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The Facts about Lori Lightfoot

Lori’s opponents have been misleading voters about her proven track record of being an advocate for progressive policy changes and an effective leader on criminal justice reform and police accountability. Here are the facts:

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents criticized how she addressed a fire when she worked at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

THE FACTS:

Here’s what Lori said: “When I was at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications in 2004, there was a terrible tragedy in our city—a fire that took 4 young lives. It was devastating. We took action to figure out what happened and prevent future tragedy. I directed OEMC personnel to preserve the 911 call tapes, and despite this directive, the tapes were not preserved. There was subsequently an investigation into what happened and what safeguards were necessary to avoid this failure going forward. As mayor, I will work closely with OEMC and other City departments and will create a Mayor’s Office of Public Safety. The 2004 fire was a horrible tragedy. I’ll never forget it, and as mayor, I will work hard every day to make sure our kids, and our entire communities, are safe.”

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents claim she wants to turn the 38 closed schools into mini cop academies.

THE FACTS:

Lori would not turn the 38 closed schools into mini cop academies. Lori recently had the opportunity to clarify her position on the Ben Joravsky show: “We were talking hypothetically about what do you do to make sure the police officers are well-trained. The City Council took that vote the other day. It’s moot. The training academy is going on the West Side. I’ve opposed that training academy because of the way in which that process worked, which excluded people from the conversation and people in the community who desperately need investment. Nothing will happen on my watch, and certainly not the repurposing of those 38 schools that remain on CPS’s ledger, without going into the community and talking to people about how we can turn those schools into their assets. That’s the way the process has to work, that’s why I opposed the so-called Cop Academy, that’s why I stood with the families of [National Teachers Academy].”

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents claim she represented a law firm accused of racial discrimination.

THE FACTS:

Lori worked on this case in her role as partner at Mayer Brown. Here’s what George McReynolds, the lead plaintiff in that lawsuit against Merrill Lynch, wrote about Lori: “As an African-American male and lead plaintiff in what ended as the nation’s largest settlement for a class action race discrimination case I had the opportunity to observe Lori Lightfoot as an opponent. I was so impressed with her professionalism and high ethical standards that I was eager to lend her my support for mayor. Although we were on opposite sides, I gained a high degree of respect for her compassion in a very difficult situation. When I was unable to travel, Ms. Lightfoot came to me to take my deposition. Her job was to find the truth. She was fair, deliberate, thorough, and polite. Her courtroom conduct was equally impressive. I didn’t expect to like the opposing counsel but over the nine year duration of this case, I grew to respect her as a person and a talented attorney for her clients. Ms. Lightfoot will make a great mayor. Chicago will have a mayor whose integrity will be beyond reproach. I have no doubt that she will bring her strong work ethic and investigative abilities to solve many of the city’s problems. A vote for Lori Lightfoot is a vote to move Chicago forward!”

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents have claimed she will cut public employee pensions or privatize them.

THE FACTS:

Lori believes strongly that pensions are a promise, and she firmly opposes any effort to amend the state constitution to reduce benefits for current employees. To fully fund our pension liability, our first priority must be the generation of new, progressive revenue to address our liability through a fair income tax structure that requires the very wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share. Lori is committed to working with our leaders in Springfield to achieve this goal. On the other hand, as Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle on multiple occasions proposed plans that would have reduced cost of living increases, raised the retirement age and required government workers to pay more. And she even suggested moving the whole Cook County system to a 401k rather than a public pension system.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents have claimed that she lied in court and got someone deported.

THE FACTS:

When Lori was an assistant U.S. attorney, she handled a case involving an international Norwegian fugitive who was extradited back to Norway after he stole money in a Ponzi scheme. In handling this unusual case, Lori relied on the advice of her supervisors in the extradition process. While the 7th Circuit issued a reprimand, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility cleared Lori of any misconduct.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents claim she’s a wealthy corporate lawyer.

THE FACTS:

Lori grew up in a low-income family that faced many of the same challenges Chicago families face, from keeping up with rent and car payments to finding good public schools nearby. Her parents worked multiple low-wage jobs at a time to provide a better life for their kids and emphasized the importance of education as the path to success. Lori worked her way through college, attended the University of Chicago on a full scholarship, and has been successful in law, government reform, and police accountability. As a senior equity partner at Mayer Brown LLP, Lori took on a number of pro-bono cases and served on the boards of progressive and pro-choice organizations like NARAL Illinois, Better Government Association, ACLU Illinois, Center on Wrongful Convictions, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Chicago, and Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say she was disrespectful to activists and families of police violence victims at the Police Board.

THE FACTS:

As someone whose brother has spent most of his adult life in prison, Lori understands on a deeply personal level the impact of the criminal justice system on families. While the cases that came before the Police Board were always gut-wrenching, Lori took care not to show emotion in support or against the families to preserve the credibility of any ruling the Board would make. Lori consistently worked to accommodate families and community input at Police Board hearings, consistently and aggressively challenged investigative bodies to bring cases to the board without unnecessary delays, and demanded that the City’s corporation counsel substantially improve its representation of people who experienced police misconduct by using at least two experienced lawyers per case and effectively presenting cases.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say she isn’t a progressive because she was a federal prosecutor.

THE FACTS:

Lori’s family grew up poor in a segregated steel town. Her grandmother’s husband was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. And her own brother was incarcerated for most of his adult life. Lori has witnessed justice and injustice, and it was for that reason that she decided to become a federal prosecutor. Lori feels strongly that we need to encourage women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people to become prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and police officers. The system will only change for the better when more people within it have backgrounds and experiences that mirror those the system impacts.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say she is part of the establishment because she was appointed by Mayor Daley and Mayor Emanuel.

THE FACTS:

Lori is the only independent reformer in this race. Because of her reputation as a reformer, Lori has been brought in to address corruption in City procurement, lead the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and take on police reform and accountability as head of the Chicago Police Board and Police Accountability Task Force. In each role, Lori has rooted out corruption and highlighted systemic issues. Lori was a City employee, not a political appointee, in the Daley administration, and took on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to run for mayor. During her time at the Police Accountability Task Force, Lori battled Mayor Emanuel consistently to implement needed reform like civilian oversight of the police, and is running for mayor herself to do what others have not done: build a transparent and accountable City government. Toni Preckwinkle is the establishment candidate in this race, given her record of supporting Joe Berrios and Ed Burke, and consistently relying on regressive taxes and fees to balance the budget.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say that under Lori’s leadership, the CPD Office of Professional Standards (OPS) did not hold officers accountable.

THE FACTS:

OPS existed for more than a decade before Lori’s leadership, and during the two years she was at OPS, she made some real progress. For example, she recommended termination for officers who lied during their duties or under investigation. Lori recommended many officers be fired; however, OPS only had the power to make recommendations, and was constrained because it was embedded within the police department. Lori believes the current system—a free-standing organization with more power and scope to investigate and discipline officers—is better, and wants to make even more structural reform such as civilian oversight of the police. Under Lori’s leadership at the Police Board, the number of officers fired for misconduct rose from 37% to 72%.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents claim she worked for Republicans trying to protect their power.

THE FACTS:

As a Black woman who knows what it’s like to be denied opportunity and representation based on race, Lori has fought hard against gerrymandered political maps that reduce Black and Latino representation in government. That’s why Lori was the lawyer for a bipartisan coalition to create the current boundaries of the 4th Congressional District, now represented by Congressman Chuy García, and why Lori later fought to create a second majority-Latino district in Illinois.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents have attacked her for defending police against lawsuits.

THE FACTS:

Lori has dedicated her career to police reform and accountability—and she has witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts of police brutality, especially on Black and Brown communities. As president of the Police Board, Lori fired officers who lied under investigation and engaged in misconduct. With Lori as president, the board fired 72% of officers, up from just 37% of officers from before Lori’s time on the board. Additionally, the percentage of officers who chose to resign rather than face the board under Lori’s leadership doubled from 15% to 30%. Lori pushed the Emanuel administration to substantially improve its representation of people who experienced police misconduct by using at least two experienced lawyers per case and effectively presenting cases. As a lawyer, Lori regularly represented the wrongfully accused and has been a long-time advocate of criminal justice reform, especially eliminating cash bail. Lori also served on the board of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents claim she let Dante Servin keep his job and pension.

THE FACTS:

Lori is committed to holding officers accountable. Because he resigned on the eve of an evidentiary hearing before the Police Board, Lori did not have the opportunity to recommend firing Dante Servin or eliminating his pension. Servin went through a criminal case and an internal investigation long before the case got to the Police Board. Once the case got to the board, it moved and was set for an evidentiary hearing, and Lori even requested a change of location to allow more public access to the hearing. Servin resigned the day before the hearing was scheduled to occur, meaning he got to keep his pension. Before Lori was president of the Police Board, cases often got delayed for years, meaning officers were not held accountable for their actions and systemic issues in CPD persisted. When Lori was president, she consistently and aggressively challenged investigative bodies to bring cases to the board without unnecessary delays.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say she doesn’t have a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

THE FACTS:

Lori supports the $15 minimum wage legislation recently passed in Springfield and will fight to raise the wage more quickly in Chicago, to $15 by 2021. Lori has seen in her own life how low wages keep families in poverty. She grew up living paycheck-to-paycheck, even though her parents worked multiple jobs to support their family. She will fight for $15 and advocate fiercely to relieve the tax burden on those least able to pay. The real question is why Toni Preckwinkle hasn’t initiated this wage increase as Cook County Board President, which is only on track to reach $13 per hour by 2020. Especially given the series of regressive taxes she’s passed over the years, Toni Preckwinkle should start making good on this campaign trail promise in her current role.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say she is a candidate for white North Siders, not the whole city.

THE FACTS:

Lori is running a citywide campaign to build a Chicago that works for everyone. As a Black woman who grew up in a low-income family, Lori understands how City government has ignored low-income communities and communities of color. Since launching her campaign back in May, Lori has met and mobilized Chicagoans from every community at meet and greets, parades, small businesses, candidate forums, and community events.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say she is a police officer.

THE FACTS:

Lori is not and has never been a police officer. She’s held many police reform positions, most recently serving as president of the Chicago Police Board and chair of the Police Accountability Task Force. The Police Board decides serious disciplinary cases involving police officers, and under Lori’s leadership, the number of officers fired for misconduct rose from 37% to 72%. Under Lori’s leadership, the Police Accountability Task Force issued an extensive and scathing report detailing systemic racism in CPD and charting the path forward.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents have accused her of supporting the gang database.

THE FACTS:

Lori will decommission CPD’s gang database and impose strict guidelines for the use and sharing of any future gang information. Lori understands that the way CPD manages gang data has serious and troubling flaws, including the fact that there’s no transparency around how CPD enters Chicagoans into the database, how this information is shared, or how to get off the list, all of which raise grave constitutional and civil rights concerns. Lori is also alarmed that CPD shares any information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a basis for deportation. She will ensure that CPD no longer shares any of this type of data with ICE.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents say that, as the lead attorney representing the City in a lawsuit filed by the family of Christina Eilman, Lori used delay tactics.

THE FACTS:

Lori was brought in as a lawyer to represent the City on the Eilman case in December 2012 and it was resolved the next month. The case had been going on for six years before Lori joined as lead attorney, so she was not present or involved during delays. As president of the Police Board, Lori consistently and aggressively challenged investigative bodies to bring cases to the board without unnecessary delays.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents have claimed Lori does not believe in civilian oversight of police.

THE FACTS:

Lori’s opponents are lying about her clear record as an outspoken advocate for civilian oversight of the police. As chair of the Police Accountability Task Force, Lori demanded civilian oversight as part of the task force’s final recommendations and urged the Emanuel administration to include civilian oversight in the consent decree with the Department of Justice. Lori stood in solidarity with Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) organizers in advocating for their bold, progressive civilian police oversight proposal. As the former Police Board president and former chair of the Police Accountability Task Force, Lori is the only candidate in the race with experience leading the way in police accountability and reform.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents have claimed she doesn’t support a moratorium on school closings.

THE FACTS:

Lori has been clear that the Emanuel administration’s school closings of 2012 were morally bankrupt and had devastating impacts on Black and Brown communities. She stood with the National Teachers Academy community to keep NTA open, and has pledged to work with communities and schools to prevent any more school closings. Lori has said again and again that when we respond to under-enrollment by closing schools, we place the burden of failed economic development and disinvestment on our students, especially Black and Brown students. Lori is committed to increasing CPS enrollment by addressing the root causes of flight, such as crime, disinvestment, lack of affordable housing, and regressive taxes.

THE CLAIM:

Lori’s opponents have claimed she opposes using funds for increased mental health care and job creation.

THE FACTS:

This is false. Lori supports increased funding for mental health care and job creation. She supports reopening closed city clinics, and she wants to ensure that there is access to robust mental health care services across Chicago. She’s proposed replacing the current regressive real estate transfer tax with a progressive one, which could raise $80-150 million annually. Under this plan, approximately 95% of property transactions citywide would receive a tax cut on the sale of properties—for example, a transaction for a $250,000 home would result in $1,000 in savings. Revenue would support increased mental health care in addition to affordable housing and homelessness prevention. Lori has also proposed creating new jobs by helping small businesses grow, funding job training and job pipelines, and supporting vocational training for high school students.

PAID FOR BY LIGHTFOOT FOR CHICAGO

A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the Board’s official website (www.elections.il.gov) or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois