Lori Lightfoot to be inaugurated as Chicago's first black lesbian mayor

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Monday will mark a historic day in Chicago as the city inaugurates its first African American lesbian mayor.Lori Lightfoot, a former assistant US atto...

Posted: May 20, 2019 11:13 AM

Monday will mark a historic day in Chicago as the city inaugurates its first African American lesbian mayor.

Lori Lightfoot, a former assistant US attorney, will be sworn in at 10:30 a.m. at Wintrust Arena in the city's Near South Side community, according to a release from Lightfoot's office. The event will include performances by Miguel Cervantes of Chicago's "Hamilton" and the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, among others.

"I look forward to joining Chicagoans on Inauguration Day to celebrate the start of a new day for our incredible city," Mayor-elect Lightfoot said in a statement. "We're building a Chicago that celebrates our differences, inspires us all to be better, and embraces new ideas. There is no limit to what we can do when we all work together."

Lightfoot, 56, defeated Toni Preckwinkle, a political insider who heads the Cook County Board and chairs the Cook County Democratic Party, in a runoff election in April. Preckwinkle is also an African American woman.

"I think the most historic thing was beating the old, entrenched Chicago machine and getting such a resounding mandate for change," Lightfoot said the morning after she won.

Both Lightfoot and Preckwinkle were the final contenders in a crowded field of 14 candidates vying to be mayor of the country's third-largest city.

Lightfoot promised to tackle the city's issues

Lightfoot will take office amid efforts to address violent crime in the city and improve police-community relations.

Violent crime totals in Chicago have made headlines in recent years. In 2016, the city reported its highest number of homicides in two decades: 762. But killings have dropped since then: 650 in 2017 and 550 in 2018, police said.

The Chicago Police Department has credited the drop in violence partly to hiring more officers and stronger community policing. The department added 1,161 officers in two years, exceeding a 2016 pledge made by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to add 970.

Still, a series of high-profile cases of have strained police-community relations. In the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal -- in which a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, shot a black teenager 16 times as he walked away from police -- Lightfoot was appointed by Emanuel to head the newly created police accountability task force.

Many of the panel's recommendations were similar to the findings in the US Justice Department report that found serious problems with the police department's handling of racism within its ranks. Under Lightfoot, the city replaced its widely criticized police oversight agency with a civilian body designed to have much more oversight over officers and their supervisors.

She made holding police officers accountable for their actions a bedrock of her campaign.

Lightfoot's platform also looked at investing in neighborhood schools, according to her website. She promised to create an elected and representative school board so parents and the community can have a voice in how the school system operates.

Lightfoot also promised to expand affordable housing options and support small businesses.

Lightfoot joins a short list of black women mayors

Lightfoot's election marks her first time in political office.

She was born and raised in Ohio and comes from modest beginnings. Her mother worked as a health care aide. Her father worked in a factory and as a janitor.

Lightfoot went to college at the University of Michigan. After two years as a legislative aide in Washington, she attended law school at the University of Chicago. She has lived in the city for all but one year since 1986.

She often brings up her own background while promising to improve the city's school system and bridge the economic gap between city neighborhoods.

"I want to make sure that kids who look like me and are growing up in families like mine have the opportunity at their fingertips," she said.

Lightfoot describes herself as "an out and proud black lesbian." She and her spouse, Amy Eshleman, have a 10-year-old daughter.

Lightfoot joins a short list of black women mayors to lead a US city with a population of at least 100,000 people. Including her, there are only 13.

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