Our guest this week is Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot.
What follows are some selected quotes from our wide-ranging hour-long conversation. You can watch the entire show by tapping the image above.
On getting onto the ballot:
I feel very confident about it. You know having gone through ballot initiatives previously I knew that and thinking about running for mayor I needed to make sure I did a couple of things early on. Hire a really good election lawyer, which I did, and make sure that I hired somebody who had a lot of expertise and bandwidth and putting together petition drives and that’s precisely what we did. We were confident from the very beginning that we were evaluating our petitions that were coming in real time to make sure that we were getting a high enough rate, meaning that people who signed up for us were actually registered to vote, that their addresses were consistent with what was in the Board of Elections archives, so I feel very very confident about where we are.
We got signatures from all 50 wards, a wide range. We had in addition to some paid staff we had over 100 volunteers over the course of time, so this was something that we took very very seriously. We devoted a significant amount of time and resources to make sure that we got it right. Of course when we started we thought our principal nemesis was going to be Rahm Emanuel with his tens of millions of dollars, but even after he jumped out we knew that you can do everything else, but if you don’t get on the ballot it’s off or not. So we wanted to make sure that we got this completely right and I feel very confident about that.
Ken: So when I walk into my Chicago precinct on February 26thyour name is going to be on that ballot?
LL: Without a doubt. No doubt it. I have no concerns about that. I can’t stop people from challenging but they’re going to be wasting their money and resources because our petitions are rock-solid.
On the age-old, but informal, practice of aldermanic prerogative, which allows any individual alderman to block any development in his/her own ward, without fear that other aldermen will contest the decision:
I think it’s a bad idea particularly as it manifests itself in a couple of different areas. I’ve been speaking about it in particular because it’s a real problem with respect to making sure that we have affordable housing units particularly to accommodate families in lots of different neighborhoods across the city. We have a few and a very small few of aldermen who are really using frankly aldermanic prerogative to push developers, to make sure that they are actually building affordable units. Walter Burnett is one who comes to mind. But the vast majority of aldermen really fight against it and are subject to the kind of nimby not in my backyard of uprisings that happen from time to time. One of the ones that the Reader has covered I think extensively is what happened in John Arena’s ward where he wanted initially 100-unit and then now has gotten it down to a 75-unit, very modest facility to help accommodate seniors and veterans.
And you would think that he was trying to resurrect some of the old notorious housing project towers in his neighborhood. And then on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got Napolitano who initially said yes and then vetoed a project that had affordable housing units in it that was intended to accommodate workers who have jobs at O’Hare.
Even though it is unwritten it is a known reality, and so it has the potential to breed corruption. So what it means is if you are a developer or you’re a businessperson or you are somebody that wants to just do business in the ward you’ve got to go and kiss the ring of the aldermen. And then if you have corruption as we’ve seen over the years, and I was a prosecutor in the silver shovel case which is exactly, every single one of those prosecutions related to this issue of aldermen using their power and their clout to extract bribes from people that wanted to do business in the ward and how easy that slippery slope gets traversed because of this power that they have. And it’s really unchecked and that’s a real problem.
On her proposal for a real-estate transfer tax to help stimulate development of affordable-housing in critical neighborhoods:
Frankly the city hasn’t really occupied the space and been a leader in this. You know depending on who you talk to we are about 120,000 affordable housing units down. Again this isn’t about just – this is about making sure that Chicago continues to be a city that people can live in. We don’t want to become a San Francisco or a Seattle, particularly with families.
Also frankly we’ve talked to a number of different housing advocates coming at this from a lot of different perspectives and the thing that they tell us over and over again is that it is so difficult to get basic stuff. That the city is not set-up to be friendly whether it’s private developers, whether it’s community-based organizations, they don’t get involved early enough in a transaction and a deal and then when they get involved they put up a bunch of roadblocks instead of thinking from the perspective this is a mission critical to the city.
On the status of the CHA, and how it might be utilized differently in a Lightfoot Administration. Why, we ask, does it seem so moribund?
Because you actually have to care. You actually have to think, again, expansively about how having housing that’s affordable, not just public housing in a traditional sense, but housing that’s affordable is critical to the vitality and strength of the city. We remain one of the few metropolitan areas in the country that continues to lose population and a big part of that is because people feel like they are being squeezed on a lot of different fronts and housing is certainly one of them. So absolutely the CHA has a role to play. It’s got to be part of kind of a master plan, comprehensive plan for thinking about housing in a very fundamentally different way and really engaging with people who are out there in the trenches in the neighborhoods.
One of the things that I call for in my housing plan is doing an audit of the voucher program because it makes no sense that we are sitting on all these vouchers when there’s such an incredible need. But we also frankly – look, we’ve got to be realistic, there’s still a lot of private sector landlords who will not take those vouchers. They come up with every excuse in the book because they know if they are upfront about it they are going to subject themselves to legal liability. But we’ve got to break down those barriers so that we can stratify our neighborhoods with a lot of economic diversity and really build wealth and strength, but you can’t do that if people are housing unstable.
On Bill Daley’s assertion Wednesday that he’d strive to return Chicago’s population to 3 million from its current 2.7 million
Note the smirk on my face. I want to say to Bill with due respect where have you been? This is a guy who has got a pedigree. Obviously he’s part of a well-known family and suddenly because Goliath has been slayed he and other people jump into the race, but where’s he been? I have no idea what Bill Daley’s positions are on a range of different issues because he’s been silent. Other than bemoaning the fact that Rahm Emanuel has cast aspersions on his brother this is a guy who has been nowhere on any issue of the day. So it’s all well and good and the voters will be able to make their choice, but you know I would like to see somebody with a proven track record standing up and talking about these issues, and frankly with due respect to Bill he just doesn’t make the cut.
On Bill Daley’s claim that he’ll close more schools as necessary…
So yeah, let’s close, crash, and burn, we see how well that worked. We closed 50 schools. We did horrible injury onto those communities. We treated parents, teachers, and other stakeholders like they were unwelcomed guests. We cannot go back to that same old same old. Yeah, if Bill Daley wants to do that I think that underscores that he’s got an idea of the future that is very much tied to a very dark and bad past that got us into a lot of the messes. And I don’t mean to pick on him because frankly I think a lot of the other people who jumped into the race after Rahm Emanuel was vanquished had very similar ties to a broken machine style form of politics that don’t have a vision for the future and fundamentally do not put people first.
On the current iteration of the police consent decree, and the revisions she’d want to see as Mayor:
It allows for chokeholds. That’s the Eric Garner situation. We should not allow chokeholds. That should go the way of a lot of other bad police practices. There’s no way that you can actually engage somebody in a chokehold who is then going to be struggling and not harm them. The language in the consent decree says you can’t use a chokehold with the intent to do X, Y, and Z. Well no officer is going to say, “Oh, I choked this person and I didn’t have an intent to do harm.” It puts the officers in an impossible situation and we should just get rid of it. It allows for shooting in the crowds. That’s the Betty Jones situation. We shouldn’t allow that to happen. And it says well you need to be mindful and take care of circumstances. No. If you cannot shoot someone, the target without the worry of hitting an innocent bystander that is not a safe circumstance in which you can shoot your weapon.
The other thing that has got to change is foot pursuit. We saw earlier this summer a young man who had a gun, was fleeing the police, discarded his gun, about ready to jump over a fence and got shot in the back by the police. Foot pursuits are extremely dangerous. We need to have a real policy now. We don’t need to wait three years as the consent decree allows. This is a real and present danger for officers, the civilians that are being chased and other bystanders. We’ve got to get that right.
On the so-called Chicago gang database and what should be done with it:
I think you’ve got to decommission it. It has been used for improper purposes. There’s no consistency in the way in which peoples’ names get on. They linger for decades without getting out. It has become completely delegitimized in the eyes of the public. Obviously there are opportunities and circumstances where the collection of intelligence is relevant and important and I think about it in the context of frankly terrorist investigations. But this Chicago gang database has well passed its useful life and it needs to be decommissioned.
On what she’d say to convince rank-and-file officers that she’d be a better Mayor than Garry McCarthy:
I think what I say to rank and file officers, many of whom I know well, is that if you want someone who is going to care about making sure that you get best in class training, is going to frankly weed the department out of people who are engaged in intentional misconduct that delegitimizes you is going to work like heck to make sure that we’ve got a good and robust program to give you the opportunity to form relationships with the people in the community so that you have them on your side to be able to be successful in your mission then I’m your candidate.
And finally, why did Rahm Emanuel decide not to run again?
Because he was going to lose…Simple as that. I mean he gave a lot of other excuses, but when we started our campaign he was in the low 30s. by the time that he left his approval ratings were in the 20s. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. When you are disliked that much, and I won’t because it’s a family program share the level of vitriol that I heard and experienced from people who wanted him gone, he had no path to victory.
You can read a full transcript here: transcript November 29 2018