Lightfoot’s Pilsen remark irks local alderman

Lightfoot’s Pilsen remark irks local alderman

Looking west on 18th Street in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. | Sun-Times file

While praising improvements in the area, the mayor said that 10 years ago, Pilsen was “a neighborhood we all would have been a little bit concerned about being in after dark.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday risked insulting Pilsen residents with remarks intended to praise its resurgence.

“Pilsen 10 years ago was a neighborhood we all would have been a little bit concerned about being in after dark,” the mayor said.

“Pilsen now is a vibrant, thriving neighborhood. What’s the difference? The difference is economic development.”

Lightfoot’s remarks came during a question-and-answer session at a daylong “Innovation Summit” as she discussed reducing gun violence by creating “vibrant, healthy and safe neighborhoods.”

Rookie Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) branded the mayor’s remarks about Pilsen “insulting” and said they showed how “disconnected” she is from problems posed by the gentrification that has “eroded” the neighborhood’s cultural identity.

Pilsen’s strong Mexican-American community is “internationally-renowned” for its “culture, murals, festivals, restaurants and people.”

But, he added: “We still have small businesses struggling and empty storefronts. We still have homeowners, especially the most vulnerable, struggling to pay their property taxes. … We have a community that is still the victim of violence,” he said.

“To say this community is just thriving without acknowledging that we have many challenges ahead of us … shows an administration disconnected from the reality of our community. Thriving for whom? We still see the most vulnerable being left out. The marginalized being left out of the conversation.”

The mayor also had mentioned River North, but not in quite the same way.

“Not that long ago, River North was an area you drove quickly through to get on expressways to take yourself someplace else. What’s the difference? Intentional economic development,” Lightfoot said.

“That kind of intentionality is what we are bringing to areas like Austin, North Lawndale, West Garfield Park, Englewood, the Far South Side.”

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