The City Is Up for Grabs

The City Is Up for Grabs
The City Is Up for Grabs

The City Is Up for Grabs

How Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Led and Lost a City in Crisis
By Gregory Royal Pratt


264 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, PDF, EPUB

Cloth, $28.99 (US $28.99) (CA $38.99)

ISBN 9781641605991

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Apr 2024)


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“Gregory Pratt had a rare front-row seat to the passions, problems, peculiarities, hopes, disappointments, shenanigans, and pettiness in the drama and farce that was Lori Lightfoot’s uneasy tenure on the fifth floor at City Hall. What he delivers on these pages takes us backstage to give us a powerful, incisive portrait of the woman, the details of her mayoralty, and the many players who shared the stage.” —Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune reporter and author of A Chicago Tavern 

Chicago is a world-class city, but it is also a city in crisis.
Crime is up, schools have repeatedly shut down due to conflict between City Hall and the powerful teachers’ union, and COVID-19 only deepened the entrenched poverty, institutional racism, and endless tug of war between the city’s haves and have nots.
For four years, the person at the center of this storm was Lori Lightfoot. A groundbreaking figure—the first Black, gay woman to be elected mayor of a major city and only the second female mayor of Chicago—she knew the city was at a critical turning point when she took office in 2019. But the once-in-a-lifetime challenges she ended up facing were beyond anything she or anyone else saw coming.
Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Royal Pratt offers the first comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the tumultuous single term of Mayor Lightfoot and the chaos that roiled the city and City Hall as she fought to live up to her promises to change the city’s culture of corruption and villainy, reform its long-troubled police department, and make Chicago the safest big city in America.
Some of Chicago’s problems can be explained by forces greater than the mayor: national polarization, long-standing cultural and racial tensions, our plague years. But some are the result of Lightfoot’s poor leadership at City Hall, a story that hasn’t been told in full—until now.


“Gregory Pratt is a smart, tenacious reporter in the best tradition of old-fashioned City Hall journalism. The City Is Up for Grabs is a must-read for anyone who cares about Chicago and the future of America’s greatest cities.” —McKay Coppins, staff writer at the Atlantic and author of Romney: A Reckoning

“Deep and rich—an enormously enlightening history of Chicago’s four-year kakistocracy. Gregory Pratt takes us with him on the trail, inside Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s meetings, and around the city she’d promised to reform. Real politics, no fluff.” —David Weigel, politics reporter at Semafor and author of The Show That Never Ends 

Vividly told and authoritative, Pratt’s gripping narrative captures history as it unfolds in a great American city. We know how the saga will end, but it begins with so much promise that we read in disbelief.” —Elizabeth Taylor, coauthor of American Pharoah: Mayor Richard J. Daley; His Battle for Chicago and the Nation 

The City Is Up for Grabs provides an intriguing and detailed accounting of an important time of transition in Chicago government and politics. Pratt takes readers on a journey through the twists and turns of a historic mayoral election, a global pandemic, and a time of intense disagreement over the future of the city. The book props open the door to the proverbial ‘smoke-filled room’ and provides an up-close glimpse of the people and moments who shaped this chapter of Chicago’s history.”—Becky Vevea, Chalkbeat Chicago bureau chief and former City Hall reporter for WBEZ

“From rising crime to a deadly pandemic to deep financial stress, US cities have faced enormous challenges in recent years. Chicago, one of the nation’s great cities, has been particularly vulnerable. Rich with detail, Greg Pratt’s fine book exposes the unraveling of a mayor as her city falls into crisis. This is political reporting at its best.” —Bruce Dold, former publisher and editor, Chicago Tribune

“This is a gripping, vividly detailed account of a uniquely chaotic and democratic time in a city almost always ruled by machine politicians. A product of Chicago’s neighborhoods, Greg Pratt broke nearly every major story that helped fuel Lori Lightfoot’s sudden and unlikely rise to power. And no journalist revealed more of the ‘senseless acts of self-harm’ that hastened Lightfoot’s rapid political unraveling.” —Dan Mihalopoulos, political reporter, WBEZ Chicago

The City Is Up for Grabs is an incredible behind-the-scenes look from the top at one of the most consequential periods in Chicago’s history. Some moments read as network-level dramas combined with a city-politics setting unlike anywhere else in the United States. Glad I read this sitting down.” —Omar Jimenez, Emmy award–winning CNN correspondent

There’s nothing quite like Chicago politics, and there was nothing quite like Lori Lightfoot’s tumultuous term as the city’s mayor. Few know this better than Gregory Pratt, who covered Lightfoot’s tenure every day for the Chicago Tribune. With The City Is Up for Grabs, Pratt goes deep inside the wards, boards, factions, and enmities that shape Chicago and, with help from her own hand, undermined its first Black female mayor.” —Jonathan Martin, Politico columnist and coauthor of This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future

Author Biography

Gregory Royal Pratt covered every day of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's term and was deeply sourced in city hall, as well as in the other offices of local, state, and national politics that shaped the mayor's administration. A Chicago native, Pratt has won several national awards for his political reporting and he is a regular commentator about the city on local and national media, including appearances on CNN and NPR.