By the time Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered her budget address last week, the Chicago Teachers Union was already on strike.

The federal investigation into Illinois corruption had paid a visit to the City Club of Chicago. President Trump was scheduled to visit, the slurs against Chicago forming on his tongue.

“I feel like I sit in the eye of the storm, where I know there is a lot raging around me,” Lightfoot told me during an interview this week. “My goal is to always remain calm and focused, so that we make rational decisions, not stuff that’s spur of the moment and reactive.”

As Lightfoot assembled her $11.7 billion 2020 budget, she indeed faced a fiscal storm. Its thunderheads included an $838 million deficit, annual pension payments that will rise by $1 billion during Lightfoot’s first term and uncertainty over the viability of a proposed Chicago casino.

A quick fix — another hike in property taxes — was off the table. “That’s become the third rail in a very significant way,” she told me.

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David Greising

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...