By Dave McKinney
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner expressed disappointment Monday in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County’s top prosecutor for their handling of police-involved shootings and embraced pending state legislation to allow Chicago residents to recall future mayors.
Rauner also vowed to block funding for Chicago’s severely cash-strapped public schools, which have warned of massive layoffs in the months ahead without a state rescue, unless Emanuel’s administration backs the Republican governor’s efforts to pass business-friendly legislation making it harder for injured workers to collect damages and to weaken public-sector labor unions.
Rauner’s aggressive stance toward Emanuel added to the mounting public criticism against the mayor and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for their response to the 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, an African-American, by white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who has been charged with murder.
While immersed in a tight re-election battle earlier this year, Emanuel fought unsuccessfully to block the release of a police dash-cam video that showed Van Dyke as he fired his weapon at McDonald 16 times while the teen, armed with a pocket knife, walked away from police. Alvarez waited nearly 400 days to charge Van Dyke with murder.
Resulting protests have roiled the nation’s third-largest city with calls for both Emanuel and Alvarez, who is running for re-election this year, to step down as the U.S. Justice Department conducts a civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department.
“I’m very disappointed in the mayor and in the state’s attorney for Cook County,” Rauner told reporters after being asked to assess Emanuel’s job performance. “I’m not going to say more than that right now.”
Emanuel’s office delivered a measured response to the governor’s criticism.
“The mayor’s focus is not on his own personal politics,” mayoral spokesman Adam Collins said. “His focus is on taking the action necessary to finally and fully address an issue that has challenged Chicago for decades and reform the system and culture of policing in Chicago.”
A spokeswoman for Alvarez’s office said she did not know why the governor was disappointed, noting the office enlisted the help of the FBI and charged the officer with murder.
Rauner also lent his support to a push in the Illinois statehouse to allow Chicago voters to recall their mayor, a step that has gained bipartisan traction in the Illinois House of Representatives but faces opposition from the leading Democrat in the state Senate, Senate President John Cullerton, an ally of the mayor’s.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)