Today, I am reposting a commentary from John Kass that appeared on his blog https://johnkassnews.com/. John is a former Chicago Tribune colleague and columnist who now produces a popular blog and podcast that deal with the “Chicago Way.” John possesses a keen eye and knows Chicago as well as any journalist I have known. I am particularly focused on Chicago because I lived and worked there for many years as a Chicago Tribune reporter and editor–in addition to a significant stretch as a foreign correspondent.
Now, Chicago is facing a critical election that will no doubt impact the future of the “city that works”–as Chicago was once known. Today, Chicago is a place ridden with crime and horrendous leadership, thanks to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is, without a doubt, the most ham-fisted and bungling mayor in Chicago’s glorious history. If she is reelected, you can say goodbye to the “city of big shoulders,” as Carl Sandburg once called Chicago. Take a look at John Kass’s take on today’s vital election.
Today is the day Chicago asks itself: “Who Should be mayor?”
by John Kass
I really shouldn’t be typing this today. I haven’t yet fully recovered from the open-heart surgery, the quadruple bypass, the stroke and the other health issues I’ve been dealing with for the past two months. My wife, the doctors, nurses, therapists and good friends want me to take it easy, but I can’t.
I’ll take it easy tomorrow, but not today.
I’d much rather be sitting in a soft, comfortable chair. But February 28 compels me. It is Election Day in Chicago, the main event of the great bloodsport that is Chicago politics.
There has been no civic decision as important as the choice to keep building after The Great Chicago Fire. This election day is the day Chicago will tell itself and the world whether it wants to keep on fighting and live or curl up and turn to dust.
If history tells us anything, it’s that cities die. It’s not a pretty thing; there’s too much in the dust, ruined lives, shattered dreams, and panic to think of the city dying, but they do.
The people of Thebes understood how a city dies. Alexander The Great made sure of it. All that is left of the great city of Thebes is rocks and dust.
The people of Troy understood, as did the people of Byzantium, which was, until recently, called Constantinople.
And the people of Pompei understood but it happened much too quickly for them to wrap their minds around it. You don’t suppose a great city could die in our great country, do you?
But these days in the failed state of Illinois, there is little trust by the people of their local government and for almost 200 years, the political corruption, waste, and cynical tribalism have festered and now bubbles up as the city reaches its breaking point.
What I’m reminded of is the poem that frightened me as a young boy. We found it in the Roberts Reader at Kolmar School in Oak Lawn in the 3rd grade:
“And on the pedestal, these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley-
So, what is today?
It’s Election Day, the day when the people of Chicago decide whether they want to live or at least continue to fight, or they’ve already decided to leave. I never wanted to leave the city of my birth.
My friend Steve, the pilot, never wanted to leave. I didn’t want to leave.
There are police officers who never wanted to leave.
Today is the day we ask ourselves, “who should be mayor?”
You know my preferences, I’d like Paul Vallas. I think he gives the city the best hope of sustainability in the face of an unprecedented violent crime wave. Crime is the single issue that all of us understand, the most important issue facing the city, and without safety, there will be no Chicago, just a collection of power interests.
Is Lightfoot going to solve the issue? Crime is an epidemic, and Chicago won’t be addressing it fully until those responsible for crime and dealing with crime are held to account. Consider something I’ve been telling you for years now. Look for what is not in the story; look for what’s avoided. Look for who is not mentioned.
Consider the crime issue– the most important issue in this 2023 campaign. Does Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle figure prominently in these accounts? Does Chief Judge Tim Evans? Does Preckwinkle’s protégée Kim Foxx, the non-prosecuting prosecutor of Cook County, feature as much as she deserves?
These are three of the four furies of Chicago’s violent crime problem. The fourth is none other than the woman who caved to them all and lost the city and my support as well– Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot’s time for honoring herself will soon be at an end. But in order to save this great city, those who are equally responsible must be held to account, those who allow for lax prosecutions, for demonizing the police, for arguing the ridiculous premise that a gang member who kills an eight-year-old can’t understand right from wrong. All of this kills a city too, no matter who is mayor.
And until the furies are invited to move on to other pastures, nothing will improve. Some of you would like Brendon Johnson or Chuy Garcia. But both of these are Preckwinkle candidates. And with Garcia and Johnson, Preckwinkle butters both sides of her bread with the safety of taxpayers.
Preckwinkle is a cautious professional politician who’s been pulling the strings, trying to destroy Lightfoot, her old rival. She’s done a great job on the mayor, what with the Tribune endorsing Boss Toni and with WBEZ-Sun Times protecting her left flank. As long as she stays Boss of Cook County and the Boss of the criminal justice system, the situation will not improve.
Yes, Paul Vallas can win this thing. But to save Chicago and the people in it, to give them a fighting chance, there is more work to be done. He’ll need to cleanse the Augean Stables and he’ll need the help of the people to rout the four furies of Chicago crime.
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