Mayor Rahm Emanuel has opened the door to his City Hall office for a steady stream of investment bankers, venture capitalists and international consultants in his intense search for private solutions to some of Chicago's biggest public problems.
From January through August, Emanuel entertained dozens of executives and experts who make money by working with governments on everything from subsidizing city jails to reinvesting public pension funds in search of better returns, according to a Tribune examination of the mayor's calendar for the first eight months of 2012.
At the center of that effort is a key private adviser — Michael Sacks, the CEO of a Chicago hedge fund firm and a prolific campaign fundraiser for Emanuel.
Soon after taking office in May 2011, the mayor put Sacks in charge of World Business Chicago, the city's de facto economic development agency, naming him vice chairman. Sacks has met with Emanuel more than two dozen times this year, according to the schedule, on everything from pension reform to the sites of sporting arenas.
During that same period, marked by an escalation of street violence and a looming teachers strike, Emanuel's schedule shows he met with Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy 19 times and held nine meetings with Jean-Claude Brizard, then the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Brizard resigned last month under pressure from the mayor.
Emanuel, who is well-known for burnishing his image around the country, also scheduled no fewer than three dozen media interviews with national and international outlets, talking to reporters not just from Chicago but also from London and Paris, New York City and Washington.
Emanuel's schedule offers an imperfect view into the decision-making of the mayor, whose style is to announce major initiatives as if they are foregone conclusions rather than risk developing a plan in the full glare of a public debate.
The calendars are not provided in real time — on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, for instance. They are only provided for past months, in response to public information requests. And they do not detail every event Emanuel attends, including his political fundraisers, instead relying on nonspecific language such as lunch "with a friend" or "evening event."
The mayor is also well-known for, and readily acknowledges, doing much of his work over the phone. But the mayor's office has repeatedly declined Tribune requests for his phone records, saying he does not use a city-issued phone for public business. When the mayor later acknowledged having a cellphone he uses to regularly talk to top city leaders, his administration then denied the records on the grounds that he uses a private phone.
Emanuel's predecessor, Richard Daley, would not provide phone records or his official calendar.
Kathleen Strand, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, said the public sees only a partial picture of Emanuel at work.
"Mayor Emanuel's schedule is a document that exists in real time and does not necessarily reflect his every move but is rather a guide for the expectations of his daily appointments," Strand said. "It's not possible to reflect his every move and every person he sees, meets and talks with.
"For example, it doesn't reflect conversations at events with commissioners and community leaders or his near-daily calls with department commissioners, the police superintendent, the school CEO, etc."
But even so, the calendars — compiled by the mayor's press staff — are one of the few public sources of information on what Emanuel does day in and day out as mayor of the nation's third-largest city.
Infrastructure and pensions
Two of the mayor's key financial objectives are dealing with overwhelming pension costs for public employees and finding a way to pay for public works projects without taxpayers feeling the pain. One of his top advisers, Lois Scott, headed a financial consulting firm that represented companies entering government privatization deals. And since taking office, Emanuel has had many meetings with experts who are offering solutions to such problems for other governments.
Months before he announced plans that Scott helped formulate for an "infrastructure trust" — a quasi-public panel designed to help Emanuel lure private investment for building everything from streets to schools — the mayor held a series of meetings with experts in the field.
One of the first people Emanuel was scheduled to meet with this year was Glenn Tilton, a financial heavyweight in the Emanuel network where government and private interests come together.
Emanuel has open door for corporate execs, record shows
Mayor's calendar shows plenty of meetings with investment bankers, venture capitalists and international consultants
Chicago Tribune reporters Jeff Coen and John Chase discuss the Tribune's examination of the mayor¿s calendar for the first eight months of 2012. (Posted: Nov 15, 2012)
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