Monday, May 20, 2019

How much of a change-agent can Lori Lightfoot really represent for Chicago?

Come Monday, Lori Lightfoot will take the oath of office essentially promising to uphold the constitutions of the United States and Illinois while overseeing the municipal structure of the city of Chicago.
Chicago's new 'first' family, Lightfoot, wife Amy and daughter Vivian. Photo by Lightfoot for Chicago
It is one that she has engaged in quite a bit of rhetoric implying she plans to revamp everything about the city. I also don’t doubt one bit that many of the people who voted to give Lightfoot three-quarters of the vote in last month’s election have visions of sugar plums dancing about in their heads.

ALMOST AS THOUGH the coming of Lightfoot is a Christmas holiday present for Chicagoans, along with residents of any other community whose operations are impacted by the Second City – only St. Nicholas’ visit has come along with the May flowers.

But I’ll have to admit that whenever I read the reports about how Lightfoot is going to come in and make significant change and is prepared to push around anyone who tries standing in the way of her vision – well, I’m skeptical.

Mostly because I can see all those political people of experience and influence who aren’t about to let their own amount of control be reduced by some woman who’s never held a day of electoral office before in her life.
Same kind of rhetoric once was used  … 

But then again, I also have been skeptical of the whole image that has been peddled about Lightfoot, the candidate. I actually think many of her backers have created an image of Lori that bears no reality as to who she really is.

THE LIGHTFOOT I saw during the campaign cycle (I never really paid much attention to her prior to this year’s elections, as did most Chicagoans, I suspect) had her experience with the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago – along with a corporate law firm and that stint she did with the Chicago Police Board.

She may well be a prosecutorial-type who viewed city government from the perspective of trying to figure out who needs to be taken down a notch or two – and who now thinks she has the authority to do just that.

But we may well find out that the daily operations of the city may be beyond her grasp. As though she has a learning curve to go through before she can truly get a grasp on the city’s operations and trying to figure out which of its problems she can actually have influence over.
… to describe Jane Byrne's 1979 mayoral victory

Otherwise, she could find herself bogged down in the morass of the city structure. Which would result in Lightfoot finding herself four years from now having achieved nothing of lasting significance.

SHE COULD BE the woman who made it through her term as mayor having been thwarted by aldermen at everything she talked about trying to achieve, but couldn’t because aldermen weren’t about to be reduced to the level of insignificance that some of Lightfoot’s backers, I don’t doubt, dream she’s going to do.

Of course, I suspect that the number of people who were concerned about having a person of some experience in charge of city government is probably about 26 percent.

That figure is the number of voters who actually cast their ballot for Toni Preckwinkle in the run-off election back on April 2.

When you combine that percentage with the roughly two-thirds of Chicago’s registered voters who didn’t even bother to cast a ballot for mayor, you realize how embarrassing the 2019 election cycle was for the city.
'House that Rahm built' will host Lightfoot inauguration
THE REAL QUESTION may well be how much more embarrassing will it become if Chicago’s municipal government structure devolves into petty bickering by the over-bloated egos of those officials who are going to be in charge of our city – and the influence it exerts over other parts of our Midwestern society.

Now I’ll concede it’s possible that I could be underestimating Lightfoot or exaggerating the level of pettiness that the City Council will exert against her.

But then again, my years of writing about political influence in Chicago have taught me that far too many things have been wrecked by the egos of all who have managed to gain a majority of the vote in past election cycles.

So come 10 a.m., when Lightfoot takes her oath at the Wintrust Arena (a structure that likely wouldn’t exist if not for the vision of soon-to-be former Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- despised by many of Lightfoot's most vociferous backers), we’re likely to see for ourselves just how much (if any) of the political trash-talk stands a chance of becoming reality.


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