Enough with the excuses, one Chicago alderman declared yesterday after the coordinated looting of the Magnificent Mile. Brian Hopkins told local radio station WGN that he witnessed the police response to the action, which he claimed was too timid and disorganized to stop the pillaging of Chicago’s business district. Hopkins also published a statement demanding a serious plan from Mayor Lori Lightfoot to restore order — and failing that, to get federal assistance in putting down unrest in Second City:
Brian Hopkins, an alderman who represents parts of the downtown area, blasted Lightfoot in a statement to CWBChicago Monday night.
“Our city was devastated by widespread looting and rioting for which our mayor seemed totally unprepared,” he said.
He also accused Lightfoot of offering “nothing but rhetoric and blame,” just like she did after similar riots in May.
He demanded she come up with a “safety plan that will protect all neighborhoods and small business owners.”
Anything short of that and “I am strongly in favor of asking for federal assistance,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins had been on this streets in his downtown ward, the Chicago Tribune reports, when the looting broke out. Lightfoot’s call for “unity” yesterday left Hopkins unimpressed after watching Lightfoot’s administration all but abandon the city’s business and retail district the night before. Unless Lightfoot puts together a plan to enforce the law right now, Hopkins warns that Chicago might not have businesses and retail left to protect:
“The real question today is, where was the strategy? What was the decision making at the highest levels?” Hopkins said. “That means the police superintendent and the mayor, who’s a very hands-on mayor when it comes to these kinds of decisions.”
Hopkins painted a bleak picture for the city if Lightfoot can’t get such criminal activity in and around downtown under control.
“Literally, the future of Chicago hangs in the balance, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that,” he said. “If this continues, how can Chicago survive? What will be left downtown after Water Tower Place gets boarded up and the for-sale signs go up on all the condos near Michigan Avenue? People who live around there have had their sense of safety badly shaken. This is our tax base, by the way. We count on tax revenue from this area of the city to fund all number of other programs we count on.”
Lightfoot shrugged off Hopkin’s criticism:
“Ald. Hopkins has a penchant for letting his mouth run before he actually gets the facts,” Lightfoot said. “I don’t think there’s any reason for me to say anything further.”
“What we need now is not Monday morning quarterbacks and sideline critics. What we need is to come together as a city and have a united strategy and focus,” Lightfoot added. “We’re focused, we’re not going to let the noise of people that like to chatter before they know what the facts are get in the way and that’s all I’ll say about that.”
Ahem. The facts that Hopkins sees is the looting and lack of effective response to it. Regardless of what Lightfoot said she did in preparation and response, the objective facts are that it was totally insufficient. Criminals pillaged with impunity, and the city’s administration did nothing effective to stop it.
Hopkins isn’t the only one warning about leadership. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Fran Spielman warned last night that the city was about to become the new Detroit unless Lightfoot figures out a better response than what she offered over the weekend. Spielman echoed Hopkins’ point about a disappearing tax base, and Lightfoot’s responsibility for it:
The coordinated looting that overwhelmed police and left huge swaths of downtown and the Near North Side ransacked threatens to turn Chicago into pre-renaissance Detroit. If it does, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will pay the price, whether or not she was powerless to stop it.
Businesses that survived the stay-at-home shutdown and sustained heavy losses during the looting in late May triggered by the death of George Floyd may be reluctant to rebuild for fear they won’t be protected. Even if they do, customers may not feel safe shopping, dining or going to the theater downtown.
Empty-nesters and young people drawn to the city by the nightlife and cultural attractions that made Chicago a magnet for corporate headquarters may abandon the city as well because they, too, no longer feel safe.
Population gains downtown and on the Near North and Near West sides have helped offset the loss of Chicago’s Black middle class. If both groups continue to leave Chicago, the city will hemorrhage population and lose its tax base.
Spielman also noted “Lightfoot’s notoriously thin skin” and her attempt to shut down a question from a reporter over Lightfoot’s demand for accountability. “Don’t bait us,” she admonished when WSL-TV reporter Craig Wall asked whether that was a criticism of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx:
Tough stance. Too bad that toughness doesn’t translate into getting control of the streets. “Because of what happened last night,” Lightfoot said, “there have to be consequences. .. We are in a serious situation here, and we need to have a serious response.” That’s the point Hopkins made, too, and he’s arguing that Lightfoot and this administration isn’t providing one so far. And that is a very serious situation.
Exit question, of sorts: Does anyone think that Rahm Emanuel would have let the situation get this far out of hand?