What if we were stuck with Lori Lightfoot?
Not just for another year, but for another term. Would it really be that bad?
Let’s think about this.
Like you, I was hoping that one of the usual suspects – Paul Vallas, Mike Quigley – would come rushing into the mayoral race, someone important we could get excited about. And no, Willie Wilson throwing handfuls of cash doesn’t count.
But every potential savior watched our municipal disaster for a long time, then fled.
Another kick to bow down Chicago: a city so broken no one even wants to run it.
Except Lightfoot, although yes, she does the job with the determined grimace of a cat owner scraping a particularly large pool from a hardwood floor.
Can you blame her? Why would anyone want to be mayor of Chicago? It is impossible work.
Do you remember a successful and popular mayor? Me niether.
Do these two traits even go together? Efficiency and popularity seem opposite qualities. Jane Byrne was a filthy mess with no idea what she was doing. Yet the Chicagoans loved him…why? Personal style. Plume.
That’s what makes a mayor loved. People embraced Harold Washington whether he did anything or not. Richard J. Daley was so hated that we forget how much he was loved by the bungalow belt, who kept pictures of him in their living rooms as if he were the pope. All they ask is that the mayor reflect their own person. Then they can extend the general approval they give themselves.
Should the people of Chicago love their mayor? Not really. Rahm Emanuel was an abrasive jerk. But he created the Riverwalk, a cool addition to downtown. Even white people didn’t particularly like Richie Daley, a titled prince raised behind the high walls of his Bridgeport purdah. He hurt Chicago, giving parking meters, the Skyway, and bus stops a ridiculously bad deal.
But the bean! And Millennium Park! All is forgiven.
This is what Lightfoot needs. I contacted his office to find out what kind of sparkly bauble the mayor plans to give the city as a thank you for his second term. The response leaked out — not like she’s speaking to me — to the effect that she looks back with pride on the progress she’s made in each of Chicago’s 77 distinct communities.
To see? It’s so Lori, I glanced over my shoulder, expecting a laugh trail, the “Oh Lori!” groan.
Give me an idea: if we’re going to be stuck with Lightfoot, we might as well like him. Kiss the mayor, despite her. “Our Lori,” a buzzword with just enough sexist condescension to please Ald supporters. Ray Lopez. Turn its off-putting flaws into beloved quirks, the way Richie Daley’s sputtering syntax was picked up with a lepidopterist’s care and savored, almost admired.
Yes, she does not woo allies. But isn’t that a form of integrity? Purity of spirit? It can grow on us, if we let it. She just needs the right campaign poster. Something reminiscent of Churchill, a grumpy Lightfoot in a bowler hat, chin protruding defiantly, the end of a cigar between clenched teeth. “Grrr, Lori Lightfoot for mayor. Like it or not.”
She has a fight.
On Monday evening, 32 minutes after the Sun-Times reported on the Supreme Court’s proposed decision overturning Roe, his campaign arm, Team Lightfoot, emailed:
“Chicago won’t take this lying down. And Mayor Lightfoot is going to fight like hell to make sure anyone who needs access to safe, legal abortion care can find it here in Chicago.
He continued, noting that “many Illinois neighbors will choose to ban or severely restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is canceled. With more restrictions in neighboring states, we can expect an increase in the number of people coming to Chicago for abortion care. Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot will take all necessary steps to ensure that anyone who comes to our city for abortion care receives the care they need.
Yes, it ended with a cup rattle for money. But still, the message showed determination, and gives hope. Heck, a new casino AND an abortion destination tourism. Chicago’s future is assured.