On April 4th, we will learn who the new mayor of Chicago will be. Lori Lightfoot will be a bad memory. I do not envy whoever wins the election, Vallas or Johnson.
Lori Lightfoot left no legacy except the major mess she leaves behind. They are inheriting a mess that will take a long time to clean up. Public safety is on the ballot. But there are other issues that are just as important. City finances, pensions, public education, property taxes, crumbling infrastructure, and a host of other issues are plaguing the city. Lightfoot neglected many.
The mayor neglected the downtown, Michigan Avenue, and Near North business communities. Too many storefronts are shuttered. That is not only a loss of revenue for the businesses but also a loss of tax revenue for the city. She was more concerned with bread and circuses like Lollapalooza, other concerts, and NASCAR. We are stuck with Lollapalooza for years because of the long-term contract she signed.
The new mayor must deal with the city council. Lightfoot, from day one, had a rocky relationship with the council. She angered many of the alderpersons throughout her tenure. Her promise of reform was broken. The Chicago Way is still alive and kicking, not quite on life support, as many believe.
Lightfoot forgot how important the alderpersons are in their wards. They are the de facto mayors of each ward. People look to the aldermen to solve day-to-day issues. I do not agree with my alderman on many of his positions. But he takes care of the ward’s day-to-day problems. He walks to and from many places throughout the ward. When he sees a problem, he gets on the phone to solve it. The same holds true for the alderman in the adjoining ward.
Lightfoot hunkered down on the fifth floor of City Hall and forgot there are 50 wards with 50 alderpersons. She never learned how to make friends and influence people. Everyone I know who supported her and voted for her the last time is disappointed. Many are furious.
Lightfoot brooked no criticism. She lashed out at critics instead of looking for solutions to problems. Public safety is a perfect example. She refused to fire the totally inept and incompetent former Superintendent of Police David Brown. She dug her heels in while crime was rampant in every neighborhood in Chicago. When riots, arson, and mass looting broke out during the George Floyd protests, she almost let parts of the city almost to be destroyed.
She backed down from criticizing State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for her horrid and legally questionable prosecutorial actions. She endorsed Foxx’s reelection because of the intercession of Chicago Machine Boss, Toni Preckwinkle. It was the act of a coward.
Perception is the new reality. If people perceive the city as not safe, the city is not safe. Lightfoot never understood that. Armed robberies, carjackings, and other violent crimes are a daily occurrence in every neighborhood in Chicago. Crime prevention and control are almost non-existent. The Chicago Police Department is short-staffed. They cannot hire enough new police officers. Priority calls response times are too slow.
Whether Vallas or Johnson steps into the fifth floor of City Hall, they will face too many major issues. None can be solved quickly. One could even say they are set up to fail. There will be no easy or quick solutions. They will need to work with the City Council and the governor. I will wish them well, but I am prepared to be disappointed.