Daily Herald opinion: Chicago mayoral race offers a fresh start for city, suburban cooperation
As Election Day nears, one mayoral battle is brewing that could have a large impact on the suburbs. Yet, suburbanites don't get a vote.
The Chicago runoff between Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas will determine who takes the helm from Lori Lightfoot and leads Chicago for the next four years. And some of the decisions to be made will have repercussions outside the city's borders.
History is full of examples. Mayor Richard M. Daley's expansion of O'Hare Airport, for example, meant razed homes in Bensenville and noise issues there and beyond. His successor, Rahm Emanuel, lured corporations such as McDonald's in Oak Brook and Mondelez International in Deerfield to the city, meaning lost jobs and taxes for those suburbs.
So, how will the next mayor relate to the 'burbs?
At this point in their campaigns, both Johnson and Vallas have expressed interest in working with the suburbs for the betterment of the region, as Marni Pyke pointed out in her recent look at the Chicago mayor's race.
"There's so much that we can do collectively -- whether it's on public safety, whether it's on transportation, whether it's on economic development. Chicago is part of a vast metropolitan community and we need to understand that and respect that," Vallas said.
Johnson, meanwhile, cites direct ties to the suburbs. He's an Elgin native who talks with pride about his suburban childhood and hails his former Elgin High School teacher for sparking his interest in social studies.
"Because of my upbringing, my ties to the region outside of Cook County, there are relationships that can be built," he told Pyke.
We are heartened by that wider view and hope it sticks -- no matter who is elected on April 4.
Suburbanites commute to the city to work, play and visit family. Many of our grown children move there after college to be close to jobs and take in all that Chicago has to offer. Thus, we will watch with deep concern how the next mayor grapples with the city's violent crime rate and policing issues.
We will watch too how the winner handles issues involving O'Hare, economic development and, yes, the potential Bears move to Arlington Heights.
Even if the Bears leave the city, they will forever be linked to Chicago. And any future development surrounding a new stadium -- or the chance to host a Super Bowl down the road -- will have an impact on both the suburbs and city.
Optimism, however, does not mean naiveté. Whoever wins will owe allegiance to Chicago voters. That's more than evident, for example, in Johnson's revenue plan aimed at making "the suburbs, airlines and ultra-rich pay their fair share."
But there is much to be gained by sharing ideas and fostering cooperation. We are encouraged that both Johnson and Vallas are at least expressing interest in doing just that.