N’DIGO endorses Lori Lightfoot to be the next Mayor of the City of Chicago and I urge voters to turn out and vote for her on April 2. This campaign is a tale of two women in a tale of two cities.
Lori is fresh with new ideas and not Chicago politically jaded and intertwined. She represents the trend of who is winning elections in America these days – fresh non-political types are becoming elected in the year of the woman.
Lori won on February 26 with 97,000 votes. She carried the white North Side, but not the South and West sides. She now has to successfully appeal to Black voters…and that is an interesting phenomenon for a Black candidate – having to work to develop and attract a Black constituency.
Lori is a winner. She said it very well on election night in her acceptance speech, “This is what change looks like.” She is strategic, forthright, honest, energetic, and has new ideas.
She is the real progressive, the pure progressive candidate. And she is openly gay, which brings another sector into political play. She is clearly the change candidate in more ways than one.
Lori’s career path is impressive. With a law degree from the University of Chicago and as a successful corporate attorney and a partner with Mayer Brown and Platt, her courtroom experience will serve her well as she negotiates the City Council and city agencies.
Her opponent in this runoff election for mayor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, has made Lori’s success an issue, labeling her as a member of Chicago’s legal elite. Success can never be portrayed as failure.
As she runs for mayor, Lori has cited several reasons for entering public service, including a desire to represent the African-American community, a sense of injustice based on the murder of a relative by a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and her older brother’s struggles with the law.
Lori has not held elected office previously, and neither has she governed. She has been, however, the chief administrator of the Chicago Police Department Office of Professional Standards, and worked under Mary Dempsey as deputy chief of the Department of Procurement Services to investigate Chicago corruption and developer and fixer Tony Rezko.
Lori was a two-term appointee as President of the Chicago Police Board and chaired a special Police Accountability Task Force that in 2016 filed a report critical of the police department’s practices, specifically the police union’s code of silence.
In addition, in 2013, Lori was a finalist for the position of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, but the job went to Zachary T. Fardon. She is a top-flight attorney with a passion for social justice and equity. Her endeavors are laudable and she brings a bright, eye-opening perspective desperately needed to run a world-class city popular for its political maneuvers. She is a breath of fresh air.
The Fashion Perspective
Let me say this before you read another word. Both candidates in the runoff election – Lori and Preckwinkle – are being discussed in regards to their fashion statements.
Lori is an openly gay person who is male oriented and married to a white woman. Lori is not running for the bedroom; she is running for the City of Chicago, which is an almost $11 billion corporation. On Facebook, one woman wrote that she “couldn’t vote for a woman wearing men’s suits.”
On the other hand, Toni Preckwinkle mostly wears just one blue suit. If fashion is a standard in this campaign, both of these women lose. Neither is glamorous. These are not ladies of wigs, weaves, eyelashes, and long fingernails. Neither of these ladies will walk the runway. One Facebook person wrote that it is a “damn shame that we are voting for women who don’t comb their hair.”
The fashionistas are talking and they say real women wear lipstick and high heels. That is not the case for either candidate, so get over it. Maybe that’s why they were the top winners in the first round of the election, because issues are more important than dress.
The neighborhoods of the city may now receive the much-needed money and attention that previous mayors gave primarily to the downtown business community.
On a Personal Note
Toni Preckwinkle is the established politician. She is the boss – she has moved from the progressive she started out being to being the party boss. Literally. Toni has been Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party since 2018 and Fourth Ward committeeman since 1992. She became what she was fighting.
Today her brand of politics is as the boss of the political party and a progressive machine type. For sure she is a Democrat. So if elected mayor, does she remain head of the party or just mayor, or Boss Mayor?
Years ago, I taught with Toni at the now-closed Aquinas all-girl high school in South Shore. We had a similar teaching schedule and chatted a lot during our breaks between classes. I heard the history teacher’s yearning for a career in politics.
I even supported her first two losing aldermanic campaigns against Tim Evans in the Fourth Ward. I was so happy when she finally won; it was a new day. But along the way working with the independents and Hyde Park liberals, Toni changed as she moved up the political ladder. She became abrasive, crude and rude.
In order to progress within the party, she had to play ball with the regular Democrats, and she lost her independent ways doing that, in my opinion. It’s hard to be independent in Chicago, raising money for all the campaigns she has been in.
I watched her politics change. She did not support Harold Washington because in two of her elections, in 1983 and 1987, Harold supported her Fourth Ward aldermanic opponent, Tim Evans, who was Harold’s floor leader. She had the financial support of Tony Rezko, the developer that Lori investigated, whom Toni favored building in the Fourth Ward before he eventually was jailed for his wrongdoings.
As the boss, and on her way to the top, Toni offended many with her school marm, finger pointing-in-your-face tactics. Once, at the Bud Billiken Parade, she walked up to me with a pointed finger to tell me she didn’t like me. “I just don’t like you,” Toni said.
I thanked her for letting me know. And then minutes later she approached me again, to tell me she “didn’t like what I was wearing.” At that point, I told her she would probably do herself well not to give out fashion tips. I told her that I had never seen her in anything that I actually liked.
Since that time, I have had little to do with Toni. My real problem with her, however, is that in her capacity as County Board President with a $5.9 billion budget, the amount that she has spent with African-American enterprises has been dismal.
I do not see how Black people have prospered under her. She will probably tell you that she never advertised with N’DIGO and/or other Black press. That is true. When I visited her on an advertising call, she had me meet with a person who didn’t even know the county’s properties.
This person was clueless about Brookfield Zoo, the Forest Preserves, and the Chicago Botanic Gardens. These are the institutions that advertised in Black media before Toni became county board president.
Toni is guilty of playing job patronage politics. She has hired the son of the powerful Eddie Burke, and the one Black contractor she has hired for county projects, hired Toni’s son. So the “scratch my back, I will scratch yours” is very much in play with her. Nothing wrong with the game, but let’s be clear and upfront and not project puritan politics.
As women have discussed Toni with me seeking my political support, I was reminded that the late John Stroger, President of the County Board, split verbs and was a machine politician. I pointed out to the lady that Stroger’s split verbs got us Provident Hospital and the state of the art Stroger (formerly Cook County) Hospital that bears his name.
In addition, a lot of people had jobs and contracts from the Stroger days. Compare that to Toni’s grammatically correct English if you please, I told her. The person came up with nothing.
I told the story of Toni pointing her finger in my face to a group of friends and one of the women, a former elected official, said the same thing happened to her. Toni asked her who told her she could run without her permission. That’s “Boss Toni” in her fullness.
Toni Preckwinkle does not have the right mentality to run the City of Chicago. To supposedly balance the county budget, she conjured up the absurd proposition of the sugar tax on soda pop, juice, and other beverages. As mayor, what on earth else will she tax? Maybe she will propose a tax on bread and butter.
Preckwinkle has aggressively and probably prematurely begun to tell sitting city officials that they might be fired, like police chief Eddie Johnson, but she will keep school chief Janice Jackson in place. That’s premature, and a bully approach for sure.
I am reminded of her viciousness as she ran against Todd Stroger, who succeeded his father as Cook County Board President. Toni ferociously attacked Todd as he raised county taxes by one penny.
Juxtaposed against her sugar tax, Todd clearly had the better plan. She was so mean and almost made Todd out to be some sort of criminal, even though at that time, Todd ran the only municipality with a balanced budget.
A Lot Is At Stake
There are many stories about Toni’s meanness and crude behavior. When she assumed her position as President of the Cook County Board, she fired a woman who was only six months away from full retirement benefits. Toni fired her on her first day in office. She is not endeared to or embraced in the Black community by any means. She is a big question mark.
On the February 26 election night, as she made the runoff, Toni roared with aggression and fight. She will come after Lori with everything, probably beyond the properness of campaigning.
She was very cunning, in the first runoff mayoral debate recently, to say that she was proud of Lori’s openly gay admission. Was this a signal to Black church conservatives reminding them that Lori is not heterosexual?
Toni is malicious and vindictive, and people know it, and some are walking in fear. She will be a maintenance mayor who keeps the status quo, with no real change forthcoming. She will have some union money, so they can be assured of getting and keeping their contracts, with benefits, as those contracts keep the city’s debt growing.
Does Toni Preckwinkle even have the wherewithal to bring about real change? I think not. If you look at the county board under her rule, change is missing. What happened to economic development?
Even as alderman, look at the Fourth Ward. There are two wards, one north, and one south. The southern part of the ward didn’t get much from Preckwinkle during her tenure there.
What happens with the pension funds under Toni? What happens with Chicago economic development under Toni? Toni lies and inflates. She stole the thunder from the real activists in the Laquan McDonald case with fabrication and enlargement of her role.
We do not need a person in City Hall who raises taxes on soda pop and lies and does a poor job in hiring. Chicago does not need a mean, vindictive person in City Hall. Lori Lightfoot will probably be better at running the city than Toni.
Neither candidate represents corporate Chicago, which is good for all the neighborhoods of the city, which may now receive the much-needed money and attention that previous mayors gave primarily to the downtown business community.
I do hope that Lori and Toni both conduct credible, positive campaigns to become Chicago’s next mayor. I hope neither becomes bitchy as they race to LaSalle Street. I hope they stick to the issues so that when one of them takes the oath of office, we can truly be proud.
However, this is the real deal of politics and it ain’t always pretty, even with two women as candidates.