WASHINGTON — Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, appearing at an Atlantic Festival panel on “Race and Justice” on Thursday was asked about the differences working with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“Heh,” she said to laughter from the audience after Atlantic Senior Editor Ron Brownstein asked her about the present and former mayors. “I see what you’re doing there,” Foxx said.
Foxx was speaking to a roomful of folks who likely knew of Rahm’s famous bombastic style. Comparing Rahm to any other human being could take one into choppy waters, and Foxx knew it.
Emanuel was so focused on selling Chicago as a “world class” city that he didn’t deal with the “distrust” growing in the city’s minority communities because he was treating them as an “afterthought,” Foxx said.
That long-brewing distrust in Chicago’s criminal justice system — it started before Emanuel — has led to people carrying out “street justice,” Foxx said.
“Am I going to trust the system that — if I look at the numbers — historically hasn’t protected me?” Foxx said.
And when it comes to her office and the Chicago police union, ”It’s been a really difficult relationship because they are, they are protecting the interests of their members.”
Brownstein got this ball rolling when he asked Foxx, “What is the relationship like between your office and the mayor’s office?”
“How much did they affect your daily life, what you can do?” Brownstein added, “How would you describe the different mayors in their approach and their style?”
She already had told the audience a story Chicagoans are well familiar with — that she came to office in the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal, where a white Chicago police officer shot the African American teen 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014.
Last Oct. 5, a jury found now imprisoned former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.
The McDonald case sent a political shock wave through Cook County, contributing to Foxx’s defeat of then-Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and, to some degree perhaps, Emanuel’s decision not to seek another term.
“I think that having the mayor’s input or a seat at the table is absolutely essential. I think, you know, the previous mayor was very committed to Chicago being on the national stage as a world-class city,” she said.
“And I think we all share that that sentiment. I’m a lifelong Chicagoan. However, in the projection of (Chicago as a) world-class city, there was a tendency to minimize the impact that violence was having on communities, minimize the distrust that communities — particularly communities of color — had.
“And so the level of engagement was very different. And I think there was a real growing animosity from people on the ground who say, ‘Listen, we can use the resources of the city. We’re not an afterthought. We cannot talk about policing and not talk about prosecution. And the mayor controlled the police.”
Foxx prefers Lightfoot over Emanuel, if that’s not clear. Lightfoot served on Foxx’s 2016 transition committee. Lightfoot took office in May, and Foxx said she has met with the mayor on “multiple occasions talking about gun violence, talking about bail reform, talking about juvenile justice reform” and curbing gun violence.
In the national context, Lightfoot came to office at a time of a growing movement to rethink criminal justice because of race-related charging and sentencing disparities and police use of excessive force.
Lightfoot counts herself as among the political progressives across the nation who are elected prosecutors; the matter of criminal justice reform is an issue that is part of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary conversation.
However, it is also one of the few areas of bipartisanship in Washington — Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., worked with the Trump White House to pass the First Step Act reforms.
And because you may be wondering, there was no in-depth discussion regarding Foxx and the Jussie Smollett controversy, and no one in the audience asked about it.
Courtesy: Lynn Sweet Chicago Sun Times