VIR­TU­ALLY EX­HAUSTED

Mayor Lori Light­foot dis­cusses her very busy, ‘in­spir­ing’ 1st Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

Mayor Lori Light­foot can only imag­ine what a whirl­wind this past week would have been had the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion been real and in Mil­wau­kee in­stead of vir­tual and on Zoom.

“I’m al­ready tired,” Light­foot said. “Just imag­ine if it was ac­tu­ally in per­son. The amount of so­cial­iz­ing and af­ter-hours, I’ll say, con­ver­sa­tion.”

Light­foot popped up dur­ing vir­tual meet­ings held by the Democrats’ Black and Poverty cau­cuses, by groups pro­mot­ing fe­male, gay and les­bian can­di­dates, and on pan­els on elec­tion in­tegrity and the im­pact of the coro­n­avirus on city and state fi­nances.

Be­tween con­ven­tion events, she squeezed in an­nounce­ments about re­forms to the Chicago Pub­lic Schools School Re­source Of­fi­cer pro­gram and a com­mu­nity polic­ing ex­pan­sion.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was a for­mer White House chief of staff who alien­ated Chicago vot­ers by play­ing too much na­tional pol­i­tics. He was forced to cut short his trip to the 2012 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Char­lotte, North Carolina, be­cause of a teach­ers strike.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view with the Sun-Times — which her staff in­sisted be con­fined to con­ven­tion ac­tiv­i­ties — Light­foot de­nied any sim­i­lar danger for her less than two weeks re­moved from a sec­ond round of loot­ing that rav­aged down­town, River North, the Gold Coast and Lin­coln Park be­fore spread­ing to Chicago neigh­bor­hoods.

“I never take my eye off the city,” she said. “Rais­ing my pro­file really is about rais­ing Chicago’s pro­file and mak­ing sure that we get our fair share of fed­eral fund­ing be­cause we need it.”

Had there been no pan­demic, over­flow del­e­gates would have stayed in Illi­nois ho­tels and de­scended on down­town and River North.

In that sense, Light­foot is for­tu­nate the con­ven­tion was vir­tual. She was spared the em­bar­rass­ment of del­e­gates walk­ing past looted stores and boarded-up restau­rants.

“I’ve ac­tu­ally been in the down­town area dur­ing the day­time and the night­time vir­tu­ally ev­ery day since, and what I’m see­ing is a city that’s in­cred­i­bly re­silient,” she said. “Yes, peo­ple are con­cerned. Yes, they were fear­ful. And we haven’t al­layed all of those con­cerns. But what I’m see­ing ev­ery sin­gle day … is peo­ple com­ing back to the city.”

Repub­li­cans who get their turn in the spot­light in the com­ing week have had a field day ac­cus­ing Democrats of ig­nor­ing ris­ing vi­o­lent crime and loot­ing in Chicago and other ma­jor cities, all run by Demo­cratic may­ors.

Light­foot said crime was “top of mind for all of the may­ors who are fac­ing an in­crease in vi­o­lence.”

“We don’t hide from the re­al­i­ties of life on the ground in our cities, but we’re do­ing it in a way that ac­tu­ally forges so­lu­tions and tries to bring peo­ple to­gether,” she said. “That is not what the pres­i­dent has ever done.”

Dur­ing a panel on state and lo­cal fi­nances and the coro­n­avirus, Light­foot said she will have no choice but to re­sort to lay­offs and fur­loughs with­out an­other round of stim­u­lus money to re­place rev­enue lost dur­ing the pan­demic.

“We’re look­ing for mul­ti­ple hun­dreds of millions of dol­lars,” she said.

Light­foot said her first con­ven­tion has been “in­spir­ing” and that a high­light was Michelle Obama’s open­ing-night speech.

“It was pow­er­ful be­cause it was so clas­si­cally her,” she said. “She didn’t raise her voice. But it was laser-like in lay­ing out the case for why Don­ald

Trump isn’t up for the job.”

Though Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den has apol­o­gized for a se­ries of in­sen­si­tive re­marks of­fend­ing Black vot­ers, the mayor said she is “not con­cerned in the slight­est” about African Amer­i­can vot­ers sit­ting out this elec­tion, not with Ka­mala Har­ris on the ticket.

“Each of us has said things that we wish we could take back. None of us is per­fect,” the mayor said.

But that does not in­clude Light­foot’s in­fa­mous “be­gins with F and ends with you” re­mark to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“I said it in a con­text of him say­ing that he was gonna bring out troops and shoot protesters,” she said. “That is an out­ra­geous state­ment. I can’t be­lieve it was ut­tered by the pres­i­dent of the United States. It needed a strong re­sponse. I don’t re­gret say­ing that one bit.”

SCREEN­SHOT

Mayor Lori Light­foot takes part in an on­line panel dis­cus­sion about elec­tion in­tegrity on Mon­day, the first day of the vir­tual Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

GETTY IM­AGES

A high­light of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion for Mayor Lori Light­foot: Michelle Obama’s speech. “She didn’t raise her voice,” Light­foot said. “But it was laser-like in lay­ing out the case for why Don­ald Trump isn’t up for the job.”

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