Chicago Sun-Times

Setting the agenda for the next mayor


You don’t have to look far to see who lost in the Feb. 28 municipal election — and it wasn’t just Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who stunningly failed to make the April runoff election, or the aldermanic candidates who lost their races as well.

Chicago lost too. A city and its people lose, big-time, when only one out of three eligible voters bother to cast ballots in an election with so much at stake.

Democracy isn’t just about what form of government we have. It’s also about whether we participat­e in that government. Yet voter turnout was an abysmal 32%, and young people ages 18 to 34 were the least likely to vote.

Now Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson are headed for the April 4 runoff, and together they garnered about 54% of the vote — which means that just over half of those one in three who did vote decided the outcome. Even smaller shares of voters decided the potential makeup of City Council and the new police district councils.

Chicago calls itself “the city that works.” Let’s work harder at getting out the vote on April 4.

A long to-do list

Beginning April 5, Chicago will be watching to see if all the promises made on the campaign trail by the winner translate into action and measurable results, or wither on the vine due to politics and bureaucrat­ic missteps.

We have our own mayoral agenda, like most Chicagoans. Here’s some of what’s on our to-do list.

Crime: In poll after poll, crime ranks as voters’ Number 1 concern. Solving the problem isn’t easy. But far too often, solutions are viewed as an either-or propositio­n: more cops or more social programs. The next mayor has to be savvy enough to walk and chew gum at the same time: Fight crime in the here-and-now with effective policing — too many murders and shootings go unsolved for lack of detectives, for one — while supporting long-term crime prevention with funding of proven anti-violence initiative­s.

The next mayor also must put his foot on the gas when it comes to policing reform. That should start with finding the right leader to replace outgoing Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, who never fully stepped out of Lightfoot’s shadow to get buy-in from the city for his vision of communityf­ocused policing that, on paper, aligned with reform.

Chicago cannot keep only inching forward on implementi­ng the federal policing reform consent decree. The police superinten­dent and the mayor have the bully pulpit. It’s up to them to make sure reform happens, to build sorely needed trust between CPD and the community.

Public transit: The mayor is not directly responsibl­e for the Chicago Transit Authority, which is an independen­t agency. But the mayor can — and should — keep pressure on the CTA to be transparen­t about its plans to make a dent in rider complaints about the “Big 3”: safety, cleanlines­s and timeliness. One sign of progress: the CTA is now providing a livestream of some Blue Line platforms to help riders plan their trips. More and bigger steps are needed if the badly struggling public transit system is to bounce back.

Neighborho­od investment:

Lightfoot deserves kudos for launching Invest South/West, bringing a much-needed influx of public and private money to developmen­t projects in long-neglected neighborho­ods. That type of investment must be a priority under the next administra­tion.

Chicago can’t go back to the days when downtown, as important as it is to the city’s overall economy, dined at a full banquet while Auburn Gresham, Garfield

Park and other communitie­s on the South and West sides got the scraps of attention, if any attention at all. A mayor who doesn’t make developmen­t in struggling neighborho­ods a priority will count as a failure in our book.

Arts and culture: Remember Cows on Parade, former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s wildly popular public art extravagan­za in which painted life-sized cows popped up across the city? We do, and we’d like to see more such attentiong­rabbing events.

We’d like to see the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, under the next mayor, come up something equally high-profile to showcase the arts and culture scene. A good example is Artprize, an internatio­nal arts competitio­n that showcased art in public venues in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the public, as well as juries, voted on the awards. Artprize folded last year. Maybe Chicago should copy the idea.

Finances: The city’s four pension funds are severely underfunde­d, and every dollar that goes toward getting pensions back on track is a dollar not spent on vital city services. Chicago has to find a sustainabl­e solution.

This is by no means a complete agenda, of course. We’re thinking especially about improving public schools, another daunting task for the next mayor.

This agenda is just the beginning of the work that begins April 5.

 ?? KAMIL KRZACZYNSK­I/GETTY IMAGES ?? “I Voted” stickers cover a table at a polling place on Feb. 28.
KAMIL KRZACZYNSK­I/GETTY IMAGES “I Voted” stickers cover a table at a polling place on Feb. 28.

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