"Inclusion and equity" were key words echoed throughout Lori Lightfoot's announcement for her mayoral candidacy. Joined by her wife Amy Eshleman and daughter Vivian, Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, held a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 151 E Wacker, and in doing so, became the first Black, openly lesbian candidate for the mayor's office in Chicago's history.
Recent Lt. Governor candidate Ra Joy introduced Lightfoot. "While the wealthy and the well-connected are well-served by today's City Hall, too many Chicagoans feel forgotten and forsaken," said Joy. "This race for mayor represents a unique opportunity for all of us together, to build a more just, hopeful, and unified Chicago." He called Lightfoot's platform a "new, progressive vision for Chicago," and said that the candidate listens, is a bridge-builder, and is "immensely qualified" for office.
Two friends of Lightfoot also spoke before the candidate came to the microphone. Guadalupe Diaz, who worked with Lightfoot for over 16 years, called Lightfoot, "tenacious," and highlighted her honesty, work ethic and concern for others. Michele Dowdy, mother of Malcolm Dowdy, who was killed in 2012 by a stray bullet, said she'd known Lightfoot for 20 years, and that Lightfoot often mentions their family's story in her work.
"She knows that, in order for Chicago to move forward and be the best city it can be, there will be a need for healing, inclusion, accountability, communication and trust between the people, the city, and the police department, along with economic development and investment in our community," Dowdy said.
"I am here to talk to Chicagoans about a new progressive course for our city, one of which equity and inclusion are our north stars," Lightfoot said upon being introduced. She discussed her background, growing up in a small, economically and racially segregated steel town in Ohio, with a deaf father. One of Lightfoot's brothers spent a significant portion of his life in prison, which she said helps her understand the devastating effects this circumstance has on families. Her background influenced her desire to become a lawyer and advocate.
Lightfoot laid out some concerns she had with Chicago's current direction. "All over Chicago, people feel the effects of the us vs. them style of governance," she said. "That mentality and style of governance ends the day I am sworn in as mayor."
She said Chicagoans feel "overburdened" by regressive taxes, fines and fees, looming fiscal crisis about which there had been limited transparency and called the property tax system "rigged."
"The fact that we are the only metropolitan area in the country losing population should be the proverbial canary in the mineshaft, but the current administration does not exhibit a sense of urgency about this alarming fact," Lightfoot said. "We simply cannot afford to keep ignoring the economic plight of lower- and middle-income individual families."
Lightfoot also mentioned worries she'd developed during her service on the police board. "While we have made incremental progress on police accountability and reform, the progress has been way too slow, and we still have yet to implement some of the essential recommendations identified by the police accountability task force and the Department of Justice," she said.
Some of Lightfoot's chief priorities included hiring a city risk manager to supervise how tax dollars are spent, making sure TIFF dollars spur economic development in underserved neighborhoods, supporting a progressive income tax, overhauling pension investing, and supporting an elected school board. In talking about reducing city violence, Lightfoot called the homicide clearance rate "abysmal," saying 80% of homicides go unsolved, but also added that root causes of violence, such as deep poverty and generational unemployment, need to be addressed.
Lightfoot promised to listen to the needs of the people, be present in every neighborhood, and to be an advocate for the whole city. "I envision where equality and inclusion are our guiding principles … where no matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter who you love, the god you worship, we will unite together in a common cause to create a city in which everyone will have an opportunity to participate."
Questions lobbed at Lightfoot included how she felt about expending city and community resources to attract companies like Amazon to Chicago, and how she'd initially responded to questions about how the city had handled the LaQuan McDonald case, including whether she thought Mayor Emanuel had sat on the video for political reasons. While saying that she hoped Chicago got Amazon, Lightfoot said there had been "zero transparency" around the package the company had been offered.
In regards to LaQuan McDonald, Lightfoot said the perception that Emmanuel had held back the video until after the election perhaps "undermined" people's confidence in his administration. "I don't care where you go, people think that video was suppressed," Lightfoot said. "What we need to do is to get to a place where we can rebuild trust."
One of the final questions Lightfoot was asked was if she could be seen as an "ingrate" for using the platform Emanuel gave her by appointing her to the police board as a launching pad for her mayoral candidacy.
"I don't think the Mayor gave me anything," Lightfoot responded. "I stand here today because of my family, my friends, and my hard work."