10 Questions for Rahm Emanuel

The hard-hitting White House chief of staff turned peppy Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has a few fast ideas

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Daniel Shea for TIME

Rahm Emanuel

As mayor of Chicago, you're walking into a stiff wind. The city lost 7% of its population in the past decade. How are you going to turn that around?

It's the fundamentals. We've got to put more police on the street, get kids and guns and drugs off the street, so there's a level of public safety. I've got to strengthen not only K through 12 but our community colleges so we have a trained and educated workforce. We're the first school system that has top-to-bottom—from corporate suite down to the classroom—performance pay. Principals now have performance pay.

Law and order, performance pay for teachers—are you sure you're a Democrat?

I'll take any idea—left, center or right—as long as we're moving forward, not sideways or backward.

In fact, one of your initiatives is to start a Chicago Ideas Week (TIME is a co-partner) with Brad Keywell from Groupon. Where do you get your ideas?

I read four newspapers a day, check online information. I'm an avid book reader. I read outside my lane, and I talk on the phone to people across a spectrum of spaces.

Do those ideas coalesce in one particular space?

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I swim a mile and then bike four immediately after. Wednesdays and Fridays, I bike and do the elliptical and then a weight routine and then yoga. My staff hates this, but this morning in the pool, I was thinking about something, and I had two or three ideas on our budget.

Are you a Speedo or a board-shorts kind of guy?

Because I bike afterward, there's a ... it comes down to just above the knee.

Do you have more power as a mayor than you did as chief of staff at the White House?

I don't measure by whether I have more power. I measure by if I have more impact on people's lives. And I'll tell you this: 13 schools now are going to have a longer school day. Nothing I've ever done in my life is going to have as much impact as making sure those kids have a fresh start.

Do you at least get more sleep in your current job?

I always wake up in the middle of the night, but it's nice to wake up with an idea rather than the fear of a phone call.

TIME just did a cover story on parental favoritism. Was there a favorite in the Emanuel family?

I used to say to my mother, "You love Zeke more than you love me." She said, "No, I hate you all equally."

A new book says the Obama Administration has done that thing you said you should never do, which is to let the economic crisis go to waste ...

First of all, remember what my quote is: "Never allow a good crisis to go to waste—because it's the opportunity to do the big things you've avoided ..."

... like reforming Wall Street?

Now wait a second. Let's go through it. The stress tests forced the banks to finally raise their private capital. That was seizing the moment of that crisis to fix something. Now, there's a lot of warts in it. Turn the page. Look at Europe today. They had a financial problem two years ago. They put it under the rug, and now we are all dealing with that.

Do you miss Oprah?

I do miss Oprah. She's an important part of the city's economy. But hopefully other people are going to step up.