The decade's most triggering comedy
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her re-election campaign, rendering her the first chief executive of the Windy City in four decades to lose re-election.
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson will advance to a runoff election after each garnered more votes than the incumbent. Lightfoot, who frequently touts her race and her self-identification as a lesbian, justified her loss to a reporter by noting that she is a “black woman in America,” but residents have a multitude of valid reasons to dismiss Lightfoot.
Crime rose dramatically during Lightfoot’s four-year tenure in Chicago City Hall. There were 490 homicides in the Windy City as of 2019, the year in which Lightfoot assumed office. Murders soared to 772 in 2020 and 800 in 2021, marking an increase of more than 58% as Black Lives Matter protests rocked the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Lightfoot, who has a personal police unit with 71 officers assigned to protect her life, meanwhile proposed eliminating $80 million from the Chicago Police Department budget in 2020 as the Defund the Police movement gained momentum among prominent Democrats. She accordingly lost the respect of law enforcement: police officers turned their backs on Lightfoot as she addressed reporters while one of their wounded colleagues was fighting for his life.
“Turning their backs on the mayor was an excellent example of how the hundreds of police officers felt waiting outside the hospital,” Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “They have had enough and are no longer going to remain silent anymore.”
Lightfoot has nevertheless boasted about the “real progress” she purportedly made on crime due to the marginal decreases in murders and shootings between 2021 and 2022, which still far exceeded the levels of criminality witnessed before she assumed office. “We have come a long way in making our city safer, but Mayor Lightfoot knows the work is not yet finished,” said her campaign website, which said she would hire hundreds more police officers if re-elected. “These investments represent her commitment to taking the necessary steps in this crucial work, and making sure Chicagoans in every neighborhood are safe and feel safe.”
Crime rates are one of several factors behind a mass exodus of businesses from the area. Ken Griffin, the former richest man in Illinois and current chief executive of hedge fund Citadel, moved much of his personal estate and business to Miami in response to the phenomenon. The multibillionaire and Republican megadonor indicated during one interview that a breaking point was the violent assault of two separate colleagues: the former was robbed after a person put “a gun to his head” during a coffee run, and another was attacked by “some random lunatic just trying to punch him in the head” while he was waiting for a car.
Beyond the city’s lackluster record on public safety, Chicago also has the second-highest tax burden in the nation for combined state and local sales tax rates, according to a study from the Tax Foundation. Lightfoot had proposed a property tax hike but reversed the policy ahead of her re-election campaign, according to a report from the Illinois Policy Institute.
The pressures have led other prominent businesses to leave Chicago: food processing company Tyson, airplane manufacturer Boeing, and construction machinery firm Caterpillar have also announced that they would shutter offices or move their headquarters from the city. Lightfoot still proclaimed on her campaign website that she is “committed to attracting new businesses” and “creating an environment that supports and sustains entrepreneurs and workers who make Chicago their home.”
The departure of businesses occurs alongside a migration of residents away from Chicago. The region lost more than 91,000 people between 2020 and 2021 alone, according to a report from The Chicago Tribune, following a trend seen in other major cities which instituted harsh lockdown mandates. Lightfoot informed unvaccinated residents as late as December 2021 that their “time is up” and said that her public health mandates were “inconvenient by design.”
Despite the failures under her administration, Lightfoot endorsed a plan at the end of last year that would grant her a 5% pay raise, marking the first wage hike for her position in nearly two decades. Lightfoot, however, will now have to find a new position altogether.