Video: The WTTW News Spotlight Politics team takes on the day’s biggest headlines. (Produced by Alexandra Silets)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot played only a ceremonial role at her final meeting of the Chicago City Council, silently watching as her friends and foes praised her — and as indicted Ald. Ed Burke, her nemesis, seized the City Hall spotlight one last time.
Lightfoot declined to address the City Council on Wednesday at her last meeting as mayor, passing up the chance to begin shaping her legacy as the city’s leader during four of the most tumultuous years in Chicago history that saw a global pandemic, demands for racial justice, unrest and a historic surge in crime.
“Nothing is perfect, but you’ve done fantastic,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), who was a consistent supporter. “And a lot of people who may not want to recognize the sunshine, they always want to recognize the shade. I want to recognize the sunshine.”
Lightfoot has not held a formal news conference since finishing third in the race for mayor on Feb. 28, failing to advance to the April 4 runoff won by Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson. Her office has so far declined all invitations from local news organizations to discuss her tenure.
But on Wednesday, Lightfoot’s most vociferous critics paid her tribute.
“Your presence made me become a better alderman,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward), who considered running for mayor against Lightfoot. “I think my presence helped you become a better mayor. At the end, together, we helped make this a better city. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward), the chair of the City Council’s Black Caucus, acknowledged that he was skeptical of the mayor’s Invest South/West plan because it did not include his ward’s Garfield Park.
Ervin praised Lightfoot’s “vision for the city in its entirety” and lauded her for “lifting up the West and South sides.”
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) joined Ervin in praising Lightfoot for her focus on the West Side.
“I’ve always believed in looking past where I think someone did wrong,” Mitts said. “I appreciate the help that you gave to the community. You came to that West Side more than any mayor that’s been in the city.”
Lightfoot’s decision to cede the spotlight at City Hall gave Burke a chance to take center stage — one last time, despite the fact that he is scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 6 on 14 counts of corruption.
Burke took the opportunity to deliver one last stemwinder about Chicago history and the valor of Chicago Police officers and firefighters — and, as he put it, “the great Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke.”
“In politics, there are no permanent enemies, no permanent friends. Only permanent interests,” Burke said. “Those words are wise, are they not? And should be a goal for all who are in government. If I have failed during these past 54 years in achieving that goal, please permit me to apologize.”
Burke and Lightfoot will leave office on May 15, four years after his downfall led to Lightfoot’s rise to power. Eleven other members of the City Council are leaving: Alds. Sophia King, Leslie Hairston, Roderick Sawyer, Susan Sadlowski Garza, Anabel Abarca, Howard Brookins, Roberto Maldonado, Ariel Reboyras, Tom Tunney, James Cappleman and Harry Osterman.