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Lightfoot, Preckwinkle must stop feuding with each other, work together on gun violence

Even when political leaders are on the same page, it’s tough to make progress on difficult issues. As the mayor and Cook County board president remained at odds, eight people were killed in gun violence across Chicago over Labor Day weekend.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, left, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, right, in 2019.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, left; Mayor Lori Lightfoot, right.
Sun-Times photos by Colin Boyle and Rich Hein

There’s been plenty of finger-pointing between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle when it comes to gun violence in Chicago.

We’re getting pretty sick of it. And we’d imagine you are, too.

As the two remained at odds, at least 43 people were shot — eight of them fatally — across Chicago over Labor Day weekend. That’s about double the number of people shot in the city compared to the same holiday weekend last year.

Yet what we are hearing from our Cook County Board president is that Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, a key figure in the mayor‘s administration, is peddling a “false narrative” about why the bullets keep flying. Preckwinkle told the Sun-Times in July that Johnson and the Fraternal Order of Police are essentially mistaken in blaming gun violence on the failure of the county, county judges and county prosecutors to do their jobs.

Meanwhile, Lightfoot told the Sun-Times Editorial Board on Friday that Preckwinkle is using an “imperfect barometer” and has it all wrong.

“We’ve been having this ongoing tussle in the media with the Cook County Board president about bail reform,” Lightfoot said. “The issue for me isn’t about bail. … We cannot keep returning people to the streets who are wreaking havoc in neighborhoods.

“I can’t in good conscience say to people, ‘Please cooperate with the police so we can improve our homicide clearance rate,’ when people are cycling through the system literally in 24, in 48, in 72 hours who are possessing weapons of war.”

Lightfoot also said Cook County officials aren’t taking seriously enough the arrests of individuals who are illegally carrying guns if they haven’t used those guns.

Preckwinkle quickly responded. In a press release Friday afternoon, she stated: “I’m disappointed Mayor Lightfoot continues to confuse the issues of how to reduce Chicago’s gun violence with our efforts to ensure our justice system is safe, fair, efficient and represents the voice of both victims and the accused.”

Preckwinkle also has said she was rebuffed after she offered to meet with Lightfoot and Johnson. Lightfoot, of course, sees things differently.

Whatever. It’s high time to bury the hatchet — even if animosity between the two is lingering after Lightfoot defeated Preckwinkle earlier this year in the Chicago mayoral election.

Consider that if Preckwinkle and Lightfoot keep sniping at each other, an array of other officials remain caught in the middle. It’s hard to take action if you think zigging one way will anger the county board president and zagging the other will put you on bad paper with the mayor.

Meanwhile, our criminal justice system continues to suffer. On Tuesday, WBEZ reported that Chicago police have made arrests in just 25% of the murders that happened in 2017 — and that the Cook County state’s attorney office declined to file charges in 281 homicide cases between 2011 and 2018 in which Chicago police identified the killer. Neither statistic inspires confidence.

We have no doubt both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot want safer streets and a fair criminal justice system.

What seems to be dividing them are statistics they are reading in different ways.

If they can’t come to an agreement by taking the short walk between City Hall and the adjoining County Building, perhaps what’s needed is a deal to bring in an outside expert who can quickly analyze what’s happening and help them chart a path forward.

The impasse depresses us even more given the national landscape on gun violence.

Federal legislation that could save lives is bottled up by Republicans in the U.S. Senate, who are in thrall to the gun industry. There’s little sign anything will change soon despite recent mass shootings, including one Saturday in Texas in which a gunman killed seven people and wounded 25 in a rampage along a highway.

So the job of making America safer is falling to state and local governments.

Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle head two of the biggest local governments in the country.

They should be setting an example for other leaders across the country on gun violence.

Together.

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