Chicago Crusader Endorses Lori Lightfoot for second term
The last three-and-a-half years of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s term have been largely defined by how she and her team dealt with the COVID 19 pandemic.
While the unprecedented disruption to the city and much of the country can be described as crippling to economies, services, and daily activities, it did not deter the Lightfoot administration from carrying out its responsibilities to residents in all parts of the city.
During an interview with the Crusader, Lightfoot acknowledged that pandemic demands dominated her schedule, which detailed she worked up to 50 days straight at one point. She said that although other cities across the country were experiencing the same issues as Chicago, “we were the best prepared city in the country. Our planning made an enormous difference.”
The mayor was quick to heap praise on the city’s public health department team. The first-term mayor said she and public health officials were able to successfully plan for and address the pandemic so well, it “gave me the confidence to lead.” Part of her leadership decision making always involved following the data and science.
Those two elements guided her to the reality that Black Chicagoans were dying (from COVID-19) at seven times the rate of other ethnic groups.
Embattled in a worldwide pandemic cutting a large swath of deaths in her city, the freshman mayor says, “We worked like crazy to come up with a plan.”
She remarked part of that plan was helping young Black people understand they, too, were vulnerable and could become victims of the disease. She noted that is where “myth-busting” came into play as a tactic. To demonstrate the impact of COVID-19 on the Black community, the mayor instructed the public health team to give the Auburn Gresham neighborhood high priority regarding outreach.
“That area had a higher death rate than any other,” she noted.
Public health workers next focused their efforts in the Latinx community, and ultimately began going door-to-door citywide, while simultaneously setting up COVID-19 testing sites across the city.
A major concern Lightfoot cited was whether the city would “buckle” under the pressures of COVID-19, including the possibility of first responders becoming infected, diminishing the availability of personnel.
“Preparedness is paramount. [The collaboration], she said, showed the power of partnerships.”
Lightfoot, a strong proponent of collaboration, noted she helped establish a command center at the police academy training center with the command center involving up to 100 city employees monitoring the progress in battling COVID-19. That recognition of the benefits of collaboration extended to the public health team working with the Cook County Jail administration to establish a presence in the Cook County Jail as well.
The city’s chief executive elaborated, “We couldn’t have saved the lives if we weren’t all on the same page.”
The incumbent mayor recently came under fire about remarks she made about Black voters only voting for her.
She explained, “I mis-spoke. What I intended to say is, given that most of the Black people in the race are polling in the single digits, they don’t have a chance of winning. Several of them are not viable. They have low-name recognition. We have to be thinking creatively.”
Lightfoot noted the jewel in the crown of her tenure as mayor is the Invest South/West Initiative, whose investment of city and private sector dollars was expected to be in the $750 million range but has blossomed into more than $2.2 billion. She noted the investment includes new roads, new lighting and green space.
The mayor said she put into place initiatives targeting Chicago’s Black and brown communities without ignoring the rest of the city.
She added that despite the ongoing cry from many residents regarding the need for additional health services, her team has revamped the mental health operations so now help is available in all 77 neighborhoods. She made a point of mentioning an additional change, mental health services are now available for children and teens—services previously not offered. The mayor acknowledged that since former Mayor Rahm Emanuel shuttered six Chicago mental health facilities, many Chicagoans have clung to that narrative. Lightfoot used the term “myth-busting” to describe one of the many pieces of misinformation her team has been tagged with.
The city’s leader explained that when she took office, about 3,600 Chicagoans were receiving mental health services; that number has grown to 74,000.
Lightfoot described an initiative designed to elevate the trust factor between the city and those who need but are reluctant to receive mental heath counseling. Under her administration the city has created a “core care” cohort, which interacted with the mentally impaired. Ultimately members of that cohort were hired full time, working with the public health division.
The mayoral election is now approximately a week away. Lightfoot said if re-elected, her priority will be public safety.
“I want to make sure to disrupt the pipeline of young boys in the street. I don’t want to see what happened to my brother happen to them.” She explained her brother, who is in his 60s, spent most of his adult life incarcerated.
To accomplish that pipeline disruption, the mayor wants to begin providing “wrap- around services for youngsters from birth to age five.”
Lightfoot is adamant that these services will make a difference. She says it is imperative that the city “break down the silos” that prevent Black boys from excelling.
The Crusader endorses Lori Lightfoot.