Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks to the media following a city council meeting on February 01, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The City Club of Chicago in the last few weeks has conducted a mayoral pageant of sorts, with four of the nine candidates crossing the stage since the beginning of the year.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her appearance last week concocted a sentence that morphed from the mundane to the mystical but still got its point across: “When we apply fiscal discipline, invest in ourselves and our people and our places, and we put ourselves in a stable financial footing, that’s where the magic happens,” she said.

Pensions and potions don’t typically mix, but there it was. Lightfoot is mixing her own elixir to fix the city’s fiscal health: paying down pensions to improve the city’s credit rating; using the INVEST South/West development strategy to revive overlooked neighborhoods; applying zero-base budgeting to cut costs; and reducing city debt by nearly $750 million.

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas offered his own elixir when it came his turn on the City Club stage — whether fantastic or fantastical, you be the judge. He called it a “second Burnham plan.”


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.