Photo courtesy of ChicagoTribune.com
Two years ago, you elected me to bring real reform and a progressive path forward in a city that had for too long been rife with corruption and systems that weren’t inclusive, equitable or fair.
Little did we know that you’d also be electing me to guide Chicago through the biggest crisis in its history–a global pandemic that has killed more than 5,000 Chicagoans and ground our entire city and society to a halt.
At my inauguration, I talked about the need for good government, transparency and accountability. “PPE” and “mRNA vaccines” weren’t in my vocabulary yet. I never dreamed we’d be worrying about making sure we had enough ventilators in local hospitals. I never dreamed we’d be thinking about classroom ventilation, or distributing face coverings to thousands of City workers, let alone turning our sports arenas into mass vaccination hubs. I never dreamed we’d be thinking about how to use our reverse 911 system to find homebound seniors who might need a healthcare worker to show up at their door with a vaccine, or how to turn CTA buses into mobile vaccination sites for our Black and Brown communities.
Together, we mobilized every resource we had in the fight against this virus, with an eye toward racial equity. We mobilized the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, working with community organizations, houses of faith and local leaders on the ground in the most impacted communities to help stop the spread of the virus. We worked with local hotels and unions to provide quarantine and isolation rooms for first responders, and for Chicagoans experiencing homelessness. We worked with local organizations to distribute thousands of meals to folks who were going hungry.
Two years in, I’m humbled by all that we’ve gotten done. We’ve increased the minimum wage–it’ll be $15 an hour this coming July. We’ve passed the most expansive Fair Workweek law in the country, ending years of abusive treatment of hourly workers in Chicago. We passed sweeping ethics reforms to limit aldermanic prerogative and rein in corruption in City government. And we’ve taken on police reform, forcing major contract concessions on accountability from the unions representing our sergeants and lieutenants, overhauling the way CPD conducts search warrants, and making huge changes to the rules that officers must follow when using force. This work isn’t even close to done–but I know we won’t back down until it is.
Even in the face of this deadly pandemic and unprecedented civil unrest, we’ve stayed focused. We haven’t been afraid to take on the tough fights–but there is still much more to do. I’ll be announcing my priorities for the second half of this term in the coming days, and to get the rest of our agenda done, I’m going to need you standing with me every step of the way.
Now, we are safely beginning to reopen our city and get people back to work. Arts and culture are coming back to every neighborhood. All because people like you stayed home, wore masks, got vaccinated, and helped yourselves, neighbors and our city to show kindness and empathy. It is that spirit and our resiliency which will carry us forward as we enter the next chapter of our shared destiny together.
What we’ve just come through hasn’t been easy for any of us. But I am profoundly grateful to you for continuing to put your faith in me through this incredibly trying time. And I am so proud of what we achieved together, persevering and staying focused on our north stars of equity and justice, even under the worst circumstances imaginable.
Thank you for all that you do.
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot