Mayor Lori Lightfoot says Chicago’s long-standing problems with racism and economic disparity can only be fixed by an administration committed to reversing decades of bad policy.
That was the main theme of Lightfoot’s speech to the City Club of Chicago Tuesday afternoon, as she talked about her weekend tour across the city.
Her speech followed what has become the start of the summer violence season: Memorial Day Weekend. In Chicago, 43 people were shot, 5 killed, Lightfoot said.
“I was struck this weekend traveling across the South and West sides, how desolate so many of these neighborhoods felt for block and blocks,” Lightfoot said to the luncheon crowd. “In other neighborhoods, the energy was absolutely electric.”
She compared North Avenue Beach, with its large crowds, to Rainbow Beach, the site of the city’s 1919 race riots, where it was “virtually empty,” she said.
“Now there are probably many reasons for this, but one is surely that people don’t feel safe enjoying what our city has to offer,” she added, saying she couldn’t help but think of the beach’s notoriety in the city’s racially charged history.
Lightfoot said those legacies “lie at the root of every challenge” her administration faces.
Other issues Lightfoot highlighted as priorities for her first 100 days in office:
Economic investment and aldermanic prerogative: Lightfoot said that systematic disinvestment on the city’s South and West Sides are “as old as the machine” in Chicago. She said doing away with a aldermanic prerogative is the first step in addressing City Hall’s fragmented urban planning process. She said aldermen should no longer be the deciding factor for who gets city business.
Passing community-driven police reform: Lightfoot, a longtime supporter of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, said the City Council must make good on reforms that were promised but never completed by her predecessor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. On Tuesday, she reiterated her commitment to pass the GAPA ordinance, which creates a civilian board to oversee the Chicago Police Department and the agencies that handle misconduct.
Supporting fair scheduling, worker protections: Lightfoot said she will ask the City Council to pass the so-called fair workweek ordinance. That would require employers with hourly workers to give employee advance notice of their schedules. Lightfoot said it’s that critical women and low-wage workers “have the ability to organize their lives around work.”
Going after Uber and Lyft: Lightfoot told reporters that there needs to be more parity between ride-hailing companies and traditional taxis, and that something needs to be done about all the congestion caused by new drivers for Uber and Lyft. Pending legislation in Springfield seeks to use an increase in Uber and Lyft fees to pay for an expansion of McCormick Place. Lightfoot said Chicago needs to remain competitive in the convention center business. She said regardless of how that legislation pans out, “There will be changes [to ride-hailing] citywide, absolutely.”
Claudia Morell covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @claudiamorell.