CHICAGO (CBS) — Lori Lightfoot was sworn in <pmdau as Chicago’s 56th mayor this morning, becoming the first black woman and openly gay person to take the reins at City Hall.
Approximately 10,000 people attended the inauguration at Wintrust Arena.
The new mayor wasn’t alone in making history on Monday. With Melissa Conyears-Ervin being sworn in as city treasurer, and Anna Valencia starting her first full term as city clerk, it’s the first time women hold all three citywide elected offices – and women of color to boot.
A new City Council also was sworn in, with 12 new aldermen taking office, including at least five democratic socialists, who together with incumbent democratic socialist Carlos Ramirez-Rosa already have announced efforts to move the City Council further left.
Turning to the reform theme of her campaign for mayor, Lightfoot said she must restore trust in city government.
“I know, I know, putting Chicago government and integrity in the same sentence is, well, a little strange,” Lightfoot joked. “But that’s going to change. It’s got to change. For years, they’ve said Chicago ain’t ready for reform. Well, get ready, because reform is here.”
Blasting elected and appointed officials who “cut shady backroom deals” to profit from their office, Lightfoot said the average taxpayer ends up footing the bill for corruption.
“When public officials cut shady backroom deals, they get rich and the rest of us get the bill,” she said. “When some people get their property taxes cut in exchange for campaign cash, they get the money and sure enough we get the bill.”
She also repeated her pledge to sign an executive order reducing the longtime practice of aldermanic privilege, which effectively gives aldermen total control over zoning, permits, and licenses in their wards.
“This does not mean our aldermen won’t have power in their communities. It does not mean our aldermen won’t be able to make sure the streetlights are working or the parking signs are in the right place or any of the thousands of good things they do for people every day,” she said. “It simply means ending their unilateral, unchecked control over on every single thing that goes on their wards. Alderman will have a voice, not a veto.”
Lightfoot acknowledged she also faces tough choices when it comes to the city’s budget, given ballooning pension payments, at a time Chicago residents already have been hit with significant property tax increases and other higher fees.
“None of this is going to be easy,” Lightfoot said. “But we will do the hard work with transparency, integrity and a determination to put our pensions on a true path to solvency, and make our government work more efficiently, and without balancing budgets on the backs of low wage and working-class Chicagoans.”
She also hinted that she would demand developers increase their commitments to providing affordable housing when they receive taxpayer subsidies for construction projects.
“Developers can no longer skip their responsibilities by taking tax dollars but leaving it to someone else to solve our affordable housing crisis,” she said. “Here too, the City must lead. We need to cut the red tape and obstacles and instead promote the building of new units and have flexibility in our building code so that innovative housing forms can come on line.”
Lightfoot also pledged to provide more development for the city’s neighborhoods.
“Our neighborhoods have been neglected for too long. They cannot be anymore,” she said. “Still, we should never settle for dividing up a shrinking pie or pitting one part of this city against another.”
Lightfoot promised to expand early childhood education in an effort to make sure every student has a good education all the way through high school and college.
“Every child gets a quality education—that’s our business, no matter what,” she said.
She said the city cannot attract new families to Chicago and keep families here without a quality education for every single child.
“Our goal is simple: starting in our schools, we will create a citywide workforce as the pipeline for jobs of today and tomorrow that will be the envy of the world,” she said.
Lightfoot also said she would work with local businesses and labor unions to set up more apprenticeships for students who want to work in the trades, and work with employers to make sure they can get jobs as soon as they graduate high school.
“Every student should have the option to pursue vocational and technical training,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said her administration would be led by four guiding principles, offering a reinterpretation of the four stars on the city’s flag, suggesting they would stand for safety, education, stability, and integrity.
The new mayor called the city’s problems with gun violence the biggest problem she will face.
“People cannot and should not live in neighborhoods that resemble a war zone. Enough of the shootings. Enough of the guns. Enough of the violence,” she said.
The new mayor vowed to develop a new proactive strategy to fight crime in neighborhoods hit hardest by gun violence, and to create a new Office of Public Safety, led by a deputy mayor charged with coordinating a unified violence prevention strategy that brings in not only police, but the full city government, schools, non-profits, businesses, and the faith community.
“When we hear of a random bullet cutting a life short, people across the city – from all ages and all walks of life – begin to wonder if Chicago is a place where they can continue to live and raise their children. Some have already answered the question by moving away, particularly from the hardest hit communities. The mass exodus we have seen, particularly in the Black community, saps the vitality of our great city. We must reverse the exodus by creating the reality of safety in every neighborhood. Public safety must not be a commodity that is only available to the wealthy,” she said.
The new mayor thanked her mother, 90-year-old Ann Lightfoot, for being her role model.
“My mother and my late father Elijah gave us the best they could in the segregated Ohio steel town where we grew up, even when they had almost nothing left to give,” she said. “As parents, they led by example. They instilled in me a clear set of values: loyalty to family, friends, and community; and the importance of hard work, education, and integrity.”
Lightfoot also invoked the memory of Harold Washington, the city’s first African American mayor, who served from 1983 until his death in 1987.
“We stand today at a time of great hope and possibility. And I can’t help but feel the spirit of the great Mayor Harold Washington here with us this morning,” Lightfoot said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox swore in Lightfoot as mayor, who said she takes office “humble and hopeful, honored to be the 56th mayor in the history of this great city.”
“In this moment, I cannot help but look at all of you and think about what lies ahead and what we can be together. I’m looking ahead to a city of safe streets and strong schools for every child regardless of neighborhood or zip code. A city where people want to grow old and not flee. A city of sanctuary against fear where no one must hide in the shadows. A city that is affordable for families and seniors and where every job pays a living wage. A city of fairness and hope and prosperity for the many, not just for the few, a city that holds equity and inclusion as our guiding principles,” Lightfoot said.
A native of Ohio, Lightfoot said she has felt at hoome in Chicago ever since arriving at the University of Chicago for law school.
“It’s where I met the love of my life, my wife, Amy. It’s where our daughter, Vivian, was born and where she’s growing up into the kind, curious, and spirited young woman I always knew she would be,” she said. “For me, this has been a city of opportunity. It’s been a city of hope.”
“We’re here to make herstory,” Rev. Dr. Beth Brown said, as she delivered a prayer for peace, repeatedly urging the audience to respond with chants of “we are enough and we have enough.”
“Help us to seize this moment to be and to create the kind of change we want to see going forward. Let us create a Chicago where there is room enough for everyone,” she said.
City Clerk Anna Valencia swears in all 50 aldermen, after taking the oath of office from Cook County Associate Judge Mary C. Marubio
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley and outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel greeted Lightfoot as she arrived on stage.
Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who lost the 2015 mayoral election in a runoff against Emanuel, was at the outgoing mayor’s side in the audience as the ceremony got underway. Gov. JB Pritzker, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and other members of the Illinois congressional delegation and the Illinois General Assembly also were seated on stage with Lightfoot. The new major was joined by her wife, Amy Eshleman, and their daughter, Vivian.
The Phoenix Military Academy JROTC presented the American flag ahead of the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Chicago Public Schools students from Back of the Yards, and the National Anthem, sung by Miguel Cervantes, star of the Chicago production of “Hamilton.”