In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Democratic Alderman Raymond Lopez discussed the city’s response to the migrant crisis and the crime rate. He expressed his hopes that the next Mayor would bring about change.
Lopez slammed now-ousted Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for failing to properly house the thousands of illegal immigrants that were bussed from the southern border by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, questioning whether the monthly $20 million that was allotted over the past several months to combat the crisis was even spent, saying “we have no idea” what happened to that money.
Lopez stated, “We were woefully underprepared for these individuals who have been sent to Our City. Many people have used this situation to gain political advantages.”
Lopez, one Chicago’s loudest critics of Lightfoot who ran against her as mayor once, claimed she “stoked racial fears and further divided Chicago” when she dispersed migrants in neighborhoods, without the knowledge or consent of local leaders. Many migrants had to “seek shelter at police stations in all parts of the city.”
He claimed that Lightfoot’s administration refused to work with him in order to provide shelter to the migrants. He pointed out a field house in his ward that could have housed 300 migrants.
“This was a totally avoidable situation,” Lopez said. “Had the city council, had the mayor chosen to act and instead of gaslighting everyone at every turn as opposed to pointing fingers at Greg Abbott or others- Look, Lori Lightfoot, her socialist enablers, they all said to make this an unchecked, welcoming city. Somebody took us up on that offer, and now we are falling behind in what we said were our ideals in this city. And if we had planned and used our resources better, we wouldn’t be in the midst of a humanitarian crisis now.”
Lopez, a staunch supporter of Chicago’s sanctuary city policy and a critic of the “zero exceptions” reforms implemented under Lightfoot’s tenure, has criticized these reforms. He claimed that they were protecting dangerous criminals, killers, and gangs. Lopez hopes that this will change under the next administration.
Lopez provided some insight into his relationship with newly-elected Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson. He said: “I have actually spoken with Brandon Johnson more than Lori Lightfoot in four years.”
Lopez, who supported Johnson’s opponent Paul Vallas in the run-off election for mayor last month said: “I have cautious optimism about the new government.” “If I get a Mayor to answer my calls, I have the opportunity to present my position on any issue or topic that we are discussing. ”
He stressed that there’s a difference between being heard and listening. It will take time to see if the words Lopez spoke to Johnson are reflected in Johnson’s actions.
Johnson, widely considered to be on the left, compared to Lightfoot, had expressed support for defunding police. This stance was softened during the elections when crime was an important campaign issue.
Lopez had mixed feelings about Johnson’s crime-fighting approach. While he was happy to see Johnson select Chicago Police Force veteran Fred Waller to be the interim superintendent, Johnson defended the teen rioters who caused chaos in Chicago last month. He said, “It is not constructive to demonize youth who lack opportunity in their communities.”
Lopez replied, “That is the wrong answer. “I hope Fred Waller and others will tell him that you don’t need to excuse bad behavior. You should also make sure that you are providing opportunities to youth and other people who want to improve their lives.
The Chicago alderman welcomed the DNC selecting his city to host the 2024 convention but says Johnson will have his work cut out for him to make positive changes before laying out the “blue” carpet for the nation’s top Democrats next summer, including President Biden.
“We’re going to have 100,000 Democratic delegates, spouses, and all of them descending on our city. And it’s really gonna be a challenge for the new mayor… to whip this city back into shape from a public safety standpoint. We have to keep our guests safe. We have to showcase our city as being a safe place to come. And if we don’t get all of that right over the next few months, if we don’t create a safe public transportation system, if we don’t have clean airports that aren’t homeless shelters, no one’s gonna want to come here. Everyone’s gonna want a remote convention rather than show up to the city of Chicago,” Lopez said. “So I think it’s imperative that the new mayor listens to what our concerns are and our suggestions are, how to get the city up to speed for when the convention happens. That is a big platform for him, particularly being a new mayor, who I’m would sure gets the stage in his home city to welcome everyone. You’re not going to want to welcome people that people are still getting mugged on Michigan Avenue.”