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Lightfoot sworn in as Chicago Mayor
by Matt Simonette
2019-05-20

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Attorney Lori Lightfoot became the 56th mayor of Chicago the morning of May 20.

Accompanied by her wife and family, Lightfoot was sworn in during a ceremony and presentation at Wintrust Arena in the South Loop. She is the first Black woman, as well as the first open member of the LGBT community, to be the Windy City's mayor.

In a stirring inaugeral address, Lightfoot reflected on her victory and listed a number of changes she planned to work toward.

"You voted for change and I plan to deliver change to our government," said the new mayor.

Lightfoot said that she was "humbled" and "hopeful" about the occasion. Fighting back tears, she introduced her mother and siblings.

"Mom, most importantly, you and dad taught me that I could be anything that I wanted to be," said Lightfoot.

The central conceit of the her address was reimaging the four points of the Chicago star to signify four key values: safety, education, stability and integrity.

Lightfoot promised to spearhead a mayor's office for public safety, which would be dedicated, among its directives, to fixing integration with mental health services and fostering better relations between police officers and community members.

Affordable housing was a key factor when Lightfoot delineated her plans for the "stability" category. She called out developers who'd benefitted from tax increment financing deals only to avoid onsite affordable-unit obligations by paying into the city's affordable housing trust fund instead. Lightfoot also pledged to work for a solution to the city's pension crisis.

After the ceremony, Lightfoot was scheduled to have an afternoon-long open house in her new office on the fifth floor of Chicago City Hall. She was also scheduled to sign her first executive order, which would in large part eliminate the longstanding tradition of aldermanic prerogative, wherein aldermen have unchecked power to approve or reject various projects or activities within the ward.

Indeed, during her address, Lightfoot received the most thundrous applause when she addressed the integrity of the city and referenced aldermanic prerogative: "Stopping it isn't just in the city's interest, it's in the City Council's interest as well," she said. "... Aldermen will have a voice, not a veto."

Lightfoot also spoke about homelessness and poverty at length in the address, including remarks about both gay and transgender young people experiencing homelessness.

Lightfoot entered the electoral field early in May 2018, when it was assumed that she'd be running against an incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But Emanuel announced in September 2018 that he wouldn't be seeking a new term, opening up the floodgates to well over a dozen mayoral contenders. Nevertheless, Lightfoot mounted an aggressive campaign and landed an impressive victory in the runoff election the evening of April 2, capturing both about three-quarters of the vote—and what she called a mandate for change in city government.

She spoke on May 20 against the longtime dictum that Chicago City Hall was not ready for reform: "Get ready, because reform is here."

Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Amy Morton was the master of ceremonies that morning. Incoming Chicago City Council members, incoming City Clerk Anna Valencia and incoming City Treasurer Melissa Conyers-Ervin were also sworn in. Valencia took her oath from openly lesbian Associate Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary C. Marubio.

Rev. Beth Brown of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church delivered the prayer for peace.

Numerous political officials joined Lightfoot and the city officials on stage, among them outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Gov. J.B. Pritzker; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Lightfoot's opponent in the runoff election; former Mayor Richard M. Daley, making a rare public appearence; State Senate President John Cullerton; and U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin.


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