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Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget shows leadership, equity, guts and a lot of smarts

Progressive change doesn’t happen overnight, and the mayor’s doing what she responsibly can with the limitations she has.

After delivering her first budget address to the Chicago City Council, Mayor Lori Lightfoot sits down with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board on Wednesday. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Having worked on city and county budgets for 39 years, I know how hard it is to get out of a financial ditch while still managing to stay on the road of investments and services, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget does just that.

Not only will Chicago be closing its $838 million budget gap, we’ll be closing it through financial reforms, operational management, cuts to government waste and through progressive revenues.

Notice how I didn’t say “property taxes”?

As Lightfoot herself said, budgets are more than math problems, they’re values statements. And the values this budget showed were leadership, equity, guts, and a lot of smarts.

Her budget also showed the mayor’s commitment to sticking to the progressive values that she ran on, like a path to $15 minimum wage, increasing the reach of small business centers, and a new environmental office.

And as someone who has advocated for reforming TIFs for some time, I was also pleased to see we’re using so much of the surpluses for good purposes.

Now comes the hard part.

Lightfoot not only has to get this budget through City Council, but it also has to go through the Illinois General Assembly in order to get the reforms needed on the real estate transfer tax, which is no easy task.

My recommendation to the mayor is: Stay the course. Keep up with the efficiencies — the public respects that. And use this opportunity to build coalitions down in Springfield.

To Chicagoans, I want to leave you with this: Give Lightfoot a chance.

Progressive change doesn’t happen overnight, and the mayor’s doing what she responsibly can with the limitations she has. We didn’t get into this mess in the last five months. It took decades, and it’s going to take some time to get out.

But as Lightfoot said, we will get out of it and do it by working together.

Now let’s get started.

David Orr, former Cook County clerk

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Chicago Teachers Union has too much power

The next time the teachers’ contract is up for renewal, any deal that is agreed to by the Chicago Teachers Union and the School Board should have to be submitted to and approved by all the voters of Chicago before it becomes effective.

This is the only way to counter the enormous power that the CTU has and always will have over officials who are both negotiating with and (to a large extent) elected by teachers.

Dennis Canfield, Western Springs