Mayor Lori Lightfoot had her first extensive public schedule Thursday, hitting stops all over the city and bringing together all of the big agency heads to prepare to combat violence over the Memorial Day weekend.
The long weekend kicking off summer is traditionally one in which city resources are stretched because the weather is warm and there are lots of events and lots of people outside. Lightfoot on Thursday brought together many city agencies to announce coordinated plans to try and combat any violent activity. It includes 1,200 additional police officers, 100 officers in a tactical hot spot areas, additional family friendly programming from Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Public Library and the Park District. These are initiatives typical of summer weekends – Lightfoot says her strategy involves encouraging all community stakeholders and faith-based organizations to monitor their neighborhoods.
“Will the police be present? Of course,” Lightfoot said. “That’s what community members expect and pay for as taxpayers, but this has got to be an effort not just led by the police department, but community members coming together and additional city resources.”
Lightfoot was joined by Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, CPS CEO Janice Jackson and the head of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, who said they’d been meeting with the incoming administration for weeks about this weekend’s plan.
“We know we’re going to get big crowds downtown, everyone’s going to come down and enjoy the lakefront and use our transportation systems,” OEMC Commissoner Rich Guidice said. “We believe we have the right resources to monitor this weekend’s activities.”
Amid this planning, Lightfoot has had to deal with sort of a mini-controversy in her first few days. It deals with the person she hired for her private security detail, Jim Smith, a former U.S. marshal who is married to a prominent city and state lobbyist. The mayor’s security detail is typically staffed by Chicago Police Department officers, and Lightfoot’s detail will consist of a mix of CPD and former federal agents.
She says she has consulted the board of ethics to make sure Smith is complying with all city conflict-of-interest rules and that he is essential to her family’s safety.
“My family’s security is most important to me,” Lightfoot said. “We had some incidents during the campaign, and Jim really stepped up and protected me, so I have every confidence he’s going to do a good job.”
During the holiday weekend, Lightfoot will also have to prepare for her first City Council meeting on Wednesday. It’s an important one – Lightfoot said Thursday she’s studying up on all the rules and bylaws of the council to make sure her team is fully ready for whatever the council throws at her Wednesday.
The council will vote on her picks to chair the 18 City Council committees, including 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack for the Finance Committee. This is usually done in one block vote. But WTTW News has learned that some aldermen who are in opposition to Lightfoot’s selections are attempting to possibly break up the vote into a separate one for each committee chair. That could really put a wrench in her plans.
Meanwhile, Lightfoot on Thursday took the rostrum in City Council for the first time in front of a much more agreeable legislative body: the Next Generation Council. This is a group of CPS students who deliberate and vote on legislation and act out a City Council meeting. It’s a program put together by City Clerk Anna Valencia. Lightfoot asked the students what they had learned. One said, very presciently, that he’s learned it’s hard to keep emotion out of politics.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz