Lori Lightfoot has a question for most of her fellow Chicago mayoral candidates: Where were you?
“All the big names jumped into the race once Rahm Emanuel said he would not run again,” said Lightfoot, who announced her candidacy when Emanuel was still in the race. “They either thought everything was fine or they do not have the political courage to challenge him and can’t offer change.
“People should be skeptical of the newcomers, who got in after the fact. They all represent the same-old, same-old, the machine-style politics that got us into this mess.”
Lightfoot served as chair of the Police Accountability Task Force, creating the organizational structure and staffing, and helped facilitate the financing for the independent panel and related entities. She also has served as president of the Chicago Police Board, a nine-member civilian body charged with deciding disciplinary matters involving allegations of police misconduct.
She said in the midst of the rising violence gripping the city there is a degradation of the relationship between police and the communities they serve.
“There is a huge disparity in the way the city government has invested in individuals and families,” Lightfoot said. “There is no real plan to address that disparity. I got into the race because of that disparity, because of the communities left behind.”
Without a plan to assist struggling areas in the city, Lightfoot said, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will continue to grow and the city will continue to lose population.
Lightfoot said she would treat the violence in the city as an epidemic and would work to bring economic development to troubled areas of Chicago.
“The most violent areas in the city are the most economically distressed area,” the candidate said. “Where there is no hope, there is no attachment. That is when the illegal drug trade becomes the largest employer. Unless we deal with the root causes, most of the problems will continue. We are not getting at the fundamental problem. We have to have a proactive plan to deal with the violence.”
She said tackling the city’s violence will have to be a multi-prong approach.
“We have got to have federal partners step up with (Chicago Public Schools), Cook County state’s attorneys, Illinois State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,” Lightfoot said. “Every jurisdiction in every state needs to work together to stop the flow of illegal guns. The state has to be more aggressive in its prosecutions.”
The former assistant U.S. attorney said we need to educate children about the realities of gun violence and the consequences of picking up a gun to settle a dispute.
“We need to promote social-emotional learning. We need to teach kids alternative ways to deal with disputes,” Lightfoot said. “We need to bring them face to face with victims of violence. They have to know this is not some video game or movie.”
She said that people can have faith in her leadership, noting that the breadth of her work includes working in the city’s Procurement Department, being a senior leader in the Police Department and being a senior equity partner in the Litigation and Conflict Resolution Group at Mayer Brown LLP.
“Nobody in the race has the depth of experience I do. I have been in key departments of the city. I have been in private practice advising CEOs of Fortune 100 companies how to solve specific problems. I know how to attract business to Chicago.”
Lightfoot said the city is not nearly as transparent as it should be about its financial situation. She said the next mayor will not take office until the city is halfway through its budget cycle for the year.
“We will be far better fiduciarily with the taxpayers’ dollars,” she said of her administration. “We will not treat the public like an unlimited ATM machine.”
She said steps have to be taken to bring the Chicago Police Department in line so that lawsuits are avoided.
“It has been an absolute waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” she said of police lawsuit settlements. “We have spent a half-billion dollars in settlements over the last seven years.”
She said she is the one in the race who will make the tough decisions to get the city’s fiscal house in order.
“I know people in the city know the right thing to do,” Lightfoot said. “People can look at the choices and see I am the only one who represents an independent view, a break from the past. There are tough challenges, but we can be one Chicago. We just need to find commonality. I am the candidate to bring us together.”