New Chicago mayor pledges commitment to progressive strategy, asks for unity

May 14, 2023, 9:13 PM | Updated: May 15, 2023, 1:52 pm

FILE - Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson speaks to supporters, April 4, 2023, in Chicago. Johnson...

FILE - Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson speaks to supporters, April 4, 2023, in Chicago. Johnson will take office Monday, May 15, 2023. He faces an influx of migrants in desperate need of shelter, pressure to build support among skeptical business leaders and summer months that historically bring a spike in violent crime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, file)

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty, file)

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson began his first term of office Monday, asking Chicagoans to set aside deep differences, confront challenges together and build “a city that works for everyone.”

Johnson, 47, whose victory was touted by progressives as evidence that bold stances lead to victory, must immediately confront an influx of migrants in desperate need of shelter, pressure to build support among skeptical business leaders, and summer months that historically bring a spike in violent crime. His first term leading the nation’s third-largest city will test the former union organizer’s ability to turn his proposals into solutions for stubborn problems worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, including public safety, economic growth and housing affordability.

“Let’s show the world, Chicago, where our heart is,” Johnson said in his inaugural address before a cheering crowd. “Let’s build a Chicago that is the economic marvel of our the state, the Midwest and this nation. Let’s build a Chicago that means our economy gets to grow by rerouting the rivers of prosperity to the base of disinvestment. So that no one goes thirsty.”

The former organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union was little known when he entered the mayoral race in 2022 and has no experience within city government. But the two-term Cook County commissioner gradually climbed atop a crowded field with the support of the influential union he once worked for, endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and local progressives to knock off the incumbent mayor, Lori Lightfoot, and win a tough runoff in April.

Trying to appeal to those who didn’t back him in the election, he has stocked his transition team with familiar names from Chicago corporations and philanthropies beside leaders of organized labor and progressive groups. He selected a veteran of Chicago’s emergency management agency as his chief of staff and a retired police commander who is popular among rank-and-file officers as interim leader of the Chicago Police Department.

There is little doubt that public safety will remain the city’s top concern and Johnson’s response will shape his relationship with business leaders, elected officials, his progressive activist base and residents of every Chicago neighborhood.

“A safe Chicago means a safe Chicago for all, no matter what you look like, who you love, or where you live,” Johnson said Monday, promising a strategy rooted in more mental health care, violence prevention programs and police accountability.

Asiaha Butler, co-founder of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood on the South Side, said she hopes Johnson stays committed to his wholesale approach to crime — and that Chicagoans give it an opportunity to make a difference. Butler said improving safety on her block took up to 15 years of cooperation with neighbors and other community groups.

“Knowing the despair that our city sometimes faces, it will take a while to take that cloud away,” Butler said. “I wouldn’t put anyone up to that job in one term.”

Chicago has a higher per-capita homicide rate than New York or Los Angeles, but the most recent federal data shows it’s lower than other Midwestern cities, such as St. Louis and Detroit. Still, the number of homicides in Chicago hit a 25-year high in 2021 with 804, according to the Chicago Police Department.

That number decreased last year while other crimes, such as carjackings and robberies, increased.

Chicago business leaders overwhelmingly endorsed Johnson’s opponent, former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas, typically swayed by his pitch to strengthen policing, or Johnson’s various tax proposals affecting large companies and the wealthy.

The mayoral race was dominated by questions of how to address crime, and Johnson argued that a policing-first approach has failed.

Instead, he proposed increased mental health treatment, hiring more detectives, expanding youth jobs programs and increasing taxes on the sale of properties over $1 million to support more affordable housing. Johnson will also have the final say on naming the city’s next police superintendent, though for the first time an appointed citizen commission will select three finalists.

Andrea Sáenz, president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust foundation, said she’s hopeful that Johnson can bring philanthropies, businesses, police and activists together to create a wide-ranging strategy to prevent violence now and chip away at the conditions that let it flourish.

“It feels like this is a moment — the moment — to have those conversations, for a mayor to bring everybody to the table,” Sáenz said.

Johnson has shown no sign of backing away from his campaign strategies. When violence broke out as teens flooded Chicago’s downtown streets in mid-April, he issued a statement asking that people not “demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.”

Paying for his campaign promises, including the public safety response, hinges on a number of tax increases aimed at high earners and large companies likely to put up a political fight. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the state’s most influential Democrat, declined to back Johnson’s proposal to tax financial transactions, which would require sign-off from state lawmakers.

Johnson is also taking on a growing migrant crisis. Chicago is among the U.S. cities already struggling to provide shelter and other help to hundreds arriving from the southern border, with families sleeping in police station lobbies. The flow of arrivals is expected to increase now that pandemic-era restrictions on migrant crossings have ended.

Johnson said Monday that he is committed to welcoming all who arrive here, saying the strength of a city depends on how it treats the vulnerable. He provided no new details about his administration’s strategy.

Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner, a Chicago Democrat who also ran for mayor, said Johnson will have to use the same strategy that won him the mayor’s office to achieve his many priorities.

“What Lori Lightfoot learned is that in Chicago, your defenders can very quickly become your detractors,” Buckner said. “We want our leaders to be authentic, have conversations with us about the future. As long as he continues to do that, I think people will give him an opportunity.”

National News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks from the airplane at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in...

Associated Press

US reopens embassy in Seychelles after 27-year absence

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has reopened its embassy in the Seychelles after a 27-year absence during which China and other U.S. rivals made significant inroads in the Indian Ocean islands. The U.S. State Department announced the move late Thursday, after having unveiled plans to open a diplomatic mission in northern Norway, which will […]

23 hours ago

Associated Press

US expands slots for asylum app at land crossings as demand overwhelms supply

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) — U.S. authorities on Thursday expanded slots to seek asylum at land crossings with Mexico through a mobile app for the second time in less than a month, seeking to dispel doubts it isn’t a viable option. There are now 1,250 appointments at eight land crossings, up from 1,000 previously and 740 […]

23 hours ago

In this photo provided by Vernon Tyau, Jarek Agcaoili, left, with his mother Danielle, sister Jessi...

Associated Press

3 dead, 2 missing after family fishing trip in Alaska becomes a nightmare

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska fishing adventure became a nightmare for a family of eight when disaster struck one of the two boats they chartered over the Memorial Day weekend, leaving three people dead and two more missing despite a desperate search over hundreds of square miles of ocean. The tragedy tore the Tyau […]

23 hours ago

FILE - The sign for Fort Bragg, N.C., is displayed, Jan. 4, 2020. Fort Bragg will shed its Confeder...

Associated Press

Fort Bragg to drop Confederate namesake for Fort Liberty, part of US Army base rebranding

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Fort Bragg will shed its Confederate namesake to become Fort Liberty in a Friday ceremony that some veterans view as a small but important step in making the U.S. Army more welcoming to current and prospective Black service members. The change is part of a broad Department of Defense 2020 George […]

23 hours ago

FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee responds to questions during a news conference, April 11, 2023, in N...

Associated Press

In gun law push, Tennessee governor’s office memo says NRA prefers to ’round up mentally ill people’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration accused the National Rifle Association of wanting to use involuntary commitment laws “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties,” according to documents drafted by the Republican’s staffers as part of their initial attempt to pass a gun control proposal earlier this […]

23 hours ago

Chips sit on a roulette table at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City N.J., on May 17, 2023. With ...

Associated Press

As legal gambling surges, should schools teach teens about risk?

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — As a high school senior, Nick was blessed with a deadly accurate jump shot from the three-point range — something he was quick to monetize. He and his gym classmates not far from the Jersey Shore would compete to see who could make the most baskets, at $5 or $10 […]

23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

New Chicago mayor pledges commitment to progressive strategy, asks for unity