Chicago shudders as we get closer to the Independence Day weekend, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot must be asking herself:
How many more babies will be murdered in Chicago’s street gang wars?
The people, numbed, lose count. A 1-year-old shot in his car seat. A 3-year-old dead. Two girls killed by gang fire from the street while in their homes in separate incidents. A 3-year-old girl was just shot in the chest as she played outside her home.
Chicago’s river of violence flows through the murder city, where 96 people were killed in a 28-day stretch that covered most of June. And by the time you read this, chances are that more children will be among them.
It’s time to stop the bleeding, Mayor Lightfoot. That’s the first priority. Stop the bleeding. And lead your city.
She’s thrown her police under the bus, but on Wednesday she announced a 180-degree change in course. She needs them. Now she wants her exhausted cops to sweep problem areas and make arrests, even if social justice warriors complain.
“If any civil liberty group has a problem with people who are killing, killing our people over drug spots, let’s have a conversation, because you need to have your attitude readjusted,” Lightfoot told reporters. “What I’m talking about is, we’ve got criminal enterprises that are using vulnerable young people. We all should be appalled by that.”
She’s been mugged by reality and knows virtue signaling and rhetoric won’t stop the street gangs. Yes, that stuff excites national media and TV networks. They get tingles when she rips on President Donald Trump. He’s snarky, she’s snarky, and fighting with him from the blue city in the blue state gives her political cover from media criticism. But she can’t use Trump as a shield forever.
She’s the mayor. Families are weeping. And babies are being killed.
Notice that Black Lives Matter and their allies aren’t leading any angry demonstrations about Black and brown children being cut down in Chicago. Those dead babies have no political utility. Their lives don’t help the activists leverage the November elections. So those lives are ignored.
But Lightfoot can’t ignore them. She’s the mayor.
She’s a brilliant woman, a person of integrity, and I still support her. But the city is numb. The murders continue climbing and the Fourth of July is just a few days away. Gov. J.B. Pritzker won’t help her. He’s a soft billionaire, a marshmallow who wants to be liked and thinks he can become president. He cares about optics. He won’t order in the National Guard.
If the killings happened in Wilmette and Winnetka, he’d send them in. He’d build a moat. But he’s not being pressured about the killings on the South and West sides.
Lightfoot is the mayor of memes. But you don’t run Chicago by memes. You run a city like Chicago with experienced people, who have the guts to tell a mayor the most important word in politics: “No.” But she doesn’t have people to tell her no. And she and the city pay for it.
The Chicago Police Department is demoralized, exhausted and confused, and much of that is her own doing. She’s worked them to the bone. She lost them with her sarcasm and that ridiculous Bobby Rush popcorn drama.
Hasn’t she realized she can’t run the Police Department from City Hall? If so, she should tell her public safety bureaucrat — the cops know who he is, and so do I — to take a step back and let police Superintendent David Brown run his own department.
Lightfoot threw Brown under the bus just two weeks on the job. Undercutting her new police superintendent in front of his troops was a bad move. I hear he’s disgusted. A few days ago, she also threw former police Superintendent Eddie Johnson under the bus, releasing that old video of Eddie sleeping in his car. It changed the subject for a news cycle. But Black cops liked Eddie. He was one of them. She did herself no favors.
Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas had a good idea to hire retired city detectives to go over old cases and help clear them. He also thought crime witnesses should be moved into other neighborhoods, to protect them. Lightfoot mocked him.
And what about former Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo? He’s a thoughtful man with decades on the job. He knows how the department works. He wouldn’t undercut commanders the way that suit of hers at City Hall does now. Having a guy like Angelo whom she could talk to would help her.
Vallas and Angelo are guys who’d tell her “No” when she most needed to hear it. But she doesn’t like that.
“We need people,” said a senior police source. “We need those old mobile response teams, that we could send to neighborhoods that are blowing up. But City Hall doesn’t want bad optics. We need a cadre of 75 that you can order in quickly. Now we’ve got to pick and pull people from districts. That takes time. And when a baby is dead, we don’t have time.”
Mayor Lightfoot is finding that out. Bad optics isn’t about arrests being made, but babies being killed in the gang wars.
She’s out of time. And July Fourth is just days away.
Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at www.wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.
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