By: Mark Glennon*
From Hyde Park to the Gold Coast to Edgewater, residents across the city are adjusting their daily routines out of fear. They’re avoiding neighborhood walks after 6:00 p.m. At night, they don’t stand too close to their windows or dare to enjoy their outdoor balconies or terraces. Their children, who will likely be homebound for the remainder of the year, are forced to play indoors because local parks and playgrounds have been inhabited with litter, vandalism, and crime,” This is not a way to live, and I can’t fault homeowners when they tell me they’re considering leaving Chicago.
That’s from an open letter sent Wednesday by the president of Sudler, one of the biggest property management companies in Chicago, to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
He’s hardly alone. A chorus of similar voices arose after Sunday night’s riots from a broad sector of Chicagoans. A few examples:
- “The fear is spreading, the anxiety is spreading and we’re seeing individuals who used to see the downtown areas, like the crown jewel of our city, now wanting to leave…and stores who were just starting to get past the main riots and looting thinking that they may not stay on the Magnificent Mile anymore,” said Alderman Ray Lopez.
- “The streets are empty and this time of year hotels would be full and the streets would be full. The rioting and violence have stopped people from coming downtown,” a Chicago business owner told “America’s Newsroom.”
- “It has to stop,” Ashley Jones, a Gold Coast resident, said. “It has to come from the highest level up top. We can’t have our city looking like this.”
- The head of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police wrote to U.S. Attorney John Lausch and Attorney General William Barr Wednesday, calling on federal officials to intervene, saying Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx applies a “presumption of dismissal” for charges related to looting.
Black Chicagoans are perhaps more fed up than anybody. Englewood residents told Black Lives Matter members to get lost when they tried to stage a protest there and, nationally, a whopping 81% of black Americans don’t want less police presence, which BLM wants.
Maybe the city got at least got some comfort Monday when Lightfoot finally showed no sympathy for the rioters and called for tougher prosecutions.
But a different Lightfoot went on national television Wednesday, resorting to partisan blather that was entirely unresponsive to people’s fears and against the city’s interest.
On MSNBC, she was shown a clip of President Trump’s reaction to the riots which, uncharacteristically, was restrained, polite and non-accusatory. He said Chicago had the resources to handle its own problems – which is exactly what Lightfoot has often said – and he added,
I’m offering all available federal support requested to stop the violence and arrest the criminals. We have to be asked by the governors or the mayors, and we’ll be there very rapidly. It’s ready, willing and able. We’re all ready, willing and able to go these jurisdictions and take care of them. We’ll do them very quickly.
That, too, is consistent with what Lightfoot has always said about federal aid.
But what was her response to Trump’s new tone and message?
“You know, those are the words of somebody who doesn’t understand the first thing about local policing, doesn’t understand the first thing about building authentic relationships with members of the community,” she said.
She went on to criticize Trump’s handling of Portland and blamed lack of tougher federal gun control measures for Chicago’s problems. Portland and guns had nothing to do with Sunday’s riots or Trump’s offer.
What good does a response like that do for the Chicago? The city desperately needs federal money to make ends meet, as Lightfoot herself has said. So does the State of Illinois and Chicago Public Schools, whose new budget assumes it will get a whopping $343 million in new federal help.
With an attitude like Lightfoot’s in response to an offer for help, it should be no surprise that Congress was unable to agree on any federal relief package for states and cities. Many GOP Senators, whose votes are needed for an aid package, represent states still in reasonably good shape and they are loath to asking their taxpayers bail out places like Chicago. Congress has now gone on recess until after Labor Day.
Lightfoot added not a single comment that might be constructive towards resolving the impasse. The relevant potion of her interview is below.
Chicagoans terrified about the city’s future will take no solace hearing their mayor put national politics over their interests.
That’s particularly true of business owners who also worry about workers who commute into Chicago. That letter from Sudler’s president to Lightfoot also said this:
Staff have fearfully traveled through downtown in the middle of looting sprees just to report to their shifts on time. They’ve dragged dumpsters in front of doorways as additional blockades, rehearsed and implemented lockdown procedures, called 911 on repeat, and for some, have been face-to-face with criminals threatening violence.
Facing that, and hearing Lightfoot on MSNBC, how could anybody choose to work or live in Chicago?
The next big problem may be Saturday when radicals plan to shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway at Noon. If they succeed, will Lightfoot again blame Portland, federal gun laws and Trump?
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.