Rahm Emanuel’s current role as Chicago mayor may be more narrowly focused than his previous job as President Obama’s chief of staff, but one thing has held constant: his detail-oriented management style.
At a Washington forum on Friday hosted by Center for American Progress Action Fund, Emanuel briefed the audience of lawmakers and transportation experts on the ambitious $7 billion city infrastructure plan he introduced earlier this year and eagerly rattled off a slew of numbers to illustrate the program's importance. He noted that Chicago pays $220 per ton of garbage collected, fixes an average 3,900 pipe busts each year, and is carrying out a $220 million project to make its facilities more energy-efficient.
He also described his hands-on, sometimes brusque, involvement with daily operations in the city's departments. Last spring, he corrected a water department official who wrote in a weekly report that the city was nearing its target for miles of pipe replaced this year. "The water department guy wrote, ‘We are on track to get 69 miles,’” Emanuel said. “So I wrote on the side of the weekly, ‘69 is not 70—remember your goal.’ ”
It's a practice that extends to Emanuel's White House days.
A 2009 New York Times profile recalled how Emanuel routinely carried a notecard in his pocket with a list of things he hoped to accomplish and marked them off "obsessively." The article also said he required Cabinet secretaries and all West Wing departments to write weekly reports and would often return them with "terse notes in the margins."
At the Center for American Progress event, Emanuel described taking out his frustrations on an aide when state and federal reviews threatened to slow progress on a new city facility. When the worker, named Gabe, explained that an environmental study alone would take a year, Emanuel was indignant. “ 'Well, there’s nothing there, there’s nothing environmental to study!' ” he recalled telling the aide, his voice rising. “Poor Gabe, man,” he said to laughter in the room.