity for those working hard to make it to the middle class.

The President's plan builds on the progress we've made over the last four years to expand opportunity for every American and every community willing to do the work to lift themselves up. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges we face. It will take a collaborative effort--between business and federal, state, and local officials; faith-based and non-profit organizations; kids and parents--to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living for every American. The President's plan:

· Rewards hard work by raising the minimum wage to $9.00: Right now, a full-time minimum wage worker makes $14,500 a year. That means too many Americans who are putting in an honest, hard day's work are living in poverty. That's unacceptable. The President's plan raises the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00, which would directly boost wages for 15 million workers and reduce poverty and inequality.

· Provides high-quality preschool for every child: Let's give every child the fair shot he or she deserves. For America to succeed in the 21st century, we must have the most dynamic, educated workforce in the world, and that education has to start early in life. But today, most four-year-olds aren't in a high-quality public preschool program. The President's plan partners with states to expand high-quality preschool to every child.

· Partners with communities to help them rebuild and put people back to work: A child's zip code should never determine her destiny; but today, the neighborhood she grows up in impacts her odds of graduating high school, her health outcomes, and her lifetime economic opportunities. This year, the Administration will begin to partner with 20 communities that were hardest-hit by the recession to help get them back on their feet. Working with local leaders, the President's plan targets resources at creating jobs, public safety, education, and housing.

· Creates pathways to jobs for all Americans: The President's plan offers incentives to companies that hire Americans who've got what it takes to fill a job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. His plan also supports summer and year-round jobs for low-income youth. This is in addition to his plan to equip Americans with the skills they need for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the 21st century.

· Expands early childhood opportunity for all Americans: In addition to providing access to high-quality preschool for every child, the President is proposing to make a significant investment in early learning opportunities for our youngest children--birth through age three--by expanding Early Head Start, child care, and other health and education programs.

· Strengthens families: The President is proposing to remove financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples; as well as continuing to support the critical role that fathers play in enhancing the intellectual, emotional, and financial well-being of their sons and daughters.

The President's Commitment to Ensuring Hard Work Leads to a Decent Living

· Rewarding hard work by raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour: The President believes that no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty. But right now, a full-time minimum wage worker makes $14,500 a year - which leaves too many families struggling to make ends meet, with a family of four supported by a minimum wage worker still living below the poverty line, even counting tax credits for working families. That's why the President is calling on Congress to raise the Federal minimum wage to $9.00 and index it to inflation thereafter. The President is also proposing to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which has not been increased for over twenty years. The erosion in the real value of the minimum wage has been a factor in increasing inequality in recent decades. The President's proposal would address this problem by raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation so that working families can keep up with rising costs.

o Raising the minimum wage mostly benefits adults, and especially working women: Around 60 percent of workers benefiting from a higher minimum wage are women, and few are teenagers - less than 20 percent.

o Raising the minimum wage helps parents: The average worker who would benefit from a rise in the minimum wage to $9 an hour brought home 46 percent of his or her household's total wage and salary income in 2011, according to the Current Population Survey.

o For a working family earning $20,000 - $30,000, the extra $3,500 per year from raising the minimum wage would cover:

§ The family's spending on groceries for a year; or

§ The family's spending on utilities for a year; or

§ The family's spending on gasoline and clothing for a year; or

§ Six months of housing.

· Providing high-quality preschool for every child: For America to succeed in the 21st century, we must have the most dynamic, educated workforce in the world, and that education has to start early in life. Every dollar invested in early learning and development programs saves about $7 down the road in higher earnings that yield more revenue, and lower government spending on social services and crime prevention. The President is presenting a plan to provide access to preschool for every child, while also incentivizing states to expand access to full-day kindergarten.

o The President's proposal will improve quality and expand access to preschool, through a partnership with all 50 states, to extend federal funds to expand high-quality public preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income four-year olds from families at or below 200% of poverty. The U.S. Department of Education will allocate funding to states based on their share of low- and moderate-income four-year olds, and distribute funds to local school districts and other partner providers to implement the program. The proposal would include an incentive for states to broaden participation in their public preschool program for additional middle-class families.

o Funds will support states as they ensure that children are enrolled in high-quality programs. In order to access federal funding, states would be required to meet quality benchmarks that are linked to better outcomes for children, which include:

§ state-level standards for early learning;

§ qualified teachers for all preschool classrooms; and

§ a plan to implement comprehensive data and assessment systems.

o Preschool programs across the states would meet common and consistent standards for quality across all programs, including:

§ well-trained teachers, who are paid comparably to K-12 staff;

§ small class sizes and low adult-to-child ratios;

§ comprehensive health and related services; and

§ effective evaluation and review of programs.

· Partnering with communities to help them rebuild and put people back to work: A child's zip code should never determine her destiny; but today, the neighborhood she grows up in impacts her odds of graduating high school, her health outcomes, and her lifetime economic opportunities. Working with local leadership, the President is proposing to align a number of his signature revitalization initiatives from the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department for Agriculture to ensure that federal programs and resources are focused intensely on 20 communities hardest hit by the recession.

We've seen this approach work in places like San Antonio, TX where Mayor Julian Castro is revitalizing neighborhoods that have been distressed for decades, leveraging significant private investment to focus funding where the need is greatest and the evidence of impact is strongest. In San Antonio, the United Way is working alongside teachers and cops to improve young people's chances at graduating from high school.

The Administration will designate each of these areas as "Promise Zones" through a transparent, competitive process that can bring a number of programs to bear, including:

o Targeted investments can transform high-poverty communities into places of opportunity that can attract private investment, improve education, and create jobs. Such investments may include:

§ Targeting neighborhoods to reduce violent crime by providing Department of Justice funding for local law enforcement and community leaders;

§ Transforming high-poverty neighborhoods by leveraging Department of Housing and Urban Development grants to attract private investment to tear down distressed public housing and build new mixed income homes, while ensuring that low-income residents do not get displaced; and

§ Ensuring students in these communities graduate high school prepared to enter the workforce or are prepared for college by utilizing Department of Education funding to expand early education, after school and summer instructional time, as well as reduce dropout rates.

Promise Zone tax incentives to stimulate growth and investments in targeted communities. These incentives will includes tax credits for hiring workers and tax write-offs for capital investment within the Zone.

o Helping local leaders navigate federal programs, cut red tape, and use federal resources more effectively.

· Creating pathways to jobs: The President's plan helps low-income youth find summer and year-round jobs, teaches our kids the real world skills they need to find a job, and offers incentives to companies that hire the long-term unemployed. These steps are critical to ensuring that our economic recovery reaches all Americans. In his FY2013 budget, the President proposed a Pathways Back to Work Fund to help support job and work-based training opportunities for long term unemployed and low income adults, , and support summer and year-round jobs for low-in­come youth. The fund would build on the successful efforts of the Recovery Act's TANF-ECF program, which helped support job opportunities for 260,000 low-income individuals in 39 States and DC, and the Administration's Summer Jobs+ effort in 2012. The President has shown a commitment to continuing to provide support to unemployed Americans by proposing wide-ranging reforms to the unemployment insurance program, some of which were adopted in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012. Recognizing that the opportunity to acquire the skills to get and keep a good job starts early and through education, the President will also announce:

o Modernizing America's high schools for real-world learning: The President is announcing a new competition to kick-start a redesign of high schools to emphasize real-world learning. The President's plan will invest in redesigning high school to focus on providing challenging, relevant experiences, and reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and that create classes that focus on technology, science, engineering, and other skills today's employers are demanding to fill jobs open now and in the future. In addition, the President is proposing to strengthen and reform our federal investment in career and technical education to better align programs with the needs of employers and with the demands of higher education.

· Expanding early childhood opportunity for all Americans: Today, far too many kids are already behind academically and developmentally by the time they start school, and never truly catch up--compromising our ability to compete in a global economy and sidelining huge pools of untapped talent.

o Starting early childhood education from birth. In addition to providing high-quality preschool for every child, the President's proposal will grow the availability of high-quality early learning programs for young children to ensure that the expansion of preschool services for four-year-olds is part of a cohesive and well-aligned system of early learning for children from birth to age five. This investment will focus on our existing infrastructure of federally-funded programs such as Early Head Start, and the Child Care and Development Fund to expand services and boost their quality.

o Extending and expanding voluntary home visiting: For our youngest at-risk children and parents, the President will also propose a substantial investment to expand voluntary home visiting programs that provide nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to assistance that will improve a child's health, development, and ability to learn. This will help ensure that our most vulnerable Americans are on track from birth, and that later educational investments rest upon a strong foundation.

· Strengthening families: The President will also continue his commitment to support healthy marriages for all families, including removing deterrents for low-income couples to get married and supporting the critical role that fathers play in enhancing the intellectual, emotional, and financial well-being of their sons and daughters. The Administration proposes to allow existing federal programs, like the child support program, to implement models that get more men working and engaging with their children. The Administration also proposes to allow States to test strategies to overcome financial deterrents to forming safe and stable two-parent households and marriage in federal programs.

Building on the Progress We've Made

In addition to the President's comprehensive reform agenda to increase access to high quality education for all Americans, the Administration will build on a strong foundation in these key areas that help create ladders of opportunity.

· Increased access to early childhood education: The Administration's significant investments in Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care funding have increased access to early education for hundreds of thousands of young children. We increased the number of children served in Head Start and Early Head Start by 61,000 and boosted child care funding, while implementing historic reforms to ensure that Head Start children are served only by the best programs. Under the President's leadership, enrollment in Early Head Start in particular has nearly doubled. The Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge has rewarded 14 states that have agreed to raise the bar on the quality of their public and private early childhood education programs, establishing higher standards across programs and providing critical links with health, nutrition, mental health, and family support for our neediest children.

· Supporting strong families and marriage: The Affordable Care Act invests more federal funds in voluntary home visiting services for low-income parents and newborns--providing hundreds of thousands of families with services on maternal and child health, parenting skills, nutrition, child abuse prevention, and parental education and employment. The President fought to extend an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that reduces "marriage penalties" in the tax code for working parents with children. Finally, the President has a long-standing and deeply personal commitment to encouraging both parents to be actively engaged in a child's life, with a particular emphasis on reaching fathers through partnerships and modernizing our federal programs.

· Revitalizing Neighborhoods: Since 2009, the President has invested more than $350 million in more than 100 of the nation's persistent pockets of poverty through two of his signature programs. Fashioned after the Harlem Children's Zone, the Administration has invested in Promise Neighborhoods to support high-poverty communities in building a 'cradle through college' pipeline of educational supports to help young people graduate high school and pursue higher education. Choice Neighborhoods helps transform neighborhoods with distressed public housing and concentrated poverty into opportunity-rich, mixed-income neighborhoods, by aligning investments in improved housing with expansion of high-quality educational opportunities.

· Partnering with local leaders to support distressed cities: In 2011, the White House launched Strong Cities, Strong Communities, a unique partnership between Mayors and the federal government to drive economic growth in chronically distressed cities. Through federal teams on the ground and specialized technical assistance, the pilot is helping seven Mayors implement their economic visions to promote strategic partnerships between government and businesses that create jobs, implement strategic city planning, and use taxpayer dollars more efficiently.

· Providing jobs and skills training for low-income youth and adults: The President's Pathways Back to Work Fund would build upon success in the Recovery Act, which helped place 372,000 low-income youth into summer and year-round employment and supported job opportunities for about 260,000 low-income individuals in 2009 and 2010. The President's Summer Jobs+ Initiative in 2012 also secured commitments from the private sector, non-profits and government at all levels to provide opportunities for low-income and disconnected youth. In total, more than 150 Summer Jobs+ partners committed over 300,000 training and mentorship opportunities, including over 100,000 paid jobs.

o Reforming our Unemployment Insurance System to Help Put People Back to Work: The President has already shown a commitment to continuing to provide support to unemployed Americans and to make our unemployment system more of a back-to-work system. The President proposed, and Congress adopted in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012, wide-ranging reform to the unemployment insurance program that encourage states to adopt work-sharing programs to prevent layoffs, help the unemployed start new businesses, and give states authority to run pilots helping workers on unemployment insurance get on-the-job experience designed to lead to employment.

§ Strengthening economic security for all working Americans through tax relief: As part of the end-of-year fiscal deal, the Obama Administration secured permanent middle-class tax relief, preventing a $2,200 income tax increase this year for the typical family of four. The President fought hard to include extensions of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit improvements that provide critical assistance to 15 million low- and moderate-income working families with children.

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in Washington today, though the trip is not on his public schedule. Emanuel will be meeting with all the members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation at a lunch where the discussion is supposed to center on Illinois and Chicago issues. Emanuel also has a series of other meetings planned, according to City Hall.

WASHINGTON -- When President Barack Obama turns to gun violence during his State of the Union speech Tuesday, he will likely look up at Michelle Obama's box in the House chamber and acknowledge the grieving Chicago parents of slain teen Hadiya Pendleton.

Pendleton's folks, Cleopatra and Nathaniel, through tragedy, are the latest symbols of why Obama is pushing Congress to take measures to stop gun-related bloodshed.

Hadiya, 15, was gunned down Jan. 29 at Harsh Park about a mile from the Kenwood home of the Obama family, a little more than a week after traveling here for Obama's inauguration.

Other members of the Pendleton family are expected to be on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, attending a Senate Judiciary Subcommitee hearing chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin on how Congress can respect Second Amendment rights to bear arms, while at the same time take steps to curb gun violence.

The hearing will feature a Chicago witness, Sandra Wortham, the sister of slain Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham IV, an Iraq War vet shot and killed by a handgun at the age of 30 on May 20, 2010, during a robbery attempt in front of his parents' Chatham home.

The audience will include more than 100 victims of gun violence, including Chicago's Annette Nance-Holt who was at the White House last month when Obama unveiled his comprehensive package of proposals to curb gun violence. Her son, Blair, was 16 and a student at Julian High School in Chicago when he was gunned down by a reputed gang member while on his way home from school in 2007.

Mrs. Obama -- whose daughters are 14 and 11 -- took a very unusual action for a first lady last Saturday, returning home to the South Side for Hadiya's funeral -- someone she did not know but nonetheless felt a deep personal connection toward.

Asking Hadiya's folks to be her State of the Union guests in her box is extraordinary follow-through -- but makes perfect sense, because at her core, Mrs. Obama is very, very proud of being a South Sider, albeit one with a remarkable trajectory. Hadiya was killed on Mrs. Obama's turf and she is doing something about it.

Rep. Bobby Rush -- whose son, Huey, was shot and killed during a 1999 holdup -- was also at Hadiya's funeral and he told me Monday, "I saw the face of the first lady and I saw the pain in her face."

Former President Ronald Reagan started the tradition of inviting everyday citizens or heroes to State of the Union speeches when in 1982 he asked Lenny Skutnik to be his guest in the House gallery after Skutnik rescued a woman from the Potomac River after an Air Florida plane crash.

Presidents, through the guests they invite to the State of the Union, "want to dramatize the human element in the policies they are proposing," Towson University presidential scholar Prof. Martha Joynt Kumar told me.

A major theme of Obama's speech will be boosting the economy, and guests of the president and Mrs. Obama in the gallery will put human faces on his proposals on job creation, immigration, energy and, of course, guns.

Then Obama hits the road to sell his State of the Union plans: Asheville, N.C., on Wednesday, the Atlanta area Thursday and home to Chicago on Friday, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been wrestling with the city's soaring murder rate.

Hadiya, as her parents know --and the nation will see on Tuesday night -- is not a statistic. She is a teen we should not have lost.

RAHM FOOTNOTE: Emanuel is scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday; among his meetings will be a lunch with Illinois members of Congress in the Capitol.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's visit to Chicago on Friday will shine a brighter spotlight on the failure of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Chief Garry McCarthy to curb gun violence in his hometown.

That's the byproduct of Obama coming home days after his wife, Michelle, attended the Saturday funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old South Sider who was gunned down in a park about a mile from the Obamas' Kenwood home on Jan 29.

The Chicago stop is part of Obama's push to promote the second-term priorities he will discuss Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, where he is expected to discuss his gun-related proposals, forged after the Sandy Hook school massacre. Hadiya's mother, Cleopatra Pendleton, is going to be in the House chamber as a guest when Obama delivers that speech, the Pendleton family's spokeswoman, Shatira Wilks, confirmed to me late Sunday.

To Chicagoans, whatever economic messages Obama wants to underscore Friday will take a back seat to anything he says about the slaughters on the streets of Chicago -- 506 murders in 2012, up 16 percent from 2011 -- all happening on Emanuel's watch.

A White House official said on Sunday that Obama will travel to Chicago for "an event amplifying some of the policy proposals included in the State of the Union that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and the Americans striving to get there."

"He'll, of course, also talk about the gun violence that has tragically affected too many families in communities across Chicago and across the country," the official said.

Obama's return home in the wake of another horrific Chicago murder -- of a teen who did everything right, who just a week before her death attended Obama's inauguration in Washington -- well, it also makes the visit undeniably personal for the father of two daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11.

White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett attended Hadiya's funeral with Michelle Obama. She grew up a block north of the Obama family home in Kenwood.

I asked Jarrett on Sunday about their visit home for the funeral. "It's very personal for us," she replied.

"The first lady and I grew up in Chicago and before we moved to D.C., we raised our daughters about a mile from where Hadiya was killed. Chicago still feels like home and our hearts just goes out to the Pendleton family who raised an amazing daughter and we thought it would be important to demonstrate the grief that we're feeling in person.

"It's a reminder at a very personal level about what each of these children mean to us. We may not have known her, but she's feels like a part of our family, too.

"There have been so many tragic deaths around the country and the individual deaths don't receive the attention that the tragedies in Aurora or Newtown receive, but the impact it has on the family involved is just as devastating."

Where Obama will speak in Chicago was not locked-in as of Sunday, but I am told that it will likely be in a school or library in a community affected by gun violence -- which means on the South or West Side.

Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, is still constantly in touch with the White House and presumably could have vetoed the Obama trip. He still has a lot of juice at the White House.

But he did not.

I talked with an Emanuel top strategist on Sunday and from Emanuel's perspective, the plus is the president will make it clear that brutal violence is not unique to Chicago and that Congress needs to pass federal laws cracking down on gun-trafficking while imposing background checks on all gun sales. Those steps are needed to help stem the flow of guns into the city.

But that's hardly a life preserver to throw to Emanuel.

The minus -- and it is a big one -- is that Obama's visit will put a renewed national and maybe even international focus on the epidemic of shootings in Chicago, with innocent victims caught in the cross-fire, and Emanuel's inability to get a handle on the soaring murder rate.

Community activists have been pleading for years for Obama to come home and help.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson told me Sunday, "Chicago is in a state of emergency and I think [Obama] recognizes that."

I asked Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) about the impact of Obama's visit, and he told me the president might be able to make an appeal to the criminals "who are carrying out a small land war in certain neighborhoods of Chicago. This somehow has to end."

And the pressure is on Emanuel to end it.

brothers emanuel cover.jpeg

My post on Ezekiel Emanuel's memoir about growing up in Chicago and Wilmette with his brothers Rahm and Ari is HERE.

Zeke will be on a book tour for his book and hits Chicago on April 5 at the Union League Club, 65 W Jackson Blvd.

WASHINGTON--Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told his staff Tuesday that he was stepping down, staying until his President Barack Obama's replacement is confirmed. LaHood, from Peoria, is a former Illinois lawmaker--who grew close to Mayor Rahm Emanuel when they both served in the House. LaHood was a champion of high-speed rail and led a campaign against Distracted Driving.

Obama, who got to know LaHood when he was an Illinois senator, said in a statement, "I want to thank Secretary LaHood for his dedication, his hard work, and his years of service to the American people - including the outstanding work he's done over the last four years as Secretary of Transportation. I also want to thank Ray for his friendship.

"Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent. And Ray has never wavered in that belief. As Secretary of Transportation, he has fought to create jobs and grow our economy by rebuilding our roads, bridges and transit systems. Under his leadership, we have made significant investments in our passenger rail system and laid the groundwork for the high-speed rail network of the future.

"And every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger. I am grateful to Ray for everything he's done, and I wish him only the best going forward.

Obama tapped another Republican, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to be his Defense Secretary in his second term; his confirmation hearing is Thursday.

One of LaHood's sons, Darin, is a GOP state senator, representing a Central Illinois district.

Below, the e-mail LaHood sent Tuesday morning, announcing his departure:

From: Message From The Secretary (OST)
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 9:36 AM
Subject: Second Term Announcement - Thank You for Four Extraordinary Years

TO: All DOT Employees and Contractors

FROM: Ray LaHood

I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.

As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas. But what I am most proud of is the DOT team. You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better.

Our achievements are significant. We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making. We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.

We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $2.7 billion in TIGER grants to 130 transportation projects across the Nation. We have made unprecedented investments in our nation's ports. And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help States build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.

And to further secure our future, we have taken transportation into the 21st century with CAFE Standards, NextGen, and our investments in passenger and High-Speed Rail. What's more, we have provided the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the funding and leadership it needs to prepare a new generation of midshipmen to meet our country's rapidly-evolving defense and maritime transportation needs.

Closer to home, we also have made great strides. In December, the DOT was recognized as the most improved agency in the entire Federal government in the 2012 "Best Places to Work" rankings published by the Partnership of Public Service. Even more impressive, DOT was ranked 9th out of the 19 largest agencies in the government.

Each of these remarkable accomplishments is a tribute your hard work, creativity, commitment to excellence, and most of all, your dedication to our country. DOT is fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of public servants. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as the selection and confirmation process of the next transportation secretary moves forward. Now is not the time to let up - we still have a number of critical safety goals to accomplish and still more work to do on the implementation of MAP-21.

I've told President Obama, and I've told many of you, that this is the best job I've ever had. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you and I'm confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hit the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Friday and stayed for part of the weekend. City Hall spokesman Sarah Hamilton told me it was a "personal trip with friends" and without wife Amy Rule.

"Just had one of my stranger experiences at ‪@sundancefest: seeing Rahm Emanuel," Jeremy Scahill wrote Friday on his Twitter feed.

Just shook the mighty hand of RAHM EMANUEL," Holly Vandervoorde wrote on her Twitter feed.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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