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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave her farewell address Monday touting her four years as mayor as one marked not only by challenges like the pandemic, civil unrest and an inherited budget deficit but one filled with hope and equity.
Lightfoot has less than one week left in her term before Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is sworn into office as Chicago’s 57th mayor.
While Lightfoot did not garner enough votes in February to advance to the runoff election, her tone about the city’s future during her Monday address was optimistic.
“I’m optimistic because of the work my administration has done,” Lightfoot said.
Chicagoans also keep Lightfoot optimistic, she said. “Our residents have inspired me every day. On days when I was weary and my spirit was low, meeting residents motivated me to keep my head up and to keep working.”
Lightfoot differentiated herself from other mayors, saying she was elected to “break up the status quo that failed our residents for too long” and to “chart a new path.”
The outgoing one-term mayor said the city has “a lot to celebrate” in meeting challenges presented to the city and its residents over the past four years. Chicago’s challenges resonated with Lightfoot “deeply” and “profoundly” and tested the city and the mayor herself “in monumental ways.”
Lightfoot addressed criticism and energy expelled by pundits and the media but said one word in particular has inspired her.
“The four-letter word that propelled me forward … that four letter word was spelled h-o-p-e,” the outgoing mayor said.
Lightfoot choked up once during her address, while she talked about the hope that pushed her forward.
“I saw it and importantly I felt it in this city, in every neighborhood,” Lightfoot said about the hope she saw in the city. The mayor said she has seen hope “in the eyes of children,” elders, workers and “people touched by work we did.”
Under her administration, resources were invested across Chicago, “not just the downtown, not just the North Side, our whole city,” Lightfoot said.
Chicago’s Black and Latino communities have been “hungry for resources from City Hall,” Lightfoot said, adding that her highest mandate was “to put residents first and do the hard work to serve them.” The mayor said she operationalized equity in “concreate, tangible ways.”
In addressing equity, Lightfoot touted her signature Invest South/West program that focuses investment and development resources in communities on the city’s South and West sides that have historically seen disinvestment.
Related: City unveils second round of Invest South/West plans totaling $200M in mixed-use developments
“Our city’s history of neglect on the South and West sides has created barriers for our residents,” Lightfoot said. “More than anything these barriers have created a deep-seated disparity and hopelessness which fuels the cycles of poverty.”
Lightfoot said her administration created “real change and planted seeds of transformation” for Chicago to “right these historic wrongs.”
The outgoing mayor also promoted the financial state in which she and her budget team are leaving the city. Lightfoot last month announced a projected $85 million budget gap for 2024. The projection was part of the mid-year budget forecast that also predicted “relatively low gaps” for 2025 and 2026.
Related: News in brief: Lightfoot announces projected $85M budget gap for 2024; CPD announces Millennium Park youth curfew
As she is preparing to leave City Hall’s Fifth Floor, Lightfoot specifically thanked several city department leaders on Monday including Chief Financial Officer Jennie Bennett, Budget Director Susie Park, Comptroller Reshma Soni, Department of Housing Comm. Marisa Novara, Chief Equity Officer Candace Moore, Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Samir Mayekar and World Business of Chicago President and CEO Michael Fassnacht.