At a time when she’s trying desperately to get more police officers on the street, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday defended her decision to continue security details for former Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel.
The Chicago Tribune reported this week that Daley and Emanuel continue to receive bodyguard protection; no such policy exists for former mayors in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose.
Philadelphia has a unit protecting former mayors and dignitaries as needed. But officers are not permanently assigned to former mayors, the newspaper reported.
Lightfoot said the decision to continue taxpayer-funded bodyguards for the former mayors was made after the Chicago Police Department conducted a “security threat assessment” for Daley and Emanuel.
Similar threat assessments for City Clerk Anna Valencia and City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, conducted this summer, led to their details being pulled, the Tribune reported.
“We’ll continue to monitor the situation. But I know from my own experience that there is a time … after you’re mayor, when there is a need for security. Particularly given the world in which we live,” said Lightfoot, who worked for Daley and was appointed Police Board president twice by Emanuel.
“If that time becomes obsolete or that’s not necessary, then we’ll evaluate it at that time.”
Lightfoot continued to defend Daley’s detail as “appropriate” when asked what legitimate threats could possibly exist eight-and-a-half years after Chicago’s longest-serving mayor left office.
“I know what former Mayor Daley’s experience is on a day-to-day basis. It’s a very slimmed-down staff. It’s not a full detail like I have. But I have no compunction whatsoever about making sure that former mayors are provided with security as appropriate with what they need,” the mayor said.
Lightfoot made her comments during a symbolic “groundbreaking” ceremony for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ilinois’ community health center and office space in the shuttered Target store at 11840 S. Marshfield Ave.
On other subjects, the mayor:
• Denied she is being petty and punitive — as the Chicago Teachers Union claims — by scheduling make-up days for the recently-concluded teachers strike that cut into Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
“We’re way past that point. I’m grateful that our kids are back in school and that things are returning to normal,” Lightfoot said.
“The union is gonna say what the union is gonna say. ... I felt like we struck the right balance for our students, for our teachers and for our taxpayers.”
• Maintained that the five-year, $1.5 billion cost of the new teachers contract is not too expensive and “resources are there” to pay for it.
“CPS budget people were at the table every step of the way. I feel confident, based upon the presentations I was given on an ongoing basis, that there’s resources that are gonna be there,” she said.
“We were never gonna do something we couldn’t afford. CPS understands emphatically that they must live within their means. And I feel confident that the resources are there. Budgets in the out years are about projections. Their projections are very tightly scripted and, I think, conservative. I feel confident the resources are there to be able to pay for the contract.”
• Said she’s feeling good about her ambitious Springfield agenda going into the final week of the fall veto session, even though her plan for a graduated real estate transfer tax appears to be in trouble, potentially blowing a hole in her 2020 budget.
“I feel confident we’re gonna get what we need from Springfield. … We need to make sure that we’re continuing to do outreach to members and to the governor and legislative leaders. But, I feel confident that we’re in good shape,” she said.
Aldermen want to know what happens if the city comes up empty in Springfield and doesn’t get both the transfer tax and a revised tax structure for a Chicago casino.
“There’s no need for Plan B,” the mayor replied. “Because we’re still on Plan A.”