The Most Recent Controversy Surrounding Mayor Lori Lightfoot

It can be surprising that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been in office for only one term, which started in 2019. It feels like Lightfoot has been in office forever and it hasn’t been short of controversies. 

1. Her battle with the Chicago Teachers Union 

It seems that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has gone on strike almost every other month over the last year. Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had to negotiate with the CTU about the safety of in-school learning throughout the pandemic. 

As described in a Chicago Sun-Times article, Lightfoot witnessed an 11-day strike from teachers in 2019, which ended in their favor as Lightfoot lost the PR battle. Lightfoot went back against her stance and compensated the teachers for five of the 11 days that they had been on strike. 

The 2019 teachers’ strike was due to the failure of the CTU and the Service Employees International Union to reach a contract agreement. The contract negotiations dealt with compensation, benefits, staffing, the possible hiring of counselors, nurses, and librarians, and class sizes. 

As for during the pandemic, teachers have refused to come back to school as they feel it’s unsafe to do so. In January, according to AP, the teachers of the CTU voted to defy the orders to return to the classroom. CPS had ordered around 1o thousand teachers and staff to return to in-school teaching for 70 thousand students. 

The CTU says that the district’s plan for a safe return fell short and they wanted vaccinations to be more widespread. They also wanted various ways to measure infections to be put in place as well. 

person holding a sign that says Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

2. Oh, That Budget! 

The budget of the city of Chicago has been in shambles for the longest. As part of her campaign, Lightfoot promises to fix the city’s budget. In November 2020, Lightfoot’s $12.8 billion “pandemic budget” for 2021 was narrowly approved by Chicago aldermen.

Part of that “pandemic budget” includes a $94 million property tax hike along with a debt refinancing. The property tax increase is tied to the consumer price index, which is “a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers.” 

Earlier this year, Chicago received $480 million from the federal government under the CARES ACT. Block Club Chicago reported that about 60 percent of that money, which amounts to $281.5 million, was allocated to the Chicago Police Department. 

Of course, the news received backlash from both activists and some aldermen. The Chicago City Budget offices say that there was misinformation circulating regarding the situation. The office tweeted a thread in defense of this statement. 

According to Gregory Pratt, a Chicago Tribune reporter who covers Lightfoot and City Hall, tweets about Lightfoot’s response to the backlash. Apparently, Lightfoot had said: “criticism comes with the job, but this one is just dumb.” 

dollar bills Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash

3. Her Use of the Bridges During the Summer 2020 Protests 

As Propublica reports, Lightfoot had raised the bridges three times in August 2020. The reason behind the move was to limit access to the Loop and its surrounding areas after protests led to property destruction and unrest. 

According to Block Club Chicago, Lightfoot stands behind her decision to raise the bridges and doesn’t think against doing it again. The controversial move was described as divisive and elitist as many saw it as the city caring more about the businesses downtown rather than the concerns and rights of everyday Chicago citizens. 

A report found that there was little planning for raising the bridges, which led to a stand-off between police and protesters. Raising the bridges forced the two sides into violent conflicts. 

There were many pleas on social media for help as people were stranded on the wrong side. Protesters were essentially trapped as the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) service was shut down as well. 

Officers even told the investigators on the report that the move was ineffective. The officers say the raising of the bridges took too long and it took away from responding to the looting. 

The attempt to keep people from the downtown area led to violence in residential neighborhoods; many locally-owned businesses were damaged and looted as a result.