Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, May 20, 2019
Lori Lightfoot will be sworn in as Chicago’s 56th mayor on Monday at an inauguration ceremony rich with both the political history that it makes, the expectations it creates and the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Wintrust Arena will be filled to its reconfigured capacity — with all 8,000 unobstructed seats — as Lightfoot officially becomes Chicago’s first openly gay mayor and the first African-American woman to serve as chief executive.
It’s been 40 years since Jane Byrne was inaugurated as Chicago’s first and — until now — only female mayor. It’s been 36 years since Harold Washington claimed the mantle as the city’s first African-American mayor.
Lightfoot, 56, is expected to recognize that political history, just as she did on April 2, the night she claimed her 74 percent mandate by carrying all 50 wards against County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
The program will also feature: Chicago Sinfonietta, the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance and Latin Music Program, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and the After School Matters Choir.
Also to be sworn in Monday are City Clerk Anna Valencia, who was appointed by Emanuel, then elected after running unopposed, and newly-elected City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, wife of Ald. Jason Ervin (28th). They are the first all woman of color team of citywide office holders Chicago has ever had.
Also taking the oath of office is a new City Council that has taken a sharp turn to the left.
It includes 12 new aldermen, 13 women, 20 African-Americans and 12 Hispanics. There are five gay aldermen, six Democratic Socialists, roughly 16 Progressives and as many as 33 regulars.
Lightfoot City Council lineup dumps three seasoned veterans: Transportation Committee Chairman Anthony Beale (9th), Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) and Public Safety Committee Chairman Ariel Reboyras (30th).
Even so, she is expected to have the votes to deliver the leaders she has chosen when the City Council meets on May 29 to take a reorganization vote that will be the first test of Lightfoot’s City Council muscle.
A former federal prosecutor, Lightfoot successfully sold herself as a change agent in a change election dominated by what is likely to be the biggest City Council corruption scandal Chicago has ever seen.
As for the message she wants Chicagoans to glean most, Lightfoot alluded to the dramatic difference between her own collaborative approach to Emanuel’s top-down style of governing.
“We’re gonna be a city that actually sees people, that hears them, that is respectful of the lived experience of people all over the city and not just a few,” she said.
“We’re gonna open up city government. We’re gonna push for change. But, the other thing that I want to say is, no one mayor can do it alone. And we’re gonna issue a challenge to people all across the city to step up and think about ways they can dig down and do more. It’s not gonna quite be the John Kennedy moment of, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you,’ but something akin to that, that is reflective of the moment that we’re in.”