The story that Mayor Lightfoot is sticking with: you've gotta be tough to run a tough city.
The story that Mayor Lightfoot is sticking with: you've gotta be tough to run a tough city. Credit: Mayor's Facebook Page

Having finally got around to listening to Mayor Lightfoot’s recent interview with Kara Swisher of the New York Times, I’ve come to the rather obvious conclusion that she’ll probably get reelected.

Should she choose to run, that is. Which we all figure she will—no matter what she said to Swisher about “it’s not a gimme.”

So, if I were a betting man, I’d go to Vegas and bet for her to win.

Not that she’s doing such a bang-up job. On the issues that matter most to me—like redistributing the economic development pie—it’s pretty much the same old, same old.

The rich get richer, and the poor get press conferences where the mayor brags about what a great job she’s doing.

No, I think she’d win because she has a narrative that she’s really good at purveying. As she proved again in her interview with Swisher.

Not that I’m criticizing Swisher. In fact, as far as New York Times interviews with Chicago mayors go, this was a triumph of bulldog journalism. Indulge me with this tangent . . .

What is it about Chicago mayors that turn Times writers to mush?

I still can’t get over the love poems David Brooks and Thomas Friedman wrote to Mayor Rahm. One of which included this infamous sentence by Brooks. Here goes . . .

Mayor Rahm is “a full human being, rich and fertile from the inside out.” Which probably makes more sense if you read it backwards.

Back to Mayor Lightfoot’s narrative.

Having heard it twice in the last few months—once on a WTTW interview with Phil Ponce, the other with Swisher—I think I got it down pat. Goes like this . . .

Yes, she’s occasionally disagreeable. And yes, she ruffles feathers from time to time. And, yes, she’s tough. But . . .

You gotta be tough to run a tough city. And when you’re tough, the same old, same olds who ran this city don’t like it. And they push back.

Requiring her to remain tough. And to ruffle feathers. And so on and so forth.

Or as she told Swisher: “I came into office to push people out of their comfort zone. And I’ve done that. And I will continue to do that unapologetically. A lot of people don’t think that’s a woman’s place.”

And: “Yeah, I’m tough. There’s no question about it. You don’t get to be a Black woman going to the places that I’ve been . . . by letting people walk all over you and not fighting for your place at the table.”

And: “Does that make some people angry and upset? It does. But I’m not gonna apologize for being an advocate for things that I think are really important in our city.”

And: “Early on, after I was elected, a lot of people came to me trying to cut the same old kind of deals. The backroom stuff. And I’m like, ‘No, no, no. That’s not who I am.’ And they’re like, ‘Wait, you actually meant that, what you said on the campaign trail?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, I did.’”

And, finally . . .

“I wonder if we’d be having this conversation if I were a man.”

OK, let me just point out that many of the people Lightfoot is most disagreeable with are Black women. Such as Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor and Anjanette Young.

Not sure what “comfort zone” they inhabit. 

Before she was alderwoman, Jeanette Taylor was a community activist from a low-income, south-side community. She went on a hunger strike to force Mayor Rahm, kicking and screaming, to convert Dyett School into a high school as opposed to closing it. Like he did to so many schools and mental health clinics in Taylor’s neck of the woods.

And Anjanette Young is a social worker whose home was busted into by police on a no-knock warrant as she was stepping from her shower.

And so she was forced to stand naked while a dozen or so cops raced through her apartment, looking for god knows what. Which wasn’t there. ’Cause they had the wrong house.

And instead of moving heaven and earth to settle with Young, Lightfoot’s lawyers are in court playing hardball with her.

And it was their hardball tactics that motivated Alderwoman Taylor to try to send a message of protest by briefly delaying council approval of the mayor’s choice for corporate council.

Which caused Mayor Lightfoot to halt the meeting, walk down from the podium, and wave a finger in Taylor’s face.

So how is that a case of standing up against backroom deals? Or meaning what she said on the campaign trail? Or fighting her way to the table? How is that anything other than being a bully?

I must concede Mayor Lightfoot is right on target when she says nobody seemed to care too much about mean and nasty mayors when it was men—like Mayors Rahm and Daley—doing all the nastiness.

Oh, no, Chicago worshipped them for being nasty. Which says more about Chicago than it says about Daley, Rahm, or Lightfoot.

Face it, Chicago—you’re masochistic when it comes to mayors. The nastier the better.

Over the years, you’ve come up with all sorts of dim-witted excuses to justify the mayors you elect. Back in the day, Chicagoans would tell me things like, Ben, you don’t understand, we need a mean mayor to make the trains go on time.

And they were saying this during those days of the Daley administration when the Red and Blue lines were breaking down, despite Daley’s nastiness.

C’mon, Chicago, admit it. You’re weird.

Anyway, that’s Mayor Lightfoot’s narrative. Which she’s sticking to no matter who she offends.

Yeah, Chicago voters will probably lap it up. Just like they lapped it up with Daley and Rahm.

That said, Mayor Lightfoot: You know you owe apologies to Jeanette Taylor and Anjanette Young, no matter what you tell the New York Times.  v