Mayor Lightfoot talks public safety, COVID, record and more in year-end interview


CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sat down with WGN to talk about her recent success in city council, the perception of fear over crime in the city and the controversial decision to encrypt emergency radio transmissions.

The mayor and WGN were wearing masks during the interview.

Lightfoot, who announced she tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago, said she will still be wearing one for the full 10 days, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Then I’m going to wear a mask in public settings because we’re starting to see as people come inside, as the weather gets cold an uptick in cases of Covid,” Lightfoot said.

Statistics from the Chicago Health Department show the city could enter the high-risk category as early as this week, which Lightfoot said would not bring a mask mandate but would result in new guidance from health officials.

“We are expecting we will move into the high category based on the CDC guidelines, and when that happens, we will issue a mask advisory, and what that means is that we’re encouraging people to wear a mask inside and in public settings,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said public safety was her top priority in the year-end interview with WGN. She said she knows it’s top of mind for Chicago residents.

“There are parts of the city that are feeling the touch of violence for the first time, and we are working hard in those areas as well,” she said. “Look, people are not feeling safe – and perception becomes reality.”

But in key areas, Chicago Police Department statistics are showing progress.

Homicides are down about 15% and overall shootings are down about 20% from this time last year.

“We’ve really followed the data,” Lightfoot said. “We’re working directly with neighbors in those communities and saying ‘What will it take for your block, your street, your neighborhood to be safe,’ and then we flood those areas with city resources and we’ve seen remarkable progress in those areas.”

The mayor also defends her controversial decision to encrypt police radio transmissions, a move that would block the public from listening live and would delay media access by 30 minutes.

WGN asked Lightfoot what evidence there is that criminals are using police radio transmissions.

“Well, listen, I saw it with my own eyes,” she said. “I made a determination that for the safety of our city, for the safety of our first responders we had to have encrypted transmissions, a slight little delay is all we’re talking about, but again, I’m happy to continue those discussions. But, first and foremost they have to include officer safety and public safety.”

The Fraternal Order of Police said they opposed it and a spokesperson for Congressman Chuy Garcia, who is also a mayoral candidate, said hiding police transmissions will make us less safe and prevent the news from doing their jobs.

“Spoken like someone who doesn’t know anything about public safety, and spoken like somebody who has embraced defunding the police,” Lightfoot said. “So it’s rich that somebody who has wrapped their arms around the defunding the police movement is now criticizing a former federal prosecutor on public safety. I don’t need a lesson from a guy like that.”

In a year that has seen major businesses, like Boeing and Citadel, move their headquarters out of the city, Lightfoot also pointed out the economic wins, like approval for the casino and Red Line extension to the Far South Side, both projects that have eluded mayors for decades.

She has been criticized for being adversarial or combative. WGN asked her what she thinks when she hears the constant criticism.

“Well, they are tropes and I think every woman and every person of color knows exactly what that means, and what it comes from, and the next piece of that is ‘because of that she can’t collaborate and get things done,’” Lightfoot said. “All you got to do is look at the body of record. Never lost a fight in city council. Closed record deficits two years in a row. You can’t do that unless you know how to navigate the rocky shoals of politics in this city.”

The mayor said she would put her record up against anyone who wants to take the job. Right now, there are eight candidates

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