So here we are, right on the eve of an historic Chicago mayoral election.
On the morning of April 3, a Black woman will assume the office on the Fifth Floor of City Hall, 121 North LaSalle Street. Across the way in the County Building, another Black female powerhouse may sit.
The fireworks, lies, debates, endorsements, town hall meetings, and fundraisers are almost behind us. Everything but going to the polls has happened. Voting is Tuesday, April 2, all day long. And that evening, we will have a new mayor of the City of Chicago, the third largest city in the nation.
Historic indeed, a Black woman comes to the helm. But she inherits a hellhole. Day one, she walks through the door with a billion dollar deficit. What will she do?
Cut staffing, cut departments, or become innovative and add new revenue streams to the city coffers? This is a very common business problem that companies encounter too often, what to do about the deficit.
The mayoral campaign started with many – 21 candidates at one point – and the winner is approaching. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle came out the gate with a nasty, ugly campaign. She has been a real attack dog on the bright one, Lori Lightfoot, who has been above aboard and acted like a lady.
Lori has been positive, while Toni was negative and got under her skin. Toni made positive elements ugly. Lori is a successful corporate lawyer working for the one of the country’s largest firms, but Toni painted that as being shameful. Really.
Toni said Lori received “dark money.” This as Toni had a fundraiser with Alderman Ed Burke and the Party Boss tossed Burke’s wife, Ann, the Supreme Court Justice, under the bus about it. But did Toni return Burke’s “dark” money? Remains to be seen.
Now, after all the dirt has been thrown, the next Mayor of the City of Chicago will have union contracts to negotiate, new staff members to put in place and a big deficit to confront. Some of the contenders who ran in the race may be new members at City Hall.
Decisions will be made as Rahm’s people exit and the newbies search their desks. Not easy and you wonder why anyone would want the job in the first place. There’s more to being mayor than ribbon cuttings and celebrations as she meets a new City Council. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of the Council Wars waged against Harold Washingon as the new players enter the chamber.
Polls suggest that Lightfoot is the next mayor by a significant margin. She has impressed the white community in all parts of the city, from southwest side to northwest side. Both have aroused the lakefront liberals to choose who is the most progressive. In essence, will the real progressive please stand. Almost 30 percent of those polled, however, are undecided and those people may end up swinging the election.
Lightfoot has quietly traveled to churches, fire halls, private fundraisers, walked parades, and debated well. Some say she is an insider, some say she is not. We see her straightforward with her approach and not smiling in the debate chair as Toni overtalks and tries to dominate the conversation with her political resume.
Toni has been a harsh campaigner and hopefully she has learned the lesson that negative doesn’t always work. Toni is the party boss, the longstanding elected official and the insider who poses as a progressive while the newcomer has boldly walked the streets of Chicago, and not always comfortably, too often alone.
A Change Is Gonna Come
What we see in this campaign is old school versus new school. What we see is change, and how much of it do you want. What we see is fresh ideas versus old ideas. We see new ways. We see promise versus old hat. We see possibly a new Chicago.
Maybe the neighborhoods equalize and the contracts are distributed fairly and you don’t have to know somebody to be in. Perhaps a new in-crowd emerges. Perhaps new ideas get on the table and the city that is known for its segregation becomes integrated. Perhaps we merge and fuse.
Maybe the schools improve to the point where it doesn’t matter which you attend. Perhaps the zip codes don’t reveal your lifeline and general health. Perhaps the vacant lots and abandoned buildings become occupied with housing and a return to the tax rolls.
Perhaps we have no more food desserts. Perhaps the rich and the poor play on the lakefront together, from running marathons to family picnics. Perhaps the police stop shooting young Black and brown citizens and the bad guys stop killing cops.
Perhaps those who dare to rob, burglarize and shoot the innocent on the expressways get caught and you don’t have to be a celebrity for the cops to take notice that you have been the victim of a crime.
Perhaps the traffic flows without the bicycle stands in the street. Perhaps we equalize the playing field and the not for profits that work tirelessly trying to change their communities finally get some funding. Perhaps we walk and play in the streets once again without fear.
Perhaps the tourists come to the city and travel its entirety, to our many neighborhoods and not just along North Michigan Avenue. Perhaps with a new face, we see the eradication of racism in the city that works.
Change is coming. Perhaps, just perhaps, it is real.