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In budget negotiations, Lightfoot failed to meet bar of civic leadership

When the mayor uses the capital improvement plan or civil liberties as a bargaining chip, she is attempting to win a political fight by leveraging government structures built to concentrate wealth and power for white communities.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the monthly Chicago City Council meeting, Dec. 18, 2019.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the monthly Chicago City Council meeting, Dec. 18, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

On Monday, City Council will vote on the $12.8 billion budget. This year’s budget process reminds us of how much work is needed to build a just, ethical and accountable Chicago.

Last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the City Council Black Caucus that if they vote no on her proposed budget, their communities will not be prioritized in the city’s capital improvement plan. To the Latino Caucus, the mayor suggested she may close loopholes in the Welcoming City ordinance, which allow police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, if they approve her budget.

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Some dismiss this as “politics as usual” in Chicago. But this is not the political culture we deserve — and we must not normalize it.

In a Democratic stronghold, immigrant groups should not have to work to separate their civil liberties from an unpopular political vote. Black faith leaders should not have to call on the mayor to stop threatening their communities if she disagrees with their alderman. The mayor’s words remind us of who has an unalienable right to disagree, and whose lives are threatened in dissent.

Nationally, we are counting on the voices and votes of Black and Brown Americans to save our democracy. But in Chicago, we perpetuate systems built to silence Black and Brown communities.

When the mayor uses the capital improvement plan or civil liberties as a bargaining chip, she is attempting to win a political fight by leveraging government structures built to concentrate wealth and power for white communities. Chicago cannot build an equitable future while maintaining these structures; we must reimagine how we budget, how we debate, how we negotiate — and what is off-limits, no matter how heated our politics.

Political fights will come and go, as will political leaders. The tenor of our policy debates must always strive to rise above day’s pressures. In budget negotiations, the mayor failed to meet this bar of civic leadership. We call on the mayor to apologize for her comments, encourage all aldermen to vote their conscience, and pledge not to take retaliatory action against Black or Brown communities whose representatives disagree with her.

Niketa Brar, Ahmadou Drame, Niya Kelly, board and leadership team, Chicago United for Equity

Mr. President, what a way to end your term of office

In your inaugural address, you described a well-functioning country as a landscape of “carnage.” It wasn’t true then, but under your leadership it certainly is now. In the last four years, we have become a country overwhelmed by a pandemic, a faltering economy, social unrest and deep cultural division.

Short of the Civil War, the early days of the Great Depression, and World War II, I can’t think of any time when the country has experienced so many crises. At least in those times, we had great leadership that inspired the country to work together to solve those problems.

The list of your lies, irrational decisions, vengeful tweets, demands for unquestioning loyalty and cruel executive decisions are endless. You’ve negated science to promote your own destructive direction in addressing a health care crisis. If those behaviors were not enough, you now attack and try to undermine the basic stronghold of our democracy: a true and fair election.

Because you have always been incapable of accepting any kind of defeat, you have launched an unfounded investigation into voter fraud to sooth your fragile ego. Instead of putting the country first, you attempt to undermine the next administration.

Evidently, you think of yourself as some type of persecuted hero. You are not, now, nor have ever been a hero. The heroes of this country are the average citizens who donated money, made phone calls, wrote postcards, registered voters, and waited in line for hours to vote. They made these efforts with one goal in mind: to get you out! The massive celebrations all over the country should have given you the message. IT’S TIME TO GO.

Betty Kleinberg Deerfield