Jul 20, 2020
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Press Conference Transcript July 20
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave a press conference on July 20. She gave updates on COVID-19 and spoke about how the police handled a protest in Chicago this past weekend. Read the full transcript of her press conference here.
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Michelle Harris: (00:00)
I want to thank the mayor because I always tell people that you can’t do nothing without some help from some other people and partners. And so I pride myself in saying that the mayor has partnered with me to make sure that Huddle House moves forward and opens. And this is just the beginning, as I say, the beginning of all good things.
Michelle Harris: (00:34)
I like to say that I am the entryway to the Obama Library. So as you enter off the expressway and you come on down here down Stony Island with traffic patterns at 13,000 cars in each direction, you come down here, you will see the change. You will see the vision. But I can’t move my vision forward without having a mayor by my side. And so today I want to thank Mayor Lightfoot for being a great partner for this city, a great partner for this ward, because nothing happens … and I want you all to know. Listen, nothing happens without the mayor of the city of Chicago being a part of it.
Michelle Harris: (01:18)
I want to thank Sam Eli. Who I’ve known for, I am telling my age now, some 30 plus years and who has been a great partner for this community. And when he talked to Huddle House, he says, “I’m doing the first one in the eighth ward.” So Sam, thank you for letting us be the first. I appreciate you so much. My other community partner Senator Elgie Sims.
Michelle Harris: (01:54)
Again, partners, it’s all of us working together and holding our hands together and singing kumbaya to make things come together. Because if we’re not singing the same song, believe me, nothing happens. And community, community, community, I can’t tell you, community. The best thing about the eighth ward are the people that live here.
Michelle Harris: (02:21)
Through all our ups and downs and our crazy turnarounds, the community has been the consistent person in this battle, in this fight to keep our community stable. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve seen the motels come and go former side of the Dunes Motel. I’ve seen them come and go. Beautiful swimming pool used to exist almost right where we are today. It’s been a change, but thank God that things don’t stay the same.
Michelle Harris: (02:51)
And so this is the first and the beginning of wonderful things to happen down in the South end of Stony Island. But my community, I cannot tell you how much I love you and appreciate you and thank you for your constant commitment for staying by me and support me even when you didn’t understand that we wasn’t getting the CHA Project behind me. So thank you all so much. As we look behind us, there’s this beautiful senior building behind us that will be one of the anchors of this property. And they’re here in the house, the Montclair folks say here, Larry Huggins, I see Steve Mapa and Craig and Paula Reagan.
Michelle Harris: (03:40)
So today I say welcome to the eighth ward. Welcome to the future corridor of the Obama Library and where the eighth ward is doing great things. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Frankie Payne, who is the executive director for the business district, Frankie is here. She’s responsible for a lot of the beautiful murals that you see up and down Stony Island, as we’re changing the world and sending out positive messages.
Michelle Harris: (04:11)
And then the 79th street quarter, Frankie’s responsible for doing, I think, four murals down there. And I want to say that the community has great pride in those, nobody’s touched them. So thank you Frankie, for all you doing to try to transform our community. Today, I am so honored today to have my partner at City Hall, the leader of the city of Chicago, who is doing a fabulous job, despite what people are saying. The city that fall in a hole, we didn’t go away, we all still here. Is this some bad times? Certainly is bad times. But in the midst of all of this, we’re not crazy. We’re still moving forward. We’re still moving. The city is moving forward, and this is evidence that the city has not stopped and missed a beat.
Michelle Harris: (05:03)
Let’s not get caught up in some of the other stuff that’s happening, but let’s look at all the positive things which we sometimes fail to see when we’re in crisis. That look at all the beautiful things and the changes that are happening in communities of color. So today I’m honored to have my great partner at city hall. Again, who works with me on everything that I do. The mayor of the city of Chicago, Mayor Lori E Lightfoot.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (05:36)
Thank you, Alderman Harris. Let me put my hearing aids in so I can actually hear, perform. I want to pick up on a point that the Alderman made, it’s about partnerships. It’s about collaboration. And I appreciate those warm words, but also, it goes both ways. I can’t get things done in this city and move us forward on behalf of residents in this city, without the help and partnership of all of you. People of good will who know their wards, who live and breathe to make sure that their residents have a better quality of life. Who understand that the way to get things done is not just on social media, not just protest, but collaboration and partnership. And Michelle Harris is exhibit A of that work.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (06:33)
That’s right. She works hard every day on behalf of this great ward. She never lose sight of the things that you need, the things that are important to the quality of life of residents here. She brings that with her, to me, she brings that with her to her colleagues in City Hall. And that is exactly the kind of leadership that we need in this city. So thank you Alderman, for your partnership and for making sure that your resident’s interests are front and center with the rest of your colleagues and also with me.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (07:15)
I also want to thank state Senator Elgie Sims. Elgie is one of these guys, you soon talk to him and you realize immediately the intelligence, the pragmatism, and he’s also a person about getting things done. We would not have been able to get our casino bill over the hurdle without the hard work of Elgie in the Senate and what he did to make that happen. So thank you.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (07:41)
Elgie is also now leading on police reform and accountability in a general assembly, and I look forward to partnering with you on those issues as well. Now, Mr. Eli, of course, I love your name because it’s a name of my dad. And I’ve heard a lot of great things about you. I think we’ve met in passing before. But once again, it’s about bringing people in giving them opportunity, creating institutions, creating developments that are benefiting the people in the community. Thank you very much, Mr. Eli for doing exactly that with this Huddle House development.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (08:26)
As many of you know, this Huddle House location will be Chicago’s first. And it will be only the second dine-in eatery in the entire eighth ward, but I’m committed to making sure it’s not the last. We have a lot to do here, and we want to make sure that the needs of this community are met. This will help remedy a critical need for food alternatives here in Calumet Heights. And this builds upon our Invest Southwest Initiative, to uplift our city’s neighborhoods that need and deserve economic development and investment.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (09:03)
This initiative works hand in glove with the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, which we formed back in February, reformed back in February to support our dedicated local entrepreneurs and communities that are short of resources, but no shortage of talent and to provide the needed investments and appointment opportunities for residents. Last year, the Huddle House Project was awarded a $1.1 million. That’s right.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (09:35)
Because we all recognize the need that it would bring to this community in Calumet Heights, and the great potential it had to attract people from all over to come and spend time and money in this historic neighborhood. I’m so excited to see this project start to take shape, take space and showcase the economic vibrancy of this community. And as part of the NOF grant, Huddle House will also take advantage of a local hiring bonus, which will provide funding for the hiring and training of employees that live right here in this community.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (10:17)
Again, I want to thank Sam Eli for his hard work and dedication. Not only are you bringing some great needed restaurant alternatives here to the South side, but you’re giving this neighborhood a new and needed space to bring friends and families together over delicious food, and who doesn’t like that? While providing up to 80 permanent jobs for residents to take advantage of. That’s 80 Chicagoans who will now have an opportunity to have a real economic foothold on at this restaurant and improve their quality of life. The alderman is right in these times. It’s easy to think about what’s not working.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (11:02)
…easy to think about what’s not working. It’s easy for us to focus on our losses. But what I’ve learned over these hard four months of dealing with a pandemic, dealing with the righteous outcry after the murder of George Floyd and dealing with the challenges that we continually have regarding violence, is we you need to think about what we have gained in this moment. And what we have gained are many things, but importantly, we can’t forget our sense of community.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (11:35)
That is what gets us through the hard times. That is what propels us forward and gives us inspiration and a determination to make sure that tomorrow is better than today. This community I know, is committed to grasping and really embracing that kind of spirit. A community that doesn’t think about what we don’t have, but thinks about what we do have and how we can build upon those assets.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (12:04)
And as I said before, that is embodied in your elected leadership, but they stand on your shoulders because you are the ones who get it done. And I am grateful for the spirit and the tenacity of the people of this ward to make sure that we keep moving forward, that you hold us accountable to deliver on what we should, which is to bring peace, to bring economic vitality to this community and to bring jobs. And we are committed to continuing that hard work because we need to, and we will get it done. And with that, I’d like to call Mr. Eli up to say a few words.
Mr. Eli: (12:56)
Good morning, Mayor Lightfoot, Alderman Michelle Harris, and invited dignitaries and members of the community. Today is a special day for me. It is a culmination of a dream. By the grace of God, I have been so blessed there being the first Huddle House to Chicago and in this community.
Speaker 1: (13:26)
All right, yes.
Mr. Eli: (13:27)
I think of this as my community, because my family has roots in here, history of Alexander’s Steakhouse for many years. I like to think we were somewhat of an institution. It’s good to be back.
Speaker 1: (13:52)
Mr. Eli: (13:52)
Thank you, Mayor Lightfoot, Alderman Michelle Harris of the 8th Ward, for funding the project, neighborhood opportunity funding, which made this project successful. Thank you Huddle House for the opportunity to bring this project on the South Side of Chicago, the first one and the only one. Thank you everyone, and I think to see, I look forward to seeing you in the grand opening of the Huddle House. Thank you very much. I’d like to introduce Senator Elgie Sims to the podium. Thank you.
Senator Sims: (14:45)
Senator Sims: (14:49)
It is an exciting day here in the 8th Ward, an exciting day here in the 17th district. Let me, before I continue, let me thank our general contractors who are here, Brown. Thank you. An African American contractor who is doing to work here in this community. There is a narrative that businesses don’t want to come to this community, that economic opportunities don’t exist in this community. That is a falsehood. Because you, as Alderman Harris mentioned, 13,000 cars traveling each direction every day, those are thousands of families who are touched, thousands of opportunities to build on this great community.
Senator Sims: (15:35)
It is an amazing day for the things that we are doing right here on the South and Southeast sides of the city of Chicago. But that could not happen, and the word has been used over and over again is partnership. That could not happen without strong partners. But when you have partnerships, you also have to have advocacy. And we have an advocate here in the 8th Ward who fights for this community tirelessly in Michelle A. Harris.
Senator Sims: (16:11)
She focuses on improving the quality of life for every corner of this ward. But she is not selfish enough only to focus on the 8th Ward, the benefits that she provides here in the 8th Ward and work for here in the 8th Ward spill over into all surrounding wards. Because it’s when the rising tide lifts all boats and Alderman Harris understands that. But another one of our partners, Cook County commissioner Stanley Moore, I cannot thank Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore enough.
Senator Sims: (16:49)
When you have all levels of government, city, state, county, federal government working together, you think you see great things happening. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the strong support and advocacy of our mayor, Mayor Lightfoot.
Senator Sims: (17:15)
She understands, and she is committed to ensuring that every neighborhood, every ward has all of the amenities that the community residents expect and more importantly deserve. This is a great day for us. This is a great day to ensure that we are showcasing the strength of this community, the strength of what, who we are. But more importantly, we are showing the world the opportunities that exist right here in our communities.
Senator Sims: (17:43)
But let me also give a special thank you to my friend, Sam Eli, who had the foresight and the commitment and the unwavering good sense to locate in an area where economic opportunities abound. Sam, thank you for seeing the beauty and the vibrancy of this community. Thank you for understanding that this is an opportunity that this community so richly deserves.
Senator Sims: (18:11)
Now, let’s make no mistake about it, this is an economic opportunity. Huddle House is a quarter of a billion dollar industry. In order for, this is a great opportunity for them to showcase what they do. This is also and our opportunity to show how we as a community invest in those who invest in us. We want to make sure that we continue to use the service. We invest in the business. We make sure that we support it. I, for one am looking forward to it. I’ve already downloaded the app and I’ve got my loyalty cards started, Sam, so I’m ready. We’re ready to go. We will support our community because we understand that as we invest, the community will continue to grow. Thank you. This is a great day. A great day here in the 8th Ward and a great and always a great day in the 17th district. Thank you so much for having me.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (19:15)
I think we’re going to do some questions and then we’re going to do a little groundbreaking. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (19:28)
Do you just want to do the on topic first and then?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (19:30)
Speaker 2: (19:30)
Okay. And they’ll come back?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (19:31)
And we’ll come back. That’s fine. Perfect.
Speaker 2: (19:32)
Thank you. And how soon might we see this and what kind of city money was given, as well?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (19:37)
This was $1.1 million that came through NOF. I’ll have the developer talk about the [crosstalk 00:19:43]. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (19:44)
Five to six months.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (19:46)
Five to six months. Okay.
Speaker 2: (19:48)
And obviously with this, it’s sort of like when you build it, it will come. What else would you hope comes with this?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (19:55)
Well, look, I think we’ve got to link these developments together. You know, that we, the city has finalized the construction of the incredible Gately Track. There’s a need for making sure that we have more resources so that we can put on larger tournaments there. We need hotel space, so we’re talking, we’ve been talking to the alderman now for some time about making other investments to really take advantage of that incredible development. I think this is just the first of many other investments that the city is committed to making down here in the 8th Ward that will inure to the benefit really of the surrounding area and bring further economic development. I think Gately Track, the sky is the limit for what we can do there.
Speaker 2: (20:44)
And obviously, is an example that even with COVID that life does go on.
Speaker 4: (20:48)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (20:49)
Yes, no, look, it’s important. We continue to be very focused on making sure that our response to COVID remains robust. Commissioner, already will be talking later today about some things that we’re going to be taking, steps that we’re going to be taking this week to make sure that we stay on top of the things that we’re seeing in the data. But life does go on. Life is real for other people outside of our response to the pandemic.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (21:18)
And one of the most important things that we do is make sure that we’re continuing to bring jobs and opportunity in areas of our city that haven’t traditionally gotten that kind of investment. That means looking southward past Roosevelt Road and westward past Ashland Avenue.
Speaker 2: (21:37)
I have many other off-topic.
Speaker 5: (21:39)
Let’s do the off-topic and then we’ll close with the shovels.
Speaker 2: (21:43)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (21:43)
Speaker 2: (21:43)
Thank you, Mayor. A lot of folks are asking and I’m just going to try to group them together-
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (21:47)
Speaker 2: (21:47)
Because so many are asking the same thing. Could you respond to the suggestions by President Trump over the weekend that he would maybe send federal agents here to help deal with the violence and the protests, they have been getting out of hand? Well, we, I have great concerns-
Speaker 2: (22:03)
… tests, they have been getting out of hand.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (22:03)
Well, I have great concerns about that. Particularly given the track record in the City of Portland. I spent a lot of time yesterday talking with the mayor of Portland to get a sense of what’s happened there. We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the street and holding them, I think, unlawfully. That’s not what we need.
Speaker 2: (22:27)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (22:29)
But I have been very clear. Let me talk about what… If the president is truly sincere about wanting to help, there are a number of things that the federal government is uniquely qualified to do that we could use his help with. And they all revolve around the fact that we have way too many illegal guns on our streets. Every year, our police department takes more illegal crime guns off the street than NYPD and LAPD combined. And that’s because they are flowing over the border from Indiana. They’re coming up from Southern states like Mississippi, and we have gun dealers just at the border of our city that are selling illegal guns. By that I mean, if Chuck sells a gun and it ends up on the street in a year or less, there’s a problem going on there.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (23:23)
And that is repeatedly the problem with Chuck. So he could fully fund the ATF here in Chicago. He could fully fund additional prosecutors to focus on gun violence cases. He could empower the ATF to actually do what they’re supposed to do, which is go after illegal gun sales, go after federal licensed gun dealers that aren’t doing their job, are selling to people that they know are straw purchasers that have no intent whatsoever to possess those guns and turn them over in the parking lot to the real person who’s going to take those guns. These are some easy, simple things that the president could do. He could make sure that we closed the gun show loophole. We could pass universal background checks. We could make sure that people that aren’t allowed to fly don’t get guns. These are simple things that could happen if the president is serious about helping us with the violence and the thing that he can do is to stop the flow of illegal guns in our city.
Speaker 2: (24:28)
The weekend numbers of course were not good. What have your conversations been like with the superintendent over the weekend?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (24:34)
I talked to the superintendent multiple times a day, but again, I urge the media to dig into the numbers. We put additional resources and focus on the 11th district. And if you look at the weekend numbers comparatively, we actually did quite well there. We’re now going to put even more resources on top of what the regular resources are in tier one district on the South side. And hopefully we find the same of success that we saw in the 11th district.
Speaker 2: (25:04)
Can we talk about the protests Friday night at the Columbus statue. There was some criticism this weekend about how the police handled the demonstration, but at the same time people, if they break the law, what are the police supposed to do? Where do you stand on what happened?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (25:19)
Look, I think we’ve got to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the following. Number one, people have a right in this country, in this city to peacefully protest. That is a sacred right ensured by the First Amendment. And I support that. And particularly, the focus that was supposed to be on that march was to really uplift the stories of indigenous people here in Chicago. And I fully support that. Unfortunately, what we saw and what I think the superintendent will talk more about on later today is a group of vigilantes. People who came for a fight, not a peaceful protest. You’re going to see video that shows these people before they got to the Columbus statue, kneeling down, dressing in all black with goggles, forming a phalanx with umbrellas and with shields around them. And then pummeling the police with projectiles, frozen water bottles, cans, other projectiles.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (26:23)
There were a number of police officers that were injured as a result of that. That’s not peaceful protest, that’s anarchy. And we are going to put that down. We are actively investigating and we will bring those people to justice. We want people to feel safe. They’re allowing their teenage children to come down town to these protests. We can’t have a circumstance where a small subset of that try to take over and hijack the peaceful protest, and then turn it into a fight with the police. That’s not acceptable. What I will say also is this. I’m not happy about some of the things that I saw with people who were injured. I’m not happy and don’t support interfering with reporters doing their job. So if that has happened, I urge anyone who believes that they were mistreated at the hands of the police to call 311, and otherwise report it to COPA.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (27:23)
COPA is actively investigating. But what I also say is this. This is a difficult time, and there are many who want to foment conflict. And unfortunately, we’re hearing this on a daily basis from the president in ways that are absolutely unhelpful. And I’ll go further and say absolutely dangerous. We as Chicagoans have a long history of peaceful protest. It’s baked in to our DNA. We need to lean in to that history. We need to be respectful of each other. We need to build bridges over which other people, even if we disagree with them, can travel and lead to them, that is what needs to happen in this moment. I know these are difficult intense times, but we need to be better to each other. We need to remember that we are neighbors and we need to remember that our children are watching.
Speaker 2: (28:19)
Fran Spielman is asking more about that statue. Last month, you said that the Chicago statues of Christopher Columbus vandalized repeatedly since the death of George Floyd should not be torn down, but rather used to confront the nation’s history and triggers reckoning that long are overdue. But after Friday night, you are now saying the administration is studying the future of all the statutes. Why the change and what solutions?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (28:47)
There’s no change. What I’ve said all along is we need to have a process by which we take inventory and stock of all of the various monuments, paintings, and other things that memorialize our past and our history. We need to also understand what isn’t there. I believe that it’s true and our team ill determine, there are no monuments to African Americans in this city. There are no monuments to women. There are no monuments that reflect the contributions of people in the City of Chicago, who contributed to the greatness of this city.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (29:27)
And we need to correct that problem. Later this week, I will be announcing a process by which we start our examination of these issues. It’s not just about a single statute. It’s about how we want to reflect our values as a city, to make sure that everyone is reflected in our history. And particularly, in our permanent memorialization of our history. We have not historically done it. We need to do that. And this is the moment to address it at long last.
Speaker 2: (30:01)
I think you addressed this, but just to be clear, this is from [inaudible 00:08:07]. You did talk about police were also caught as well as they were being attacked. There’s some video of them. Police have been caught on video brutalizing protesters, including the officer who hit 18 year old activist, Miracle Boy, and knocked out her teeth. Why aren’t you taking a more aggressive approach to reform and holding these officers-
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (30:33)
That’s just wrong. We have for years an infrastructure built up to make sure that when there is misconduct, it is vigorously investigated. The lead on that is COPA. That’s been true since it was stood up in 2016. So the suggestion that somehow we are just floundering and not doing anything is wrong. And [inaudible 00:30:56] knows that. Don’t propagate false statements and say things that simply aren’t true.
Speaker 2: (31:04)
Last two questions. Speaker Madigan, now that you’ve had some time to digest since we spoke on Friday, there’s a lot of questions today about how the House Progressive caucus is also calling for if what is laid out in deferred prosecution agreement, if that is true, they’re calling for him to resign. Why are you not there?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (31:28)
Look, the stance that I’ve taken historically, let me just say this. Obviously, the allegations in the deferred prosecution agreement are quite disturbing and they’re disturbing for a number of folks, not the least of which is [inaudible 00:31:44]. And as I said on Friday, our energy committee led by Alderman George Cardenas is holding a hearing on July 30th and making them give account for what their conduct is. The allegations that are in there about it’s clear that the speaker and others are deeply troubling and they deserve investigation.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (32:06)
And obviously, the US Attorney’s Office continues to do a vigorous investigation, but I don’t think it’s for my purposes as mayor when there’s been no criminal charge, I guess anyone as an elected official for me to say that the person should resign. I thought the governor and Kelly Cassidy, and it sounds like now others, said it right. If those allegations are true, obviously he should resign, but we don’t know that they are true yet. I was expecting as the US Attorney said on Friday, the investigation continues. We’ll see how things develop, but it’s troubling. The larger issue is though is we have to make sure that elected officials at all levels are accountable to the people that elect them. Elected office shouldn’t be a licensed to enrich yourself at the taxpayers’ expense. I’ve been very clear on that.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (33:03)
At the taxpayers expense. I’ve been very clear on that. That’s why I called, early on in the campaign, as soon as Ed Burke was charged, for him to resign. If there are others who are charged with criminal misconduct, I will do exactly the same thing that I have done. There’s nobody that’s been tougher on allegations of misconduct, and lack of integrity, and criminal conduct, on the part of elected officials, than me. I will continue to be right there. I’m a former federal prosecutor, who prosecuted and convicted an alderman for selling his office, so I know where my moral compass is. It is exactly the same place. As elected officials, we have to be held to a higher standard and we should be.
Can I ask you, finally, about Alderman Lopez? His office attacked again overnight. Will he get around-the-clock protection at his home and his ward office, now that it has been the second time in recent weeks?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (34:00)
Obviously, any attack on any business, any attack on any elected official, simply can’t be tolerated in our city. When there was an incident a few weeks back at his home, we made sure that the local district commander and our deputy chief were in contact with Alderman Lopez, to make sure that his security needs were addressed. That conversation has been renewed and updated in light of this latest incident, and we’ll make sure that they’ve got the resources they need to be secure. We’re not going to tolerate anyone attacking elected officials and engaging in criminal conduct against them, period.