Lightfoot targets gun violence in inauguration
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is sworn into office on May 20, 2019, as Chicago’s first African American woman and first “openly Gay” mayor. Much of Lightfoot’s inauguration speech reflected many of the same principles that were reiterated 40 years ago when on April 16, 1979, Jane Byrne was inaugurated as Chicago’s first woman mayor. Lightfoot is the 47th Mayor of Chicago, not 56th
By Ray Hanania
Newly installed Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed to confront gun related violence to make the city’s citizens safer, while outlining an array of services from improving health, education and opennes in City Government to strengthening neighborhoods and businesses “large and small.”
Lightfoot, accompanied by her wife Amy Eshleman, her adopted daughter Vivian, and in the packed audience her mother and four siblings, becomes the 47th mayor of Chicago succeeding retiring mayor Rahm Emanuel. Both Emanuel and his predecessor Richard M. Daley were at Lightfoot’s inauguration at the Wintrust Arena.
(Chicago has elected 47 mayors, a total of 56 full uninterrupted terms of any length in office. That includes mayors who served, then left, and then returned. The news media is inaccurately saying Lori Lightfoot is the 56th Mayor but she is not. She is the 47th Mayor. You can say she is the 46th Mayor serving the 56th term, if they want, with a “term” being defined by the uninterrupted time in office 1 year, 2 years, 4 years, 8 years or 22 years in Daley case.)
The ceremony reflected a similar tone of excitement that was evident 40 years ago when Jane M. Byrne became Chicago’s first woman mayor. Byrne’s daughter Kathy Byrne was among the dignatories on stage that included all of the city’s aldermen including 12 newly elected members, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Senator’s Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, and newly elected City Treasurer and Clerk Melissa Conyears-Ervin and Anna Valencia.
Lightfoot promised to strengthen the neighborhoods, which was the focus on Jane Byrne’s inauguration speech that was given on April 16, 1979 before an audience of 750 onlookers who packed the City Hall chambers, that I witnessed as a Chicago City Hall reporter.
“Our neighborhoods have been neglected for too long. They cannot be anymore. Still, we should never settle for dividing up a shrinking pie or pitting one part of this city against another,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot critized officials who she said “cut shady backroom deals” for personal profit while leaving CHicago taxpayers footing the bills with higher taxation.
“When public officials cut shady backroom deals, they get rich and the rest of us get the bill. When some people get their property taxes cut in exchange for campaign cash, they get the money and sure enough we get the bill,” she said.
Lightfoot also repeated her campaign promise to sign an executive order reducing powers of Chicago aldermen, eliminating “aldermanic privilege.” That privilege often allowed aldermen the veto power over proposals involving zoning, permit approvals, and licenses inside their individual wards.
“This does not mean our aldermen won’t have power in their communities. It does not mean our aldermen won’t be able to make sure the streetlights are working or the parking signs are in the right place or any of the thousands of good things they do for people every day. It simply means ending their unilateral, unchecked control over on every single thing that goes on their wards. Alderman will have a voice, not a veto.”
Taking those powers away from aldermen will be a major change, but she will need the support of at least 26 members of Chicago’s new City Council.
Click here to view Lori Lightfoot’s complete inauguration speech, provided courtesy of WGN TV.
Lightfoot covered nearly every major concern during her 38 minute speech that was frequently interrupted by appaluse. She broke down one time in near tears as she thannked her mother and her family who sat in the front row at the ceremony.
As each official was introduced during the beginning of the ceremony as they entered the stage behind the podium where Lightfoot was later sworn in, there was much applause although there was silence when Alderman Edward M. Burke and his wife Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke were introduced. Burke has been accused by the FBI of muscling a business in his 14th Ward, a charge that dominated Burke’s re-election bid. Despite the accusation, and false reports that he had been “indicted,” Burke easily won re-election with th ebacking of his ward’s residents.
Lightfoot also acknowledged and thanked Emanuel for his service, but made no mention of Mayor Daley who sat directly behind her during her speech. Ironically, Daley also ignored one of his predecessors, Jane M. Byrne at his inauguration in 1989 and spent much of his 22 years in office in a petty campaign to minimize any recognition of her achievements.
But Lightfoot eschewed that kind of animosity in her inauguration speech and spoke respectfully about everyone, including the aldermen.
“I know we’re just a little bit closer to that dream as I stand here today, inaugurated as Chicago’s first Black woman and first openly gay mayor. I know we’re a little bit closer as we celebrate that, for the first time in the history of Chicago, women of color now hold all three of our city-wide elected offices. I congratulate you, City Clerk Anna Valencia and City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, on your inaugurations, your victories, and on all you’ve overcome to reach this historic moment. I also congratulate the aldermen of the Chicago City Council – in particular, the 12 aldermen who are taking their seats for the first time,” she said.
“I thank Mayor Emanuel for his dedication and service to our city, which was exemplified by the attention and time that he and his staff devoted to making this transition as smooth as possible. I also commend Amy Rule for her contributions to the city. Join me in wishing them both well as they head off into the next chapter of their lives. I also acknowledge and thank the other leaders here today: Governor JB Pritzker, Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Tammy Duckworth, our Illinois congressional delegation, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, representatives from our state legislature, and every other elected official here today. Thank you for your continued service.
“Most importantly, thank you to the people of Chicago, who had the courage to put their faith in a newcomer and the optimism to join this moment.”
Lightfoot also said sahe will reimagine the symbolism of the four stars on Chicago’s Blue Striped and White municipal flag.
“There are four stars on Chicago’s flag, each standing for a point in our history …the construction of Fort Dearborn …the great expositions of 1893 and 1933 …and the reconstruction of our city following the Great Chicago Fire. Each star stands for building and rebuilding,” she said.
“Today, we proudly reinterpret these four stars new meaning for a new century, with new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead…guiding our city …and guiding our new administration …as we move forward and rebuild again.”
The stars will symbolize improving the neighborhoods and the fight against gun violence; improving education; bringing financial stability to Chicago; and, restoring th eintegrity of city government.
“I know, I know, putting Chicago government and integrity in the same sentence is, well, a little strange. But that’s going to change. It’s got to change. For years, they’ve said Chicago ain’t ready for reform. Well, get ready, because reform is here,” she said.
“I campaigned on change, you voted for change, and I plan to deliver change to our government. That means restoring trust in our city’s government and finally bringing some real integrity to the way this city works. It means making sure we have a government that actually works for people, not a powerful few. It’s about the real harm done to our families and businesses when those with power and money cash in at our expense. When public officials cut shady backroom deals, they get rich …and the rest of us get the bill. When some people get their property taxes cut in exchange for campaign cash, they get the money. And, sure enough, we get the bill.”
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. This column was originally published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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