On the eve of Election Tuesday, the Windy City braces for the heavyweight ideological bout of the decade.
“Vote like the life of Chicago depends on it — because it does,” cautioned Steve Huntley for John Kass News on March 31, 2023.
“In one corner is Paul Vallas, a proven reformer, the grandson of Greek immigrants with law enforcement officers in the family, and a thinker/planner/manager with a concrete plan to not just rebuild the ranks of the Chicago Police Department but the reinvigorate its morale with a pledge to have the back of the cop on the beat,” wrote Mr. Huntley.
“In the other corner is Brandon Johnson, a progressive who can’t run away from his defund-the-police advocacy,” Huntley continued. “He’s a functionary of the Chicago Teachers Union who would promote the metastasis of malignant union power throughout city government, dooming hopes for a revival of Chicago as a vibrant, safe metropolis.”
The very column itself, as well as the bespoke news outlet that published it, are both testaments to how much things have changed in Chicago since the old golden days of 2019.
Back in 2019, longtime columnist John Kass was a card-carrying senior staff member in the upper echelons of the Chicago Tribune and a proud supporter of then-candidate Lori Lightfoot for Mayor.
What a difference four years can make. Kass has since left the Tribune in a blaze of disaffected glory and struck out on his own with a popular independent news column. His former Tribune bosses and colleagues have been in a clamor of high dudgeon over it ever since.
In addition to leaving the Tribune after 38 years, Kass left Chicago proper. Like many other Chicagoans, Mr. Kass fled Chicago due to one overarching and all-encompassing reason:
That crime in Chicago has gone through the roof since 2019 — when Mayor Lori Lightfoot was elected on a wave of popular support — is no secret.
There are crime statistics aplenty and an equal or greater amount of anecdotal evidence. From heartbreaking stories of crime victims to robbery suspects dumping emptied-out cash registers on the lawn of the governor's mansion, the rising number of high-profile incidents has been impossible to ignore.
“Two women attacked and hit with a bottle by an assailant in the Loop in broad daylight,” Steve Huntley began a dreary litany all too familiar in Chicago in 2023.
“Armed robbers committing 18 holdups in five days across the city, including in once safe neighborhoods like Lakeview and Lincoln Park,” the funeral dirge continued. “Mail carriers robbed at gunpoint in West Rogers Park and on the West Side. A 15-year-old girl sexually assaulted on a CTA train. A man killed in a Rogers Park home invasion. Robbery and carjacking sprees in Lakeview, West Town and Wicker Par during one night — a reminder that there were a total of 1,600 armed carjackings in the city last year. A man arrested with 38 stolen catalytic converters in his car. Two Logan Square banks robbed by the same man. School-age kids murdered in the streets.”
Even John Kass’ former alma mater has had a change of heart this election season. The Chicago Tribune — a proudly progressive, otherwise left-leaning news organization — and its outcast prodigal son John Kass are backing the same candidate in tomorrow’s election for Mayor of Chicago.
The reason given by the Tribune is the same one voiced by columnists for JohnKassnews.com: Crime.
John Kass and the Chicago Tribune are, in spite of their ideological differences and growing political divide, backing the same candidate in tomorrow's race, and for the same reason:
Conservative Democrat Paul Vallas.
“In the runoff, the Tribune Editorial Board endorses Paul Vallas for mayor,” wrote the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board on March 17, 2023.
Subscribers may have been a bit shocked. For a progressive newspaper, Brandon Johnson seemed the obvious choice. But other than the Tribune Editorial Board managing to somehow blame Chicago’s problems on — who else? — Donald Trump, Kass might have penned the article himself.
“As Donald Trump attacked former Mayor Rahm Emanuel for political gain, Chicago began to lose control of its own spectacular narrative,” complained the Tribune. “This is our chance to take control again to write a better, fairer story for ourselves.”
As for, “In our view, Vallas is the candidate best positioned to tackle the city’s existential problem of violent crime,” and, “Whatever your views on charter schools, unions, school closings or any of the other educational flashpoints that have dominated the election, it’s clear that Chicago failed its most needy students during the COVID-19 crisis,” Kass would likely agree wholeheartedly.
“The city needs to recover its retail prowess and its robust tourist and conventional business,” wrote the Editorial Board uncontroversially. “It needs to build new attractions that create jobs and pride, and not fall into an over-reliance on gambling or marijuana sales.”
Crime is out of control in Chicago, former Mayor Lori Lightfoot couldn’t find a solution, and now she is out of the cat-bird seat. Tomorrow, Chicago voters will be presented with two visions for Chicago’s future.
Chicago’s Mayor has a great deal of power in the city. And Chicago Mayors have pulled the city back from the brink before.
During the early 1990s, Chicago was experiencing record-high levels of violent crime, including homicides, robberies, and assaults. However, in the early 1990s, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley implemented a new policing strategy that emphasized community policing, increased police presence in high-crime areas, and a focus on reducing gang activity.
This strategy, along with other efforts, such as increased gun control laws and economic development initiatives, helped to reduce crime in the city.
By the mid-1990s, Chicago’s crime rate had begun to decline significantly. Between 1992 and 1998, the number of homicides in the city decreased by more than 50%, from 943 to 421. Overall, the city’s violent crime rate decreased by more than 30% during the decade, and property crime rates also declined.
The reasons for the decline in crime in Chicago during the 1990s are complex and multifaceted. Factors such as changes in policing strategies, economic development, and changes in social norms may have all played a role in the reduction in crime. However, the implementation of community policing and increased police presence in high-crime areas are often cited as key factors in the city’s success in reducing crime.
“Again, the central issue is the crime pandemic bleeding Chicago,” summarized Steve Huntley in his endorsement of Paul Vallas. “Yes, doing something about the city’s failing schools is important. Yes, the need for investment in Chicago’s businesses and its neighborhoods is vital. But neither will happen — can’t happen — unless the streets are safe, the neighborhoods are safe, the Loop and the myriad business districts across the city are safe.”
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)