Chicago — There are eight challengers squaring off against incumbent Lori Lightfoot on Feb. 28 for the bid to be Chicago’s next mayor and Trey Smith admits he can’t name them all.
But that doesn’t mean he’s naive to the kind of impact the next mayor could have on improving his Auburn Gresham neighborhood and others like it. That’s why he isn’t sure who the next mayor should be.
Smith knows one thing for sure — the city needs a change.
“All I know is it’s time to do something different,” said the 25 year old. “We’re really just tired of the same thing. For me personally, I just want the next mayor to bring a different energy to the city, to actually do something.”
His peers feel the same as they watch the race with mindful eyes, hoping one of the candidates can make a change on issues they care about. For 26-year-old Kam Maisonneuve, that means making strides toward addressing gun violence and crime in Black and Brown communities. Though he doesn’t live in Chicago, some of his loved ones, who are seniors, stay on the South and West sides.
“I honestly don’t know what the answer is to it all,” Maisonneuve said. “But I just hope we can actually do something that’ll make those communities safer. I’m praying about it”
Public safety has been a hot-button issue in the mayoral race, with each candidate offering their own solutions.
In a public safety plan, Kam Bucker, a lawyer that represents parts of Bronzeville, The Loop and Hyde Park in the Illinois House of Representatives, proposed hiring more officers. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a congressman representing Illinois 4th district, has said the city should fire Police Supt. David Brown while increasing the pace on rolling out reforms mandated by a 2017 consent decree. Paul Vallas, a former CPS CEO, who has been one of Lightfoot’s closest rivals, has also called for Brown's firing in addition to increasing beat cop presence.
When asked about these ideas, Carl Norwood, a 22-year-old Roseland resident said he was troubled by the fact that each candidate is “trying to throw police officers at the problem.” He thinks there needs to be a more holistic approach that includes funneling more resources into communities that need them.
“We need more emphasis on mental health, on investing in our areas, not only on locking people up,” Norwood said.
Another issue that’s taken center stage in the race is how to make housing more affordable, as housing costs and inflation soar all over the country. It’s an issue especially important to Smith, who like many Gen Z, is living with his parents until he can afford his own apartment.
“I really hope (one of the candidates) figures it out quickly,” he said.