Mayor Lori Lightfoot has assumed office. The beautiful pomp and circumstances are over and now she has gone to work.
The mayor started with no nonsense the very first day after the inauguration when she went to work with the police department to attempt to quell the violence for the beginning of summer.
Throughout the city as I have traveled since the inaugural on May 20, I have noticed more police on the street, but more than that, I have noticed a difference in their manner. They actually seem nicer. What a difference leadership makes, as Lightfoot and Superintendent Eddie Johnson walk the streets.
The mayor’s very first order of business was to sign an executive order curtailing aldermanic privileges. In so doing, she will probably save some of them from bribery and/or extortion temptations and a jail sentence.
Madame Lori will be a great mayor, with no nonsense. As the city awaits the very first Lightfoot City Hall Council meeting, where the votes count and she commands the gravel, here are 10 things that I hope happens in creating a new Chicago, a Chicago Renaissance.
1. Put the public school children in uniforms.
Kids are fighting, shooting and dying over gym shoes, hats and phones. We preach to the boys to pull up your pants and stop “sagging”. Enough. How about boys wear shirts and ties and blazers to school? How about girls wear skirts at a decent length with white blouses and blazers?
I have mentioned this for years to friends and they ask, who will buy the uniforms. My answer is, the same ones that buy the thousand-dollar phone, the $300 gym shoes and the $200 jeans. This small notion would prepare kids for the world of work and stop the fighting over clothes.
2. The City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) needs investigation.
In recent years, CCC has been on a selling spree. The TV station, WYCC-Channel 20, sold its robust, full-power educational TV broadcast frequency for $16 million instead of its $125 million full market value.
Why was this station so devalued? Why was this station sold? Hopefully the mayor will investigate this give-away and bring the station back home. This action is suspicious and sounds like a deal that shouldn’t have been made.
Currently, the central office headquarters of City Colleges at 226 West Jackson is on the real estate market. It was bought for $25 million and today does not realize full appreciation. Will we give away another CCC property? There was a world-class pastry school in the building and people from all over came to learn this cooking specialty. They moved. Can they come back as a City Colleges certified program?
3. Bring a major grocery store to the West Side.
The West Side of Chicago suffers as a food dessert. I should hope that a Mariano’s or a Jewel Foods could go on the West Side.
4. Develop the properties of the former Michael Reese Hospital and the South U.S. Steel Mill.
These vacant sites that have sat unused for years need to be re-developed with housing and businesses, much like the North Side’s Lincoln Yards project. Such developments would anchor the South Side, with the Obama Presidential Library Center eventually being placed in Woodlawn. If Obama’s Library isn’t put in Jackson Park in Woodlawn, both sites would be appropriate as alternative Obama Center locations.
5. Repurpose the closed schools.
The schools that were closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his aldermanic puppets and Chicago Public Schools board members need to be repurposed. They could be re-constituted as shelter for the homeless, as office space for small businesses, as training centers for the trades, or immigration centers.
6. Address the philanthropic funders.
The philanthropic community should be gathered at the mayor’s behest to discuss realistic funding for grassroots projects all over the city – especially in underserved communities – to help Chicago thrive. The funding community needs to be re-oriented.
7. Create more youth sports opportunities.
Every neighborhood should have sports programs for its youth. Each community should have a team – i.e. tennis, Little League baseball, track, soccer, hockey, football, basketball, etc. Chicago’s great sportsmen and their team owners could lead this effort.
8. Take a look at the city’s festivals.
Chicago festivals should be re-considered. Chicago has more festivals than any city it seems like, but some need to be combined for efficiency and to maximize cost factors and attendance.
9. Clean the vacant lots.
There needs to be a plan for each ward for the vacant lots. City Hall and downtown developers need to participate with local communities to keep the lots clean on a regular basis. This would create neighborhood job development and add to the beautification of the entire city.
10. Minority businesses should be integrated at every level of Chicago public business.
This one is self-explanatory.
I hope the new administration takes some of these ideas under consideration. We’re all in this together and that’s just my two cents. What are some of the things you, as a citizen of Chicago, would like to see the new mayor do?