Community activist Ja’Mal Green joins crowded race for mayor against Lightfoot
In a 2021 tweet for which he has apologized, community activist Ja’Mal Green declared: “Lori Lightfoot is resigning tomorrow in a stunning end to her mayorship.” Now, Green wants to bring an “end to her mayorship” by running for the office himself, for the second time.
In April 2021, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took to Twitter to shoot down what she called “homophobic, racist and misogynistic rumors” about her personal life that community activist Ja’Mal Green helped spread.
In a tweet for which he has long since apologized, Green declared: “Lori Lightfoot is resigning tomorrow in a stunning end to her mayorship.”
Now, Green is trying again to bring an “end to her mayorship” — by joining the growing field of candidates seeking to turn Lightfoot into a one-termer.
Green said he has “grown up a lot” since dropping out of the 2019 mayoral race — before a challenge to his nominating petitions could throw him off the ballot for a lack of signatures — and endorsing Lightfoot over Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the April 2019 runoff.
“We have done amazing work since then in regards to being on the front lines for the community. Whether it was fighting Chase Bank and getting $1 billion for red-lined communities or raising millions for small businesses during the pandemic. When businesses were looted, I raised $250,000 and gave it out to businesses. More than the city did at that same time,” said Green, who turns 27 in August.
“We need to energize a whole new electorate. The vast majority of people don’t vote. We need a candidate who can change that.”
Green flatly denied his decision to spread that false rumor about Lightfoot’s impending resignation exposed him as someone who lacks the maturity to serve as mayor of Chicago.
“I made a misjudgment in a tweet. I did not expect that tweet to go viral. I was not the first person to say it. It was a rumor that was started by thousands of people. … People took it for face value. I apologized for that. Talked to the mayor at that time. Apologized to her. That’s in the past,” he said.
Green’s entry makes it six Black candidates in the field. The others: Lightfoot; millionaire businessman Willie Wilson; Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), son of former Mayor Eugene Sawyer (6th); State Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago); and Chicago police officer Frederick Collins.
At least two other African Americans — Ald. Sophia King (4th) and State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) — are considering joining the mayoral race.
The field also includes former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Ald. Ray Lopez (15th).
The more divided a Black vote diminished by population losses becomes, the harder it will be for Lightfoot to win a share of it large enough share to offset expected losses among north lakefront voters. Those voters gave her strong support in 2019 but have grown disappointed with her record on reform and transparency.
Green argued Lightfoot does not deserve a second chance, citing Chicago’s “epidemic” of violent crime. It needs a new kind of leader “who understands the city to a point where they can … decrease [crime] dramatically.”
“Folks from the neighborhoods are leaving. At this rate, we’re gonna continue to see a huge decline in Chicago residents who don’t feel this is a place to raise a family. … If we don’t have a candidate who really understands this history and how to change it, there won’t be a next generation of Chicagoans in these neighborhoods,” he said.
“We need a leader who listens, who collaborates, who energizes people to get involved in communities and in the political process. We need young people to feel like they have hope in this city. People are literally in a place where they feel no hope. They don’t feel that things can change. And I’m here to say they can. We’re gonna give people hope and tangible change in rapid time.”
To “re-populate” South and West Side communities and create a “new tax base,” Green is talking about issuing $1 billion in annual revenue bonds to “create 10,000 new homeowners” by providing assistance with down payment and closing costs.
He plans to work with the county to impose a “tax freeze on abandoned property so folks have an incentive to develop” those properties. He also would champion universal pre-school for kids as young as three.
“We have to change this narrative that public safety is about police, because it’s not. Public safety is about making sure that we tackle the root causes in a mass way,” he said.
Green is not saying how he plans to pay for all of his grand plans.
In fact, he’s vowing to reduce city revenues by eliminating the automatic escalator that Lightfoot pushed through the City Council. It locks in annual property tax increases forevermore at the rate of inflation.
He’s also taking aim at her plan to quickly embrace and ram through the City Council Bally’s $1.7 billion casino plan.
“The casino should be halted until the next administration. She has fast-tracked this casino. The community has not been heard. And the numbers with regards to this casino — how much it’s gonna make — are flat-out lies,” he said.
“The next mayor should handle the casino — if the casino should be where it is, or if we will have a casino at all.”
It wasn’t long after Lightfoot took office that Green started publicly criticizing the mayor he had helped elect.
The first public break came when Lightfoot proclaimed as a “done deal” a $95 million police and fire training academy that Green and others had called a symbol of Rahm Emanuel’s misplaced spending priorities. In fact, Lightfoot said the project needed to be made bigger, better and, undoubtedly, more expensive.
That was followed by Green’s outspoken criticism of Lightfoot’s selection of David Brown as Chicago Police Department superintendent, and also what Green viewed as heavy-handed treatment of protesters by CPD officers during civil unrest.
Green also slammed Lightfoot’s decision to seal off downtown by raising the bridges after protests triggered by the death of George Floyd devolved into two devastating rounds of looting.
But the very personal and apparently final straw for Lightfoot came last year when the mayor took to Twitter to shoot down what she called “homophobic, racist and misogynistic rumors” about her own personal life.
One month later, Green accused Lightfoot of putting the kibosh on a $15 million youth center he wants to build on the site of a shuttered elementary school in Auburn-Gresham in retaliation for Green’s outspoken criticism of the mayor.
“She takes things too personal and has an allegiance to her friends only,” Green told the Sun-Times on that day.
“Her vindictiveness, her personal vendettas. … If you’re not her friend, she is not willing to help you.”
When Green dropped out of the 2019 mayor’s race, it was because he was running out of money as well as falling short on the number of signatures required to get on the ballot.
This time around, he claims to have “many donors locally and nationally” who have agreed to bankroll his campaign.
“I’m gonna write some big checks myself. There are gonna be lots of big donors to push this campaign forward,” he said. “We have been pledged millions already.”