cover image The City Is Up For Grabs: How Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Led and Lost a City in Crisis

The City Is Up For Grabs: How Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Led and Lost a City in Crisis

Gregory Royal Pratt. Chicago Review, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-641-60599-1

Crime, scandals, a powerful union, and her own abrasive personality did in Chicago’s recently deposed mayor, according to this savvy debut analysis. Chicago Tribune reporter Pratt recaps Lori Lightfoot’s sudden rise to the mayoralty in 2019 as a political newbie running as a progressive, despite her background as a former federal prosecutor. In his telling, her administration was bedeviled by contradictions: her expansive promises to invest in impoverished minority neighborhoods ran up against her conservative budgetary policies, Illinois governor JB Pritzker’s Covid lockdowns clashed with her preference to keep businesses open, and soaring crime and the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests provoked her tough-on-crime instincts, which collided with the public’s demands for policing reforms. Though Lightfoot was ultimately stymied by the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, which backed Brandon Johnson, the progressive who beat her in 2023, Pratt paints Lightfoot as her own worst enemy: she screamed at the city’s aldermen, berated her staff, and conducted herself like a tough-talking but not very intimidating mob boss. (“My dick is bigger than yours and the Italians.... I have the biggest dick in Chicago,” Pratt quotes the mayor blustering during a dispute over a Christopher Columbus statue.) The colorful narrative paints a sharp, entertaining panorama of Chicago governance and its evergreen tapestry of corruption and backroom dealing. It’s a clear-eyed portrait of Lightfoot and of the city’s intractable problems. (Apr.)