Today is the day Chicago asks itself: “Who Should be mayor?”

by John Kass

February 28, 2023

I really shouldn’t be typing this today. I haven’t yet fully recovered from the open-heart surgery, the quadruple bypass,  the stroke and the other health issues I’ve been dealing with for the past two months. My wife, the doctors, nurses, therapists and good friends want me to take it easy, but I can’t.

I’ll take it easy tomorrow, but not today.

I’d much rather be sitting in a soft comfortable chair. But February 28 compels me. It is Election Day in Chicago, the main event of the great bloodsport that is Chicago politics.

There has been no civic decision as important as the the choice to keep building after The Great Chicago Fire. This election day is the day Chicago will tell itself and the world whether it wants to keep on fighting and live, or curl up and turn to dust.

If history tells us anything, it’s that cities die. It’s not a pretty thing, there’s too much in the dust, ruined lives, shattered dreams, and panic to think of the city dying, but they do.

The people of Thebes understood how a city dies. Alexander The Great made sure of it. All that is left of the great city of Thebes is rocks and dust.

The people of Troy understood, as did the people of Byzantium which was, until recently, called Constantinople.

And the people of Pompei understood but it happened much too quickly for them to wrap their minds around it. You don’t suppose a great city could die in our great country, do you?

But these days in the failed state of Illinois there is little trust by the people of their local government and for almost 200 years the political corruption, waste, and cynical tribalism has festered and now bubbles up as the city reaches its breaking point. 

What I’m reminded of is the poem that frightened me as a young boy. We found it in the Roberts Reader at Kolmar School in Oak Lawn in the 3rd grade:


“And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

-Percy Bysshe Shelley-


So, what is today?

It’s Election Day, the day when the people of Chicago decide whether they want to live or at least continue to fight or they’ve already decided to leave. I never wanted to leave the city of my birth.

My friend Steve, the pilot, never wanted to leave. I didn’t want to leave.

There are police officers who never wanted to leave.

Today is the day we ask ourselves “who should be mayor?”

You know my preferences, I’d like Paul Vallas. I think he gives the city the best hope of sustainability in the face of an unprecedented violent crime wave. Crime is the single issue that all of us understand, the most important issue facing the city, and without safety, there will be no Chicago, just a collection of power interests.

Is Lightfoot going to solve the issue? Crime is an epidemic and Chicago won’t be addressing it fully until those responsible for crime and dealing with crime are held to account. Consider something I’ve been telling you for years now. Look for what is not in the story, look for what’s avoided. Look for who is not mentioned.

Consider the crime issue– the most important issue in this 2023 campaign. Does Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle figure prominently in these accounts? Does Chief Judge Tim Evans? Does Preckwinkle’s protégée Kim Foxx, the non prosecuting prosecutor of Cook County, feature as much as she deserves?

These are three of the four furies of Chicago’s violent crime problem. The fourth is none other than the woman who caved to them all and lost the city, and my support as well– Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot’s time for honoring herself, will soon be at an end. But in order to save this great city those who are equally responsible must be held to account, those who allow for lax prosecutions, for demonizing the police, for arguing the ridiculous premise that a gang member who kills and eight year old can’t understand right from wrong. All of this kills a city too, no matter who is mayor.

And until the furies are invited to move on to other pastures nothing will improve. Some of you would like Brendon Johnson, or Chuy Garcia. But both of these are Preckwinkle candidates. And with Garcia and Johnson, Preckwinkle butters both sides of her bread with the safety of taxpayers.

Preckwinkle is a cautious professional politician who’s been pulling the strings, trying to destroy Lightfoot, her old rival. She’s done a great job on the mayor, what with the Tribune endorsing Boss Toni and with WBEZ-Sun Times protects her left flank. As long as she stays Boss of Cook County and the Boss of the criminal justice system, the situation will not improve.

Yes, Paul Vallas can win this thing. But to save Chicago, and the people in it, to give them a fighting chance, there is more work to be done. He’ll need to cleanse the Augean Stables and he’ll need the help of the people to rout the four furies of Chicago crime.


Comments 79

  1. John,
    It’s truly a pleasure to read your words again. I’m sure I speak for many of your readers that we’ve had you in our constant thoughts these past months. I hope you are on the mend and can get back to breaking fishing rods this summer.
    So, we have arrived. Now we get to see if the electorate is too beaten down, too apathetic to care about who resides on the fifth floor of city hall. We’ll see how many more Jacobins are elected to serve in the city council, and the city seems to be forced to choose the executioners of the police department with the vote on the district “community” (i.e. activist) councils. Yes, the big ticket race is for mayor, but there are other races which are still worth noting.

  2. It’s good to see you writing and fighting again. Go slow, Chicago needs your voice.
    I didn’t want to leave Chicago. But, it’s really not worth it. You may lose some beauty, some cuisine, some form of great culture, but you’ll find that in a new home. Without the crime. Without the drama and without the non-ending and soul-crushing decay of a once beloved city.

    1. So sad, but so true.

      I was talking with my sister (I left the state; she continues to live in the Chain of Lakes area). We talked about the Chicago we knew growing up, how Illinois wasn’t a place to be ashamed of, how we miss it.

      Maybe it never existed. Maybe we only saw the good on the top, the good that optimistic young people see, the good that we believed would triumph over the evil.

      And maybe, today, there will be a turnaround, and things will become better. Maybe people will work together in an honest way, working hard to bring the once-great Chicago back to a thriving metropolis.


      But experience tells me not to get my hopes up. Even as a lifetime Cubs fan, I know that there isn’t always another chance next year.

  3. It’s good to see you writing and fighting again. Go slow, Chicago needs your voice.
    I didn’t want to leave Chicago. But, it’s really not worth it. You may lose some beauty, some cuisine, some form of great culture, but you’ll find that in a new home. Without the crime. Without the drama and without the non-ending and soul-crushing decay of a once beloved city. Once you leave, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.

  4. Good to hear from you John ! Don’t rush it, it’s one day at a time. Listen to those coaching you.

    My hope is that your words are heard by many, taken seriously and make their feelings known at the ballot box. A grand message needs to be sent today. Chicago is far far far away from the great place it once was, as is the country in general. Quite frankly, I don’t get those who think that things are so wonderful now and praising those responsible for it. Hopefully tomorrow will bring a brand new day.

    Take care of yourself !!!

  5. A full-throated shout of common sense! This election is that important that wounded hero rises from his pallet to take a mighty swing at the dragons among us! Ladies and gentleman, John Kass!

  6. You have honestly been in my prayers….good to see you back, but take it easy, please. Your opinion might have more value a day or two or three once the dust settles on the election and you have had time to reflect.

    The whole thing gets my blood boiling and I don’t even live in Chitown. You don’t need that hassle lol.

    – Deacon John

  7. So glad you are back!! Now go rest so you can prepare an election day recap in a week or so … because the second place finisher may not be known until March.

  8. So good to read your writings once again in John! Do you hope your healing is going well, we need your voice now more than ever! You are loved! Stay well, and looking forward to hearing more from you. As always, great column!!

  9. We jkn readers are anxious about the health of Chicago — and the health of the Chicago writer we rely on. Today I’ll be thinking of the strong Chicagoans who have stuck it out through the city’s extended nightmare of corruption and crime. Let’s hope they make a stand today for the city’s future. A Mayor Vallas could provide a fighting chance for Chicago’s return to health. Doesn’t that sound like good news, especially when covered by a healthy John Kass?

  10. Saw your email…held my breath…it was really you! Glad you’re back, even for one day. Hope your healing is going well. Chicago needs you and your voice. God bless.

  11. Thanks John for letting your public know you’re hanging in there. I will continue like so many to pray for you and Mrs.Kass and your sons. I like Mr.Vallas’ odds. You were in his camp early on, both you and he deserve a win. Peace, keep doing the therapy ,we love you and need your wisdom.

  12. Glad to have you back at the keyboard, John. We can only hope that one of the furies — the Jabberwocks — will feel the sting of defeat. Voters need to stare down CTU and SEIU if they want the other three to have a similar fate. Here’s hoping Valas prevails and becomes the “beamish boy” whose vorpal blade beheads the monsters that are dragging Chicago to its grave.

  13. Glad you are back
    Prayers for continued recovery
    Great common sense article
    We love the city but left years ago
    Hope the vote goes well but it always seems to never change

  14. Here’s Johnny! (The Shining) and he’s back just in time for judgement day in Chicago! Many of us have been praying for you during your recovery John, stay well and stay strong, we need to hear your great words.
    Agree, Vallas has to win this or the city is burnt toast. I still don’t trust the voting booth but maybe, just maybe they will remove the clowns that are in there now!
    We can only hope!

  15. I am so happy to see you writing again as there are few who will speak out and say the truth while the politicians (Lori Lightfoot) try to paint a rosy picture. I, too, think that Paul Vallas is the one with no ties to the governing ones but the moxie to figure out some solid plans for turning the city around so that the residents are not afraid for their lives when they are walking on their neighborhood streets or driving on the expressways. I repeatedly wonder and question why the do-gooders never mention the families and parents of these young hooligans. I raised my children with respect for themselves and for others, especially the police, and I never hear this mentioned. I am with the family of the man killed in his car by three 13 yr. olds. who were subsequently returned to their homes with no charges filed. Obviously, this is a very dysfunctional home and it is not the place or people to be giving these kids a chance on a good life. Also, why don’t the ‘powers that be’ go after the gangs as criminal enterprises; the police seem to know who the leaders are but are stopped from pursuing them. Again, I am happy that you are healing and with so many others, I say ‘take it slowly’ and fully heal before getting into the rat race again.

    1. Absolutely ! Kids without a fathers influence, mother A on welfare, their mothers and grandmothers taking the aforementioned kids in, mother A having another child (or abortion which is easier) and kids growing up in the streets hoping to have a better life. Drugs, smash and grab, dropouts, making more babies and we have a bit of a challenge. And haven’t even touched on low/no bail etc. Good luck Mr. Valas, at least you have experience with the schools and can deal with the system lifers who rose up and away from the streets but condone the crap going on in the classroom and playground.

  16. What you’re not saying, John, is how to rid the once great city of the four furies, so I will. It can be done, just not within the law.

    Assuming the election is administered equitably (its true definition), and Vallas manages to win, he’s going to be the Donald Trump of Chicago – faced with a bureaucracy and local corporate class so deeply entrenched and committed to driving him from office that what happened to Trump will be mild in comparison.

  17. Great to see you pounding the keyboard again. I’m waiting with bated breath to see if Chicago makes a good choice or once again falls for the tribalist bullcrap. So fed up with the woke agenda, I cancelled my Tribune subscription (after 42 years) because they stopped running Dilbert in their comics. I watched his blog diatribe, and I think he’s a reactionary racist – BUT that never came through in his work. So those liberal dipsh*ts cancelled him because of what he thought, not what he did. Just like what they did to you. So fair is fair – cancel culture cuts both ways – bye bye, Trib, and my $79.94 every month. I’ll use it to hire a house cleaner… no matter what color he or she is.

    1. Was not aware Tribune cancelled Dilbert. No surprise I guess. But I had many other reasons to cancel my subscription long ago. Main reason being they let their best writer go.

  18. There stands John Kass.

    Got up off his sick bed to once more kick some ass and take some names.
    It needed doing.

    Now rest yourself and follow that good advice you’re getting from Mrs. K.

  19. Great to see you back at speaking the truth and making your Greek ancestors proud, especially today. This election will have a tremendous impact on Chicago, and I don’t think you are overstating it at all.

    With that being said, please follow your Doctor’s orders and rest as much as possible. We, your loyal readers, need our regular doses of sanity and truth for many years to come.

  20. It’s so good to hear from you John. Thank you for your call to action today. I hope the voters of Chicago think long and hard about their futures. We’re all hoping for a positive outcome. Get well soon, John. We need your voice!

  21. Brightened my day to see you’re up to this but don’t overdo it, please! I’ve been talking about Precky saying there will be no volume of mail-in votes for Lightfoot because Toni has skin in the game with her 2 candidates! National news is showing considerable interest in Chicago as a predictor of other places rejecting Dem woke peddlers…if only! Too easy to put faith in polls these days but maybe for once they’ll be right. My wish would be for Vallas to thump them all and squash the need for a runoff due to vote splitting, but Chicago Dems always have a plan B. Now I’m just wondering how many extra days it will take to count the votes! Get well, John! You’ve been through a lot and need to give yourself time, our most precious commodity! You’ve got countless numbers praying for you and your family as well as your caregivers!

    1. Interesting read on Toni P’s involvement or lack thereof. Hadn’t thought about that. Her not getting her minions out to vote for Lightfoot will have a huge impact.

  22. John-best wishes for a full and complete recovery. While your body needs time to heal, your mind and intellect are as sharp as ever. For those folks like me who have lost some speed on their intellectual curveball:

    Augean Stables: The fifth of Hercules 12 Labors, cleaning the filthy stables of Augeas. In context, a place or situation characterized by filth or corruption.

    Beautifully written John, just beautiful. Looking forward to more from you as you mend.

  23. Yiassou Yianni! Welcome back, albeit for a short note. Na’se kalla! Will wonders never cease? You know the city’s in deep doodoo when the Trib backs our filo, Paul Vallas! Perhaps sanity snuck in their door and let in some fressh air, but we’ll have to wait and see. In any event, us chumbolones in the burbs, sit with bated breath awaiting the election results tonight, praying and hoping against hope, that Paul can pull it off, otherwise, goodbye City of Chicago, for good. Next we have to go after Taxinkle and her minions, like Evans and Foxx(y) as well. But I digress….as we say in Greek – “prota o Theos!” Stay on the mend as we desperately need your voice to lead the charge back to sanity and common sense!

  24. Having your voice back, if only briefly, made my day. What a fine surprise.

    If Vallas prevails, he will have his hands full with limited room to maneuver. The rest of the field holds no hope to keep our dear city from dust. But we can hope. And vote.

    Pray without ceasing for a better day for our city and for your complete recovery and return to health.

  25. Welcome back Mr. Kass and thank you for writing this article. I’m really glad to hear you are on the mend, on the way to a full recovery. Even though I’m writing this from our new home in Florida, I still have a little hope that Chicago can come back. A full recovery seems doubtful, but anything would be better than nothing. Like you, we never wanted to leave.

    Be well sir.

  26. Welcome back, John! I saw Houli at the DeSantis event in Elmhurst and told him to give you my best. Praying for your complete recovery, Brosef! A Vallas victory north of 35% would be just what the doctor ordered! Prayers for the Greek boys today, Heavenly Father!🙏🇬🇷

  27. John, thanks for today’s column. And please take care of yourself which is more important than anything. Today is a historic day for the city. The citizens have a chance to turn the city around. My confidence in that is slight, hence my departure on 8/31/2016. The election of one mayor will not turn the city around, but it can help delay it’s failure. Let’s see what happens. In the meantime, take care of yourself! I compel you!

  28. Great to see you back John! Take your time but if you’re looking for something to write about after the election, reach out to Rahm Emanuel to find out why his superpac is funding candidates against the local “democrat socialist” candidates in the aldermanic races. You might have to Skype him in Japan where he’s now raising money for the family’s businesses but he would be an excellent interview for your podcast. By the way, I’m no fan of Rahm. He wasn’t a great mayor. He was just good enough. He understood money and how the business and tourism industries work together to generate revenue. These fools, except for Vallas and Wilson who are running for mayor don’t. Chicago constantly picks the pockets of its taxpayers a little at a time so the chumbalones don’t notice money missing. “Fees” here, late payment fines there, exhorbant parking rates but don’t worry just put one of those payment apps on your phone. You won’t even notice how much money you’re losing. I recently visited Chicago and noticed I was out of roughly 25 bucks in taxes and “fees” before I arrived at my destination. But hey someone has to pay. I call it “The Goodfellas”. F##k you pay me. If any of these idiots running for mayor win this election they’ll just club you on the head and take your whole wallet without all the niceties. Good luck Chicago. Detroit used to be a great city also.

  29. So good to see you back! So glad it was not your time to “go home”! And thank you for this column and its truths. Let’s hope and pray the blind sheep don’t keep the same pathetic excuses for leaders in office.

  30. 1st And most important, it’s good to see you recovering from your medical issues. I also, am a quad bypass recipient. Twenty-eight years now – had to get rid of my smoking and overdrinking habits, but it worked! Hang tough – you’ll make it!
    Secondly, your column says it all. If any other than Paul Vallas becomes Chicago’s next mayor, all is lost.

  31. John:

    Hope you get well soon. Perhaps, a bit of ouzo each day will help (but, DEFINITELY, stay away from the saganaki!!!). Unfortunately, elections come and go, sometimes not really deciding issues. You should not get worked up over ANY results. Time usually irons things out.

    Steve Weiss

  32. Great to hear your voice again! Those who filled in for you have done a great job but no one can replace John Kass! Mind your health and your doctors. We need you back, healthy and strong!

  33. John – I was hoping we’d hear from you either on or before election day. Now back to resting and recovery. I’m sure you’ll have a lot more to say down the road! Continued prayers.

    (former beekeeper) Ann Baker

  34. Welcome back John. Perastika sou.
    This reminds me of Barbara Tuchman’s great opening of “The Guns of August” and how it painted a vivid picture of the soon to be gone British Empire. Closer to home we have Detroit as an example. As recently as the 1950’s Detroit was the richest city in America (if not the world). Today they are still trying to come back from the destruction of the 60’s & 70’s. If you had told a Detroiter in the ’50’s where the city would be 15-20 years later, they would have thought you were crazy. Many Chicagoans can’t see the city being destroyed because most have only known it as the world class city it has been for years. We could easily end up like Detroit–a zombie city surrounded by viable suburbs & exurbs. I hope not, but it could all hinge on something like a mayoral election.

  35. Welcome back!! Your procedures have not dulled your opinions or your prowess. Please take care of yourself! We can all be patient and let you heal. Since I have two adult grandchildren living in Chicago, I pray that the city will survive and thrive. That will require leadership.

  36. John Kass, we all love and respect you, your family and your words…..having said that, thank you for this column, now get your back porch on recovery road and listen to the docs, nurses and your wife!!
    You are still in my prayers every night and shall be there for a long time…approaching 90, so some nights are not too good either, but the love and respect for you are still there.
    God bless you John Kass and keep on keeping on…

  37. Congratulations on your recovery! For a guy that went through all that, you wrote a very demanding, intensive column. Don’t stretch it too much!
    Spot on! It will be interesting to see the outcome of this election. I do hope the voters are concerned and see through Lightfoot and the rest of the furies; if not then we will have a dead city for sure. If Paul Vallas wins, it will be a long and rough road to navigate to bring Chicago to some semblance of normalcy.

  38. Glad to see you back at the keyboard John. Take it easy, though. Don’t sit up tonight until the wee hours waiting to see who’s going to be #’s 1 and 2 for the runoff. We’ll need you down the line!

  39. That you, John Kass, would put your personal health on pause and write about the mayoral primaries is testament to the depth of your love for your city of Chicago.
    I wish that fixing the city was as easy as changing mayors, but I think it is much deeper than that.
    I believe that there is a direct correlation between the failing schools and crime on the streets.
    The public schools are failing their students, turning them out to the mean streets of Chicago were they are quickly “educated” is the ways of crime.
    In a city where the city council has a super duper Democratic majority; unless the mayor has extraordinary powers, I can’t see much changing.
    I hope I am wrong.
    But, I hope that you continue your journey to better health.

  40. Your back! Awesome!

    Now let’s hope the city does the right thing and sends Lori Lightfoot packing. Anybody is better than some who is currently way in over her head. I hope it’s Paul Vallas, too. But, anybody, and I mean anybody is better than Lori Light-weight. Then we have to clean house at CPS. I just don’t know how you get rid of Toni Tax-Winkle, and the idiots, “Tim Evans” and Kim Fuxx”. They are the crux of the problems, and nothing changes until Chicago wakes up and empties the trash!

  41. WELCOME BACK!!!!!
    You’re absolutely correct that the election is only the beginning, but if we’re rid of lightweight Lori, it’ll be a magnificent beginning. Perhaps there is hope for Chicago, after all.

  42. Well, it looks like Vallas made it to the runoff, Johnson is still leading Lightfoot by about 17,000 votes.

    We’ll see how or if the machine (or what’s left of it) closes ranks against Vallas.

  43. Outstanding writing, your voice is, as so many note, so needed! Not just for Chicago but for our country, and you offer the best of all the great (lost) past tradition of the Tribune and more. Thank you John for continuing this work on this wonderful site. My unworthy prayers for your speedy full recovery. May the Lord give us good strength for Lent!

  44. Welcome back, John – but listen to your doctors and wife.

    We’ll be here for you upon your return.

    Thanks to all the wonderful designated hitters these past two months. A great team.

    God bless.

  45. Welcome back, John – but listen to your doctors and wife.

    We’ll be here for you upon your return.

    Thanks to all the wonderful designated hitters these past two months. A great team.

  46. John, it is the most incredible feeling to read your words again! Even following the podcasts, there’s something about *reading* John Kass, nothing like it! But as so many have already said… Don’t push too hard. We’ll all be here whenever your fully ready. Well, now she’s gone & the hard part begins. Because if Brendan Johnson pulls this out, the remaining “furies” will only get stronger & this city, at least as we have known it, will die. If anyone questions that, I challenge them to watch the documentary on Local 1 (the CTU) that was featured on your podcast the other day. Brendan Johnson’s true colors are on full display, as a self-proclaimed socialist & power-monger. For those of you who have not seen it, take an hour & watch. The unmasking is horrifyingly eye-opening. Be sure to share it with anyone who may be on the fence. Here’s the link:

  47. I am happy to see this, but the new leader in the polls, Vallas, is as liberal as they come. He has been running ads talking about how liberal he is, pro abortion, etc. They’re pretty much all the same. As for me and my money, we’ll stay out of the socialist hellhole Chicago has become!

    1. Well Vallas is a classic liberal. No doubt. But he is not a marxist socialist like Brandon Johnson. Nor is he an embittered angry nut case like our soon to be former Mayor, Lori Lightfoot. As far as talking about abortion well it is really moot what the Mayor of Chicago thinks about abortion or talks about abortion, since abortion is a state prerogative, not city, and in deep blue Illinois, the right to abortion ain’t going anywhere, what ever Mr. Vallas thinks or says. But in contrast to the abortion issue, the Mayor of Chicago can actually institute policies that reduce crime in Chicago as well as policies that will improve the education for all of the kids in Chicago. And Mr. Vallas seems to be on board with meaningful remedies. Now whether a Mayor Vallas could actually do theses things against the likely strong head winds of the CTU and courts and woke bureaucracy is another story altogether. But one thing is for sure. We know what a Mayor Brandon Johnson would do. And it would likely make us all long for the “good ole days” of Lori. LOL.

  48. Prayers answered. Some many people love you and have not stop praying that our God will keep you safe and healthy. We need you John. We need your honesty and integrity and common sense that seems to be lacking is so many people these days especially Politicians.
    The Mayor is gone, now we start the hard work and elect Vallas. His opponent is a clone of Lightfoot and we must end his career. He will destroy the beautiful City we all love by doing what she did which is nothing for the Black people or the poor of Chicago especially the children. The Unions want money from the teachers, we need them out and educate the poor and minorities. All of us that came into Ellis Island have worked so very hard for this great Country, and we must teach the young our true History and how this great Country was built. God is in charge, he decided on color of his people and he made MAN and WOMAN. Rejoice that his love is strong and will always be with us and I will continue to pray for your speedy recovery, I want you to have that Easter Lamb and please fight to get Johnson out, he is no good for the City. I am tired of people talking about color and woke stuff. We are all going to die some day and God will judge us. We all love you John.

  49. Sadly voter turnout was relatively low, it just doesn’t make any sense when it’s so easy to vote. Can make any improvements without voting. Glad you are feeling better John, we need your voice back to counter the nonsense that is about to be heard in the mayoral race.

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