Greising: Chicago Needn’t Reinvent the Wheel To Address Fire-Safety Issues — Just Pull From What Other Cities Have Done

Mayor Lori Lightfoot should stand tall and address the city’s fire safety problem in a serious and comprehensive way.

Department of Buildings Commissioner Matthew Beaudet joins a team inspecting a residential property with code violations in March in the Austin neighborhood. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

Over a six-year period beginning in 2014, 61 people died in 42 residential fires, in Chicago buildings where the city had prior knowledge of fire-safety hazards.

By the time people learned that, from an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and Better Government Association published in April, Mayor Lori Lightfoot already had sprung into action. A month earlier, her office announced plans to institute a new “scofflaw list” designed to shame and punish landlords who put residents at risk.

This happens from time to time. Politicians get inquiries from investigative reporters, then rush to do something — anything — before the story goes to press. They hope to leave an impression that they were attacking a problem before the public even became aware of it.

The trouble is, Band-Aid solutions rushed into place in order to score a political point almost never work.

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