In the passage of just a few days, Lori Lightfoot’s mayoralty transitioned from initial cool command of the new job to a kerfuffle over an unproved rumor to another blistering putdown at the start of a City Council meeting.

The recipient this time was Patrick Murray, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police. He had the temerity, at the start of Wednesday’s council meeting, to criticize Lightfoot for not including the FOP in the police reform process.

The mayor pushed back. “Any time the FOP wants to do any other thing than object and obstruct (reform), I’ll be more than willing to meet with you,” Lightfoot said.

The crowd in the council chambers loved it, clapping loudly for the style and substance of Lightfoot’s remarks.

The dismissive smackdown is becoming a signature of the mayor’s first days in office. She similarly silenced Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, at her first council meeting. With this one, Lightfoot regained her footing after an unsteady few days. A few days earlier, the Better Government Association, of which I am president, called her out for repeating an unsubstantiated rumor that before the violent Memorial Day weekend the FOP had told its members, “If you see some criminal activity, just lay back, do nothing.”

Lightfoot seemed not to realize that the mayor of the city of Chicago can’t deal in gossip. Words and facts matter. Lightfoot had said she hoped the rumor wasn’t true. But simply by repeating it she breathed life into it.

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David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.

Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.

Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.