CHICAGO — Rahm Emanuel was sworn in yesterday as Chicago’s first new mayor in two decades, a historic power shift for a city where the retiring Richard M. Daley was the only leader a whole generation had known.
The former White House chief of staff took the oath of office at Millennium Park downtown, one of the signature accomplishments in Daley’s efforts to transform Chicago from an industrial hub into a gleaming global tourist destination. Emanuel headed later to the fifth-floor City Hall office that was Daley’s lair for 22 years.
“We must face the truth,’’ Emanuel said in his inaugural speech. “It is time to take on the challenges that threaten the very future of our city: the quality of our schools, the safety of our streets, the cost and effectiveness of city government, and the urgent need to create the jobs of the future.
“The decisions we make in the next two or three years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next 20 or 30.’’
Emanuel inherits a city with big financial problems. His transition team predicted a $700 million budget shortfall next year, but because of some controversial decisions by Daley — most notably the push to privatize parking meters — he has a limited number of ways to pay for school improvements or repair the city’s aging infrastructure.
In his speech, Emanuel walked a fine line, bluntly assessing the city’s problems without being directly critical of the departing mayor. He also showed that he would not be shy about wading into national politics, referring to efforts in other Midwestern states to eliminate union rights for many public employees as part of budget cuts.
“I reject how leaders in Wisconsin and Ohio are exploiting their fiscal crisis to achieve a political goal. That course is not the right course for Chicago’s future,’’ he said.
Emanuel represented Chicago in Congress before he went to Washington to become Obama’s senior aide.
In a mark of Emanuel’s continuing ties with Washington, Vice President Joe Biden attended the inauguration, as did Obama’s current chief of staff, William Daley; Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner, and two other Cabinet secretaries.
At a White House ceremony, Obama honored the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team for winning the 2011 NCAA national championship title. Connecticut defeated Butler University, 53-41, to capture the national title last month.
Obama congratulated the team and coach but called the day bittersweet since it reminded him once again that his “bracket was a bust,’’ a reference to his predictions for the NCAA tournament. Obama said that he did not pick Connecticut to win the national title.
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, a native of Braintree, Mass., made a few remarks and said the team was a lot like Obama, the underdog.
“But you know what? Yes we can,’’ Calhoun said, stealing Obama’s campaign slogan as the president grinned.
The team presented Obama with a Huskies jersey bearing the number 1.
Gingrich, the top Republican in the House during the 1990s, is mounting a presidential campaign on the premise that he is a policy heavyweight who can lead a fractured GOP field. His speech to Alzheimer’s advocates meeting in the capital largely eschewed politics but made clear his hopes to run as an idea man.
“I want to know, not what we can afford in the federal budget, I want to know what [researchers] can do if they have the resources they need to accelerate the breakthroughs to save lives and to save money,’’ Gingrich said. “We are grotesquely underfunded.’’
Gingrich, a former Georgia lawmaker, proposed selling US bonds to raise money for Alzheimer’s research, which would take federal research dollars out of the political competition for a share of the federal budget.
Gingrich cited figures from an Alzheimer’s Association study — conducted by a subsidiary of insurer United HealthCare — that projected the total cost to the US economy of the disease at $20 trillion through 2050.
Another study projected that Medicare and Medicaid spending to care for those with Alzheimer’s would reach $800 billion annually, adjusted for inflation, by midcentury. Current spending is $130 billion annually.
Gingrich pitched the spending — with a bottom line undefined — as a way to shave the budget. He said that scientific research should be above politics.
“Alzheimer’s should be a totally nonpartisan issue because Alzheimer’s doesn’t respect Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t respect liberal or conservative,’’ Gingrich said. “Alzheimer’s affects everybody at every part of American life.’’