What if we’re stuck with Lori Lightfoot?
Not just for another year, but for another term. Would it really be so bad?
Let’s think this through.
Like you, I was hoping one of the usual suspects — Paul Vallas, Mike Quigley — would come charging into the mayor’s race, someone significant we could get excited about. And no, Willie Wilson tossing away fistfuls of cash doesn’t count.
But each potential savior took a long look at our churning municipal disaster, then fled.
Another kick to prostrate Chicago: a city so broken nobody even wants to run it.
Except Lightfoot, though yes, she goes about the task with the determined cringe of a cat owner squeegeeing up a particularly voluminous pool from a hardwood floor.
Can you blame her? Why would anybody want to be mayor of Chicago? It’s an impossible job.
Do you remember a successful, popular mayor? Me neither.
Do those two traits even go together? Effectiveness and popularity seem inverse qualities. Jane Byrne was a hot mess with no idea what she was doing. Yet Chicagoans were fond of her ... why? Personal style. Panache.
That’s what makes a mayor beloved. People embraced Harold Washington whether he got anything done or not. Richard J. Daley was so hated we forget how loved he was by the bungalow belt, who kept pictures of him in their living rooms, like he was the pope. All they ask is that the mayor reflect their own person. Then they can extend the blanket approval they give themselves.
Do Chicagoans have to like their mayor? Not really. Rahm Emanuel was an abrasive jerk. But he created the Riverwalk, a cool addition to downtown. Many folks didn’t particularly like Richie Daley, an entitled princeling brought up behind the high walls of his Bridgeport purdah. He hurt Chicago, giving away the parking meters, the Skyway and bus stops in ludicrously bad deals.
But the Bean! And Millennium Park! All is forgiven.
That’s what Lightfoot needs. I reached out to her office to inquire what kind of glittering bauble the mayor plans to bestow upon the city in gratitude for her second term. The answer filtered back — it isn’t like she’d talk to me — to the effect that she looks with pride at the progress she’s made in each of Chicago’s 77 distinct communities.
See? That’s so Lori, I glanced over my shoulder, expecting a laugh track, the canned “Oh Lori!” groan.
Giving me an idea: If we’re going to be stuck with Lightfoot, we might as well like her. Embrace the mayor, despite herself. “Our Lori,” a buzz phrase with just the right note of sexist condescension to appeal to supporters of Ald. Ray Lopez. Repurpose her off-putting flaws into beloved quirks, the way Richie Daley’s sputtering syntax was collected with a lepidopterist’s care and savored, almost admired.
Yes, she doesn’t court allies. But isn’t that a kind of integrity? A purity of spirit? She can grow on us, if we let her. She just needs the right campaign poster. Something evoking Churchill, a grumbly Lightfoot in a bowler hat, chin jutting defiantly out, stump of a cigar between her gritted teeth. “Grrr, Lori Lightfoot for mayor. Whether you like it or not.”
She has fight.
On Monday night, 32 minutes after the Sun-Times flashed news about the draft ruling of the Supreme Court reversing Roe, her campaign arm, Team Lightfoot, blasted out an email:
”Chicago will not take this lying down. And Mayor Lightfoot is going to fight like hell to ensure that anyone who needs access to legal and safe abortion care can find it here in Chicago.”
It continued, noting “many of Illinois’ neighbors will choose to outlaw or severely restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. With more restrictions in neighboring states, we can expect an increase in the number of people who come to Chicago for abortion care. Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot will take every step necessary to ensure that anyone who travels to our city for abortion care, receives the care they need.”
Yes, it ended up with a cup rattle for money. But still, the message showed determination, and gives hope. Heck, a new casino AND abortion destination tourism. Chicago’s future is secure.