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Lightfoot and Preckwinkle have to get stuff done — not like each other

There is too much crime in Chicago. Period. Get a date on the calendar. Come up with a plan. 

Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle, right
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have made tentative moves in the last week to meet and work together.
Chicago Sun-Times photos by Ashlee Rezin Garcia, Tyler LaRiviere

At least they are talking about talking.

For months, editorial boards, pundits and other powerful Chicago voices have excoriated Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for their “feuding.”

They can’t get over the bitter mayoral election, so the story goes. So, these angry black women can’t “work together” to address the region’s myriad and intractable challenges.

On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune editorial board ridiculed Preckwinkle for leaving Lightfoot a voice mail.

“That’s it? The best you’ve got?” the editorial inquired. “An unanswered voicemail? Even as relentless gunplay shreds neighborhoods, and law-abiding citizens fear their children will be tucked into body bags?”

Well, Lightfoot did call back and left a message a week or so ago, Preckwinkle tells me. They later talked by phone and again on Tuesday.

“She said staff would get back to me. They “are supposed to be setting something up,” Preckwinkle said Thursday in an interview.

That’s a start.

Let’s put another trope to rest: It’s the one about how these angry black women can’t get along.

These two women don’t have to like each other. They probably never will. So what?

“If you are going to be an elected official in a democracy, you’re going to have to spend your time begging, wheedling, cajoling, apologizing for things you didn’t do, and trying to work with people you can’t stand,” Preckwinkle said. “That’s the job description.”

Bruce Rauner and Rahm Emanuel and Pat Quinn and Mike Madigan and Rod Blagojevich didn’t get along. No one talked about their race or gender.

“The immediate issue that we need to try to work together on is the bond issue,” Preckwinkle said.

She argues that poor, non-violent defendants should be allowed to be released while they await trial on low or no bonds so that they can return to the community and productive lives.

Lightfoot says too many of those defendants are released to commit new crimes.

There is too much crime in Chicago. Period. Get a date on the calendar. Share your data and policy expertise, and come up with a plan.

One thing I know they agree on. You can’t solve the city’s massive social and economic challenges without ensuring racial equity.

Shortly after her election, Lightfoot created the city’s first Office of Equity and Racial Justice.

On Monday, Preckwinkle will speak to the City Club of Chicago on that topic. “We’re trying to figure out how to be sure that everything we do we do through an equity lens,” she said.

Preckwinkle will tout three major initiatives to the audience of several hundred city leaders.

The first is her $240 million plan to rebuild Provident Hospital, which has served African Americans on Chicago’s South Side since 1891.

Her second initiative is to enhance digital access for the needy. Twenty-four percent of Cook County households don’t have broadband access, she said, “and they’re mostly black and brown.”

And the third initiative is to improve access to affordable transportation, via the Metra Electric and the Rock Island lines that run through the South Side and South Suburbs. The pilot project will subsidize fares on those lines to increase ridership and access to public transportation.

“In many parts of the county, we take for granted that we can get to our jobs or to school or to our doctor’s appointments, but in many parts of the county the transit challenges are significant.”

Why should we care?

Nationally, “regions in the country that have the least inequality are doing the best economically. And we have tremendous inequality in our region.”

Let’s get some stuff done.

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