Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Lori Lightfoot takes a victory lap in the middle of the race.

     As a fan of newspapers, I subscribe to four. Two electronically: the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. And two in print, the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times.
     I could include The Economist. They call themselves a newspaper, putting on airs. But it's a magazine. I could call myself the King of Northbrook. Doesn't make it so.
     I read them in different ways. The Post I almost always read on my iPhone. The Sun-Times is read in the morning at the kitchen table, always before the New York Times, as a matter of principle. The Tribune I check online when I want to read Eric Zorn, Rick Kogan, Steve Johnson, Mary Schmich, or any of its other fine columnists.
     So Monday, I was at lunch when I read Lori Lightfoot's interview with the New York Times. It struck me as odd that she would claim the Chicago Teachers Union has aspirations to be "akin to a political party" and run the city. Where did that come from? I wrote it off as the typical collapse into a heap that control freaks do. You HIT me back! Nobody cries like a bully.
     Then Tuesday, I read Fran Spielman's piece, which viewed the Times interview through the lens of Lightfoot's campaign promise to turn control of the schools back to parents, then dragoons a cast of the knowledgable to gather, like mourner's at a funeral, to gaze down pityingly at Lightfoot's damning self-praise, "We would never have opened without mayoral control."
     Fran quotes CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates that “exalt mayoral control in a post-Trump America is the wrong direction.”
     Yes. Autocracy isn't only bad when Republicans do it at a national level. But even Democrats in cities. What mayor ever fixed the schools alone? Except in their own estimation, that is.
     And yet. Being old enough to cover what in the 1990s were called "Local School Councils" I don't view parental control as a panacea either. If I recall, much effort was put into cashiering principals who were guilty only of being a different race than their students.
     It's more a question of optics. Maybe Lightfoot couldn't resist preening for New Yorkers, in that dismal, though common, Midwestern tendency to want to shine on the coast. That sounds about right. Maybe she doesn't think anyone in Chicago reads the Times—there may be some truth there. As it is, some days the thing is so smug and tone deaf that I'm ready to save the $95 a month it costs to have that blue bag thrown at my house every morning.
     I'm sure Lightfoot never imagined that Fran would take her interview and use it as clay to construct a more damning portrait. Would whittle it to a sharpened point, and then ram it so far up her ass it came out the top of her head—of course in a dignified, understated, professional manner.
     But if you read the two pieces, as I suggest you do if you haven't already, they're a master class in why reporters cover beats. Note the credulous, do-tell-us-madam-mayor tone of Gotham's Gray Lady. Then Fran's burning of mayoral hubris down to the waterline.
     Honestly, after the disappointment of Rahm Emanuel, I'm not quite ready to give up on Lightfoot. She's charmless and grim and self-pitying and holds the media in contempt, but that isn't anything new or different in a mayor. Yes, Lightfoot was dealt a series of civic disasters on a Jobian scale that can make one forget that Chicago was royally screwed before the pandemic/civic unrest/economic sclerosis of 2020. Yes, the Chicago Teachers Union can be maddeningly focused on serving its members instead of pushing whatever initiative the mayor of the moment has in mind. 
    And in Lightfoot's defense, I still cherish her calling that FOP clown a clown into an open mike, and give her credit for the Harold Lloyd act she pulled trying to get people to wear masks.
     But geez, don't spike the ball until you're in the end zone. A little, ah, premature to be taking credit for anything regarding the opening of the schools. Particularly since they were all closed on Tuesday. Mother Nature, yes. But one doesn't want to piss off Mother Nature, does one? Or Fran Spielman, for that matter, a force of nature herself. 


  1. " It struck me as odd that she would claim the Chicago Teachers Union has aspirations to be "akin to a political party" and run the city. "

    How did you miss that?
    At a previous contract negotiation, CTU wanted the city to agree to rent control & a few other things that have nothing to do with the schools.
    That's why the state passed a law a few years ago limiting what CTU could bargain for. But now our nitwit legislators have passed a bill to eliminate that & it's waiting for Pritzker's veto or signing.
    I sure hope he vetoes it!
    CTU is a union that's totally out of control with reality!

  2. The whole question of whether and how to reopen schools is arguably the most vexing of this whole pandemic. How do you weigh the concerns of parents on the one hand, who want the best possible instruction for their children, and teachers on the other, who don't want to risk their lives to do their jobs?

    All I can say is that I'm glad I'm a childless non-teacher.

    As for elected school boards: It's a moot issue for me personally because my school district's boundaries span several municipalities. I suspect Chicago is the only place in the state where a school district covers a city and only a city. Anyway, I'm dubious of the proposition that electing school board members is any better than having them appointed by a trustworthy mayor.

    (I'm not making any assumptions here about Lightfoot's trustworthiness.)

  3. Who would have thunk it? That a Black lesbian lawyer would turn out to be the reincarnation of Richard J. Daley.


  4. Putting all inside politics aside, I know Mayor Lightfoot is far from perfect, but I can't help liking her confidence and candor. A Black, gay woman, smart and fearless, working for America's greatest city; it's all good.

    1. That's the spirit, Sandy. Having voted for her twice, I've been pretty disappointed. But I still try to give her the benefit of the doubt. Yes, perhaps "She's charmless and grim and self-pitying and holds the media in contempt," but she seems to *try* to be charming and funny on occasion. I'm sure it ain't easy, given all she's up against, but it's the thin-skinned aspect that tends to grate on me.

      Still, there are big differences between her and Daley. She's certainly much better at expressing herself than he was, and comparing her to such a corrupt guy is just unfair, IMHO.

  5. I think I hear a little Fats Waller in that last paragraph.

  6. Steinberg, you and I have had our differences, but this column is the funniest, most on point piece you have done. Observant and well written A+


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