In January, President Donald Trump took to Twitter and threatened to “send in the feds” to Chicago over the city’s crime numbers (the statistics he cited differed from those released by Chicago Police). Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking the president to task for his lack of federal support — towards the city’s infrastructure.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, he writes:
Rather than tweeting about violence in Chicago, President Trump should be looking to Chicago as a model for the infrastructure investments and economic growth he wants to replicate across the country. Instead of embarking on his wrongheaded plan to privatize infrastructure construction, he should expand existing programs that have used local-federal partnerships to build transportation systems.
That pointed critique follows a rather biting appraisal of the windy city’s transportation network, help up against the train systems in New York and Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, in the wake of a subway derailment and an epidemic of train delays, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York declared a state of emergency for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the busiest mass transit system in America. That same day, the nation’s third-busiest system — the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — handed out coupons for free coffee to riders stuck in the second year of slowdowns caused by repairs to prevent chronic fires.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, a recent survey found that 85 percent of passengers are satisfied with service on our transit system, the nation’s second most used.
As the Washington Post’s Martine Powers wrote in response: “Well, la-di-da, Mr. Mayor.” She wasn’t the only one to take issue with Emanuel’s tone (which she also called a “brag fest” and a “holier-than-thou summary of failings” at the Washington Metro and New York MTA) — it’s since been labeled as gloating, mockery and an example of tone-deaf politicking.
Still, the mayor makes some salient points about maintenance versus expansion, which Next City has covered at length.
We focused relentlessly on modernizing tracks, signals, switches, stations and cars before extending lines to new destinations. Unlike New York, which has spent billions to reach Hudson Yards, or Washington, which has concentrated on trying to reach Dulles Airport (both laudable projects), Chicago has improved the existing system.
He also calls on Washington to increase to 25 percent the portion of the Highway Trust Fund that supports mass transit and raise the gas tax by 10 cents.
Emanuel’s critiques of Trump are nothing new. After he responded to the President’s “send in the feds” tweet (a spokesperson for his administration said Trump could start with gun control efforts), Emanuel posted deleted climate data from federal websites on the city’s domain.
“The Trump administration can attempt to erase decades of work from scientists and federal employees on the reality of climate change, but burying your head in the sand doesn’t erase the problem,” he said in a statement.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.