Lightfoot takes office as Chicago's first black woman mayor

Lightfoot takes office as Chicago's first black woman mayor
Lori Lightfoot was sworn in Monday as the 56th mayor of Chicago, the first black woman and the first lesbian to take the reins of the country’s third-largest city.
 
Lightfoot, a former prosecutor and city official who had never held elected office, won in a landslide in April on a promise to break with Chicago’s long history of political corruption. 
 
“For years, they’ve said Chicago ain’t ready for reform. Well, get ready, because reform is here,” Lightfoot said in her inaugural address. “I campaigned on change, you voted for change, and I plan to deliver change to our government.”
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Lightfoot finished first in a crowded field in February’s primary election, a contest in which several of her opponents found themselves caught in the orbit of a scandal involving longtime city Alderman Ed Burke. Weeks before voters went to the polls, Burke was arrested and charged with attempted extortion.
 
Cook County Board of Supervisors President Toni Preckwinkle, who finished second and earned a spot in the April runoff, had benefitted from a fundraiser at Burke’s house and hired his son. Lightfoot was the only candidate without a connection to Burke; she won 73 percent of the vote in the runoff.
 
 
Lightfoot takes over from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose eight years in office were marked by explosive growth in Chicago’s downtown business district, the Loop — and by a wave of violence that shook the city’s African American neighborhoods.
 
 
“Enough of the shootings. Enough of the guns. Enough of the violence,” Lightfoot said Monday. “Let’s unite in our response to the biggest challenge we face, the epidemic of gun violence that devastates families, shatters communities, buries dreams and holds children hostage to fear in their own homes.”
 
Lightfoot takes office amid another growing crisis, the steepening pension and debt obligations that have put the city in a nearly $700 million short-term budget hole.
 
Decades in the making, the city’s pension disaster is growing so fast that most observers believe it will require state action to solve; Lightfoot visited lawmakers in Springfield in the weeks leading up to her inauguration.
 
“Over many, many years Chicago dug itself into a giant financial hole,” Lightfoot said. “No doubt some hard choices will have to be made and none of this is going to be easy. But we will do the hard work with transparency, integrity and a determination to put our pensions on a true path to solvency, and make our government work more efficiently, and without balancing budgets on the backs of low wage and working-class Chicagoans.”
 
Lightfoot is the third woman to take the helm of a major American city in the last year. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) was sworn into office in March, and San Francisco voters elected Mayor London Breed (D) last year. Thirteen of the country’s 50 largest cities are headed by female mayors.