By Jesse Wright | Published on May 20, 2019
On May 20, US District Judge Susan Cox swore in Lori Lightfoot as Chicago’s mayor at a ceremony attended by thousands at the Wintrust Arena.
Lightfoot is the city’s first openly gay and African American female mayor, and the significance was not lost of Lightfoot.
“I can’t help but feel the spirit of the late great mayor, Harold Washington,” she said. Washington was the city’s first African American mayor and he stepped into office in 1983 and left in 1987. Lightfoot’s mention of Washington drew a standing ovation.
But it was a historic day for others, too, as Lightfoot noted. Besides Lightfoot, Melissa Conyears-Ervin was sworn in as city treasurer and Anna Valencia was sworn in as the city clerk. All are African American women and this is the first time voters elected African American females to all three citywide positions.
The city’s aldermen were also sworn in.
For her first speech as mayor, Lightfoot’s message was an optimistic and firm promise to unite the city, and work for the betterment of those who need help. In addition, she promised to end aldermanic privilege after the inauguration ceremony.
“I’m looking ahead to a city of safe streets and strong schools for every child regardless of neighborhood or zip code,” she said. “A city where people want to grow old and not flee. A city of sanctuary against fear where no one must hide in the shadows. A city that is affordable for families and seniors and where every job pays a living wage. A city of fairness and hope and prosperity for the many, not just for the few, a city that holds equity and inclusion as our guiding principles.”
She made reference to recent anti-abortion laws passed in Alabama, and she promised that Chicago would fight for women’s rights.
“We must stand with women all across our country who fear for their basic rights and feel powerless in the face of the hateful legislation designed to control our bodies, our choices,” she said. “We cannot go back – not in Chicago, not as a nation. We will join together and we will fight.”
This, too, drew thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
She also looked inward, at the problems within City Hall, an institution plagued by a history of corruption and she promised reform. She told the audience after the inauguration, she would sign an executive order ending aldermanic privilege, a tradition that allows aldermen to pass or block city government actions that could hurt or benefit their wards. Critics have charged the system allows for corruption, favoritism and inconsistent application of ordinances around the city.
“It means this,” she said. “It means ending their unilateral and unchecked control over every single thing that goes on in their wards. Aldermen will have a voice but not a veto. This is the time of for a new era of trust.”
This promise drew some of the loudest, most sustained applause.
Following the ceremony, City Hall hosted an open house for the public.