Lightfoot returns to failed ‘get tough’ policies to contain gun violence

Lightfoot is only the latest mayor to adopt a law-and-order narrative as a means of deflecting accountability for neighborhood inequities.

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Escorted by Englewood District Commander Roderick Robinson (left) and CPD Patrol Bureau Chief Fred Waller, Mayor Lori Lightfoot visits the Englewood District police station on a Friday night, the day after the Fourth of July. Englewood ranked 3rd in most murders per capita last year. Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

It was only months ago that mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, in her bid to become Chicago’s first back woman mayor, offered a long-sought assurance to voters of color.

If elected, Lightfoot vowed, she would dismantle Chicago’s toxic system of racialized law enforcement and promote public safety by addressing the root causes of gun violence through equitable neighborhood investment.

So it came as a rude awakening when, early this week, in a press briefing on gun violence, Lightfoot adopted a decidedly regressive position on community safety. Flanked by Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, the mayor drew an unsubstantiated connection between progressive criminal justice reform and an increase in neighborhood shootings.

Lightfoot called for consideration of more stringent pretrial detention policies and pointed to enhanced law enforcement and incarceration practices as a viable solution to Chicago’s growing public health crisis.

The mayor’s newly embraced, tough-on-crime rhetoric, while doubtlessly alarming to communities impacted by racially targeted policing and mass incarceration, is not unfamiliar to Chicagoans.

In her recent statements on law enforcement, local constituents could discern echoes of Lightfoot’s predecessor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Indeed, Lightfoot is only the latest in a succession of Chicago mayors to adopt a law-and-order narrative as a means of deflecting accountability for systemic neighborhood inequities.

Draconian law enforcement tactics have failed in their purported intent to deter crime. They aggravate the symptoms of racialized disinvestment that underpin disparities in neighborhood safety.

Since 2000, the Illinois Legislature has raised penalties for unlawful gun possession six times, and local police and prosecutors have targeted their enforcement efforts on communities of color with laser precision. Aggressive policing and sentencing strategies have not resulted in a decrease in local gun crime.

Rather, the statewide penalty enhancements propelled a threefold increase in the number of inmates incarcerated for weapons charges. The collateral impacts on economic stability in majority-black neighborhoods have further exacerbated racialized inequality and eroded public safety.

DeAngelo Bester, Workers Center for Racial Justice

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General Iron Industries an environmental threat to Southeast Side

Just before leaving office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel granted General Iron Industries, a scrap metal company, a three-year reprieve before relocating from Lincoln Park to the South East Side of the city.

This company is on EPA’s watch list and was cited in 2018 “...for failing to contain lung-damaging particulate matter...”. While I applaud the 47,500 residents of Lincoln Park for ridding themselves of this company, how in the world does this questionable enterprise get to pull up stakes and begin polluting on the South East Side?

This entire affair raises serious issues regarding environmental justice.

It’s time for new City Hall leadership to end the extended permit and relocation, and address this environmental threat.

Deborah Harrington, South Shore

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