The former federal prosecutor, Police Board president and head of the Police Accountability Task Force formed in the wake of the release of the Laquan McDonald video expected to be facing off against the man who twice appointed her to office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
A former partner in the law firm of Mayer Brown, Lightfoot said she decided to run after concluded she was uniquely equipped to take Emanuel on. She would also make history in the meantime as Chicago’s first black, female LGBTQ mayoral candidate.
Little did anyone know Emanuel would drop out, opening up the race to roughly a dozen more candidates.
The race zigged with the attempted extortion charge against Ald. Ed Burke (14), zagged with the news that Ald. Danny Solis (25) had wired up after his own federal troubles, and only became more complicated with each new revelation of each frontrunner’s history with what Burke and Solis represented of the “broken Chicago machine,” as Lightfoot put it in her first television ad.
Despite the extremely crowded field, Lightfoot’s comparatively poor showing in the polls, Bill Daley and Gery Chico’s millions, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s robust union support, and Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s ability to command the race’s spotlight, Lightfoot said she will benefit from the ethics scandal, even as the winds of change continue to blow.
“Frankly, I think it positions me well as a former prosecutor, as somebody who has convicted a corrupt alderman, and frankly as someone who has been talking about the necessity of good government for a long time, way before the recent events. We put out our good government proposal back in August. We’ve been talking about those issues for a while,” she said on The Daily Line’s Aldercast.
Five takeaways from her interview:
Proposed cuts: Infrastructure Trust, Clerk, Treasurer – Lightfoot estimates she could save $15 million to $30 million by consolidating the administrative functions and investment advisors for the city’s pension funds. She also proposed eliminating the offices of the clerk and treasurer. Their work can be handled by other agencies.
Both are “a relic of the Mayor Richard J. Daley era to give blacks and Latinos a citywide office so they wouldn’t dare challenge him for mayor,” Lightfoot said.
She also proposed combining the city and county’s election boards and infrastructure and would bust the Chicago Infrastructure Trust.
Emanuel’s push to fast track the new police and fire academy — set to be considered by the Plan Commission this month — was “a rush job to get a win for the Chicago Infrastructure Trust.
“I don’t think it’s served any purpose whatsoever,” she said of the trust.
Police contract priorities — Lightfoot has been a frequent critic of the current Fraternal Order of Police leadership, including its resistance to the consent decree reforms. Many reforms must still be negotiated as part the police union’s next contract.
“I don’t worry about my standing with rank and file, because I know a lot of rank and file officers,” Lightfoot said when asked if she feared she’d start at a disadvantage in negotiations.
“I think that they recognize that what I’ve been fighting for is to make a better and stronger police department and not to vilify them… I do not believe that the FOP leadership is truly representative of the rank and file officers, and frankly, particularly officers of color,” Lightfoot said. “I just don’t think that they speak for them.”
Lightfoot said she would demand a provision in the contract to preserve disciplinary files in order to hold officers repeatedly involved in misconduct accountable and to help officers “who have lost their way” get back on track, Lightfoot said, adding that she would also allow anonymous misconduct complaints and expand the ability of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the public safety inspector general to track officers and units to identify patterns of misconduct.
Take the Department of Housing and run with it — Affordable housing development should move from the Department of Planning and Development to the mayor’s new proposed Housing Department, Lightfoot said.
“I’ve heard this from very frustrated community development organizations, that the city doesn’t lead, the city’s not involved in deals on the front end, they don’t have the perspective of how do we get to yes,” Lightfoot said. “There’s so much bureaucracy and red tape that it’s very discouraging for these community based developers to be able to get something done.”
The city’s current Affordable Housing Requirements Ordinance is “not working,” Lightfoot said, adding that the city should require a higher percentage of on-site units and force developers to build off-site units closer to the new development site.
Part of the problem is the unspoken dominance of aldermanic prerogative, Lightfoot said.
“We’re down 120,000 units, which is probably a conservative number… you can’t get there when you’ve got 50 different bosses making 50 different decisions,” Lightfoot said, adding that she will issue an executive order to tell department heads and licensing bodies “this thing doesn’t exist anymore” and take away alderman’s unilateral veto power.
How Chicago was different from what she expected — A small town Massillon, Ohio, native, Lightfoot said she moved to attend the University of Chicago law school because the city was always “this kind of mystical place in my mind, having grown up looking at Ebony and Jet magazine and seeing a life for black folks that was very very different than my own. I grew up in a working class family, we struggled a lot financially, but I’d see unfolded in these magazines is people living what seemed like a glamorous life, so it felt like a place there was opportunity.”
Chicago was not what she expected, Lightfoot said.
There is “definitely greatness to the city, without question, but there are a lot of challenges… levels of poverty that shouldn’t exist anywhere, but certainly shouldn’t exist in a city like this that has so many resources, so much wealth. It’s been very very interesting for me to explore the city from a different perspective,” Lightfoot said.
There were problems during the Daley years, but Emanuel made them worse — During Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, Lightfoot spent time at the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards, Office of Emergency Management and Communications and the Department of Procurement Services during major crises, including the Hired Truck scandal.
“I remember once, being in a meeting with Rich Daley where I said ‘Look, [former U.S. Attorney] Pat Fitzgerald is going to announce an indictment of somebody whose a city employee, you ought to be standing right there with him. You ought to be sending a very clear, unequivocal message that you’re not going to tolerate misconduct, and certainly not any that tips over into criminal conduct.’ He looked at me like I was absolutely crazy, and everybody in the room was like, running for cover because it’s no secret that he had an incredibly explosive temper. But that told me a lot about him and the time.”
Lightfoot said she left the administration after receiving calls about complaining “sacred cow” donors while she was at Procurement Services. Mayor Rahm Emanuel exacerbated the city’s “give to get” culture by allowing “people like [Ald. Ed] Burke, like Danny Solis, and others, to amass even more power than they had before,” she said.