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Is Mayor Emanuel Courting The African-American Base Once More?

By Jon Graef in News on Mar 29, 2014 7:45PM

(Image via City of Chicago video screengrab.)

A new poll suggests Mayor Rahm Emanuel's standing amongst African-Americans is improving, if only because it had nowhere to go but up.

"Emanuel’s favorable ratings among younger African-Americans and African-Americans without a college degree" have both increased, according to the Illinois Observer, who cited a poll leaked to the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet.

Here's what Sweet said:

A poll taken recently in one diverse Chicago state House district finds that Mayor Rahm Emanuel made gains among African American voters — most markedly those between the ages of 18 and 64 and those who did not attend college — which suggests that conventional wisdom narratives floating around about Emanuel in trouble with African Americans across the board in the city may need some retooling.

The poll, conducted in state Rep. Christian Mitchell's district, which Sweet notes, "stretches from near Old Town on the North Side to Hyde Park on the south," shows Emanuel with a 55 percent favorability rating of African Americans aged 18-64 in March, up from 42 percent in December.

Emanuel's favorability amongst non-college educated Africa Americans rose from 48 percent to 60 percent in the same three month time period.

In a story otherwise related to Mayor Emanuel's press conference Friday about a jobs program for ex-offenders, the Illinois Observer pointed to both the poll, as well as what the Emanuel administration claims are increased investments in a variety of city jobs programs for the formerly incarcerated, as evidence that the mayor's making an effort to be seen more favorably by African-Americans.

Why would he want to do that?

Well, at the risk of repeating ourselves, let's just say this is a pretty good representation of current opinion of the mayor.

But back to the jobs program for a second. "The City is making significant investments in programs that serve formerly incarcerated individuals, providing critical jobs, training, and support to nearly 2,200 individuals, more than doubling the 900 served in 2011," a press release from the mayor's office said.

The city will reportedly do so by adding "two re-entry centers and triple the number individuals served, reaching 900 formerly incarcerated individuals through four re-entry centers."

Further, as the Observer notes:

Emanuel also announced on Friday that the Chicago Housing Authority will launch a pilot family reunification program in partnership with reentry providers that will allow 50 formerly incarcerated individuals to move back into CHA housing over the next three years.

This pilot program will connect rehabilitated formerly incarcerated individuals who are stable and on a path to self-sufficiency to move in with their family members in Public Housing.

All of that sounds well and good. But is it too little, too late? The Observer points to the poll, released Wednesday, as evidence "fits ideally into the mayor’s political strategy to regain the confidence of a vital part of his base."

One poll from one district does not a trend make. If the mayor wants these programs to succeed, great. More power to him. But Emanuel is just doing this to save face come voting time...well, something tells us he may have another thing coming.

As the video in the middle of this post proves, communities rarely forget.