In an inaugural speech spiced with references to the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks and church hymns, along with a nod to the “great, late” Chicago mayor Harold Washington, new Mayor Lori Lightfoot — the first African American female openly gay mayor in the city’s history — outlined her vision for the nation’s third-largest city.
We read the transcript of Lightfoot’s May 20 address, delivered at Wintrust Arena, and selected some of the most specific promises. Read the most important parts of her speech below:
We will develop a new, proactive strategy in partnership with the communities hit hardest by the scourge of gun violence. All of our stakeholders must be committed to this work. This is not a challenge that can be solved by law enforcement alone, nor will we ever place the blame on people in communities who are under siege. No, this greatest challenge demands all of us, united together. And I promise you, the city will lead and we’ve already begun this work.
To lead the citywide response, we are creating a Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, to be led by a Deputy Mayor. That office will be charged with developing and implementing a comprehensive violence-prevention strategy that will connect efforts across city government, other aspects of the public sector, and nonprofit, philanthropic, education, recreation, business and faith communities. It will seek to mobilize the entire city behind a unified strategy to prevent violence and promote public safety.
The devastation of violence is far and wide which is why we will also reach out and support the growing community of victims and witnesses. We must recognize the importance of providing a transition for our returning citizens. And we will accelerate the development of a trauma-informed city starting with repairing our broken mental health safety net.
We will also continue the hard, but essential work of forging partnerships between police officers and the community premised on mutual respect, accountability, and a recognition that the destinies of police and community are inextricably intertwined. One simply cannot succeed without the other.
And to all of our brave first responders, we will not leave you behind either. You deserve not only our respect but our commitment to train you better, provide the best quality supervision available, and wellness support to address the trauma that you face every day.
Every student should have the option to pursue vocational and technical training. We will work with businesses and unions to set up apprenticeships for those who want to learn a trade. We will then connect Chicago’s employers with our job-ready students while they’re in school, so they can get to work the day they graduate.
We have an outsize structural deficit, a persistent and growing pension debt, and other costs that that threatens our financial stability. We are spending a significant percentage of every dollar just to service our pension debt alone and too much of that money is being sent to banks and Wall Street bond firms instead of going to our rebuild our neighborhoods, reduce our property taxes and revitalize our transportation system.
My team has already been the necessary work of measuring the size and depth of our fiscal challenges, as well as working on a range of possible solutions. Once that analysis is complete, we will lay out a plan to put Chicago on the path to solvency.
We need to cut the red tape and obstacles and instead promote the building of new units and have flexibility in our building code so that innovative housing forms can come on line.
We must also have a plan for expanding home ownership and converting vacant lots and abandoned buildings into new vibrant communities. Growth of housing that is affordable, all over this city, will be the charge of the new housing department under new leadership.
Corruption and reform
I campaigned on change, you voted for change, and I plan to deliver change to our government.
No official in the City of Chicago …elected or appointed… should ever profit from his or her office.
This requirement that people must give more to get access to basic city services must end.
And it will end, starting today.
Later this afternoon, I will sign an executive order to end the worst abuses of so-called Aldermanic privilege.
Her larger vision
As I reflect on this day and what lies ahead, it means that we must not forget or ignore the plight of so many for whom joy often does not come in the morning. Whether it is the homeless, people living with mental illness, those desperate for love and recognition, we will not pass them by. As we pursue our new stars, this will be our guiding light.