EAST GARFIELD PARK — Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched her reelection bid Wednesday — and it included a campaign stop surrounded by West Side allies and alderpeople who have supported her within City Council.
At the forefront of Lightfoot’s campaign is her strategy of investing public dollars in and guiding private funding toward struggling neighborhoods that have not historically gotten much attention from City Hall. Lightfoot’s signature Invest South/West initiative has funneled millions into large developments on the West Side, including the Grace Manor affordable housing project and the Lawndale Innovation Center in North Lawndale and the Laramie State Bank redevelopment in Austin.
The city’s work to revitalize business districts like the Ogden Avenue corridor in Lawndale and Chicago Avenue in Austin set a model for how City Hall can tackle major issues in all neighborhoods, Lightfoot said.
“I firmly believe that as goes the West Side, goes the rest of our city. If we can make things happen here, if we can bring hope and opportunity and jobs and economic development … then we have done something incredible that we can transport to the rest of our city,” Lightfoot said at Revolution Workshop, 3410 W. Lake St.
West Side alds. Emma Mitts (37th), Jason Ervin (28th) and Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) joined the mayor to endorse her bid for reelection, along with Barbara McGowan, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s commissioner and vice president.
Ervin commended Lightfoot for being the first mayor “who has actually taken the time to recognize the West Side.” Her support demonstrates how she has been a mayor to all Chicagoans, not just those in more affluent areas, he said.
“For years, the West Side has not been in the mix,” Ervin said. “But in the tenure of Lori Lightfoot, we have seen resources come to the West Side of Chicago that we have not seen for the past 30 years.”
The mayor’s common-sense policies earned Burnett’s endorsement, the alderman said. Improvements to the city’s affordable housing rules, expanded resources for returning citizens and the fines and fees reforms that provided traffic ticket debt relief to residents were major wins for his constituents, Burnett said.
“The mayor recognized that folks have had challenges with their tickets … and their water bills. A lot of those things have been overshadowed … but there has been a lot of things done to help regular folks in our community,” Burnett said.
Lightfoot’s brash leadership style has dogged her during her first term in office. She’s battled with the police and teachers unions, and she has opted to go it alone on major political decisions, shutting out some alderpeople from the governing process.
Lightfoot has also frequently criticized prosecutors and judges on bail policies in Cook County criminal court, despite an abundance of county data showing people released from jail on bond do not significantly drive street violence.
The mayor drew backlash earlier this week for saying the high standards for bringing cases to court means defendants accused of violent crimes “are guilty” and should stay in jail, despite the area’s well-documented history of police misconduct, coerced confessions and wrongful convictions.
“It doesn’t make survivors or victims of crimes feel safe when they muster the courage to talk to the police … and then they see the person that they believe is victimized them right back out on the street 24 or 48 hours later,” Lightfoot said. “They want to make sure that the criminal justice system is working for them.”
The mayor acknowledged there is an “anti-incumbent” wave moving across the country out of frustrations worsened by the pandemic, but she said she has a “track record of performance and accomplishment.”
Five challengers have thrown their hats in for the 2023 election: Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), state Rep. Kam Buckner, businessman Willie Wilson and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas.
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