Wed, May 22, 2019 - Page 7 News List

First black woman sworn in as Chicago mayor


Lori Lightfoot, right, is sworn in on Monday as Chicago’s 56th mayor by Judge Susan Cox during an inauguration ceremony at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois, as Lightfoot’s wife, Amy Eshleman, center, holds a Bible, and her daughter Vivian, second right, looks on.

Photo: Reuters

Lori Lightfoot told aldermen and other city powerbrokers assembled at her inauguration on Monday as Chicago’s first black female mayor that she meant what she said on the campaign trail about top-to-bottom reforms in the nation’s third-largest city.

“For years, they’ve said Chicago ain’t ready for reform,” said Lightfoot, speaking minutes after her swearing-in at the Wintrust Arena. “Well, get ready, because reform is here.”

She spoke about curtailing some powers of city council members to lessen temptations for corruption and that structural changes to reduce gun violence would be among her top priorities.

Hours later, she signed an executive order limiting aldermanic prerogative, a custom that allows each alderman to direct zoning and period decisions in their ward.

Among her toughest challenges — and perhaps the one most scrutinized by those outside the city — will be overhauling the beleaguered Chicago Police Department.

Lightfoot is not the first incoming Chicago mayor to have pledged to overhaul a department accused for decades of abuses, but with a court-monitored plan recently approved by US District Judge Robert Dow, she has the best chance of actually getting it done.

Lightfoot, who made history last month when she defeated a longtime political insider to become the first black woman and openly gay person elected to lead Chicago, signaled days before her inauguration that she is serious about transforming the 13,000-officer force by appointing top staffers with histories as strong police-reform advocates.

Even with court backing, Lightfoot faces obstacles to enacting the meaningful changes that protesters sought after the 2015 release of video of a white officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.

“I believe she’s a true reformer,” said Phil Turner, who like Lightfoot, is a former US federal prosecutor in Chicago. “But there’s a difference between trying to reform police and reality. She is up against a lot of entrenched forces.”

The fiercest resistance will come from rank-and-file officers and the union that represents them, which has been openly hostile to key provisions, arguing that many will tie officers’ hands and make it impossible for them to do their jobs right.

There is also no guarantee that officers will fully comply with any new policies.

Dow’s ability to hold people in contempt if they don’t adhere to reforms only goes so far, Turner said.

“You can’t hold entire entities, like officers on the street, in contempt,” he said. “The person nominally in charge and who a judge can charge with contempt is the mayor. But she’s a proponent of reforms.”

Lightfoot is likely to fill top posts in her administration with people who support the changes.

During her Monday speech, Lightfoot repeatedly returned to the issue of violence, saying “there is no higher calling than restoring safety and peace in our neighborhoods.”

“People cannot and should not live in neighborhoods that resemble a war zone,” she said, adding later that “Public safety must not be a commodity that is only available to the wealthy.”

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