by Erin Geary
August 27, 2023
Chicagoans, you were warned. When the mayoral race was on you ended up with two candidates: Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas. Brandon Johnson was an empty suit filled with platitudes. He had no substance, but, man, that smile was so bright. Then, there was Paul Vallas who answered questions with facts and figures, had a clear direction, but tended to be stiff. Those of us who actually watched debates knew who could turn Chicago around, yet Brandon Johnson became mayor.
Now, three months into his tenure, can Chicagoans boast about their choice? His over 200 page “Building Bridges and Growing the Soul of Chicago: A Blueprint for Creating a more Just and Vibrant City for All” is an idealistic plan with no way of funding his proposals other than raising taxes. It also came with a glossary so readers of the plan understood the variances between words like Latina versus Latinx, because we need to feel as if all Chicagoans are represented.
As Chicago’s violence, robberies, carjackings, and flash mobs increased in the three months since Johnson’s swearing in, he finally named his police superintendent. And the mayor’s choice certainly can’t be approved fast enough in light of the 23 armed robberies reported on August 20th. Though police officers often are in pursuit, according to reports on CWB Chicago, they are told to stand down and stop chase. The fear that the CPD may cross a line or get other’s hurt in the process of apprehending suspects is far too much for the department to bear or afford. Of course, this directive only emboldens criminals and causes more citizens to live in fear.
Giving credit where credit is due, at least Mayor Johnson provided a glimmer of good faith in choosing new leader from within the Chicago Police Department. Larry Snelling has an insider’s understanding of the tasks before him and understands the negatives of handcuffing police officers wanting to make the city safer. His first test will involve Labor Day Weekend. It is doubtful that Labor Day will be less violent than the weekends of Memorial Day or July 4th—the latter leaving 73 people shot with 11 fatalities. Snelling hasn’t even been approved by the City Council yet.
We’re asked to remember that it’s only been 100 days. As Johnson stated after the Memorial Day violence, “Poverty didn’t go away over the weekend. We understand that when communities have been disinvested in and traumatized, that you’re seeing the manifestation of that trauma” (ABC News). It appears that Snelling is also on board with Johnson’s desire to make connections between communities and police officers to work together rather than being suspicious of each other. Hopefully, Snelling will be able to curb violence, but with a police morale at an all time low and a lack of new hires it will be a tough job. And the much touted “peacekeepers” getting $100 stipends haven’t been discussed since May.
Additionally, violence prevention is needed as school is about to get back in session for roughly 325,000 CPS students. So, going beyond crossing guards, the city will be again paying Safe Passage workers to ensure the safety of children going to and from school. There is no doubt that until gang violence is addressed in the city, these Safe Passage workers do a valiant job.
Over 1,000 Safe Passage workers will be making $15.80 per hour, five hours a day, and five days per week. Basically, these workers are getting paid the same minimum, not livable, wage that is dictated for businesses. Funny how no one is pointing that out.
Of course, added to the already violent nature of Chicago, there is the decision by Mayor Johnson to be a sanctuary city. Moving illegal migrants into the Wadsworth Elementary School is causing unrest in Woodlawn. Last month community members met with Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor and leaders in law enforcement to make their concerns known. The community claims that those housed in Wadsworth become disorderly and disrespectful. Prostitution and assaults ensue when the sun goes down leaving an already unsafe community feeling even more vulnerable. The meeting got so heated that one gentleman stated, “Let me say this. They got one more time to deal with it ‘cause, otherwise, next time they deal with it, they gonna deal with it from the streets. We’re going to take over it. Nobody’s going to be able to stop us from what we’re going to do to ‘em” (CBS 2 News). Trying to quell anger, Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor reassured residents that if those housed in Wadsworth were behaving inappropriately, they’d be kicked out of the temporary shelter.
Then what? Where will those individuals go? Police station floors seem to be the answer, certainly not City Hall.
Tensions are rising between black and brown Chicagoans. But anger is brimming toward politicians, too. Those in poverty who have been waiting for affordable housing have been overlooked by a new mayor who claimed to have their best interests at heart when he was a candidate. Instead, Johnson has spent over $100 million on illegals with no accountability regarding how those funds have been used. The pot is at the boiling point. The job of the new police superintendent will become even more difficult when that pot boils over.
So, in an attempt to address the Bring Chicago Home mission of affordable housing, Johnson announced this week to have a graduated tax on home sales. Those with homes being sold above $1.5 million will be paying the highest, a 3% tax on the real estate transfer. Johnson believes this will bring in $100 million annually.
But there is concern that with the already rising taxes and the growing lack of inventory, his dreams will be more like hallucinations. Crain’s Chicago Business, for example, ran an article this past June entitled, “Big-dollar home sales down by half this year.” Additionally, Redfin, an online real estate firm, claims that the median home price in Chicago has dropped over 1% to $350K, which is 18% lower than the national average; yet, Chicago’s cost of living is 19% higher than the national average. It doesn’t appear that Johnson’s annual expectation of $100 million is feasible without major changes elsewhere.
Beyond the violence and illegal migrant and, overall, affordable housing issues, Chicago Public School performance on test scores is “making encouraging gains…with reading proficiency at almost back to pre-pandemic levels and a modest recovery in math scores” (Chalkbeat Chicago). That is a twisted way of saying that Chicago Public School students still have an inability to read, write, and solve math problems on a basic level. But, hey, the scores are almost back to the horrid levels prior to Covid!
How does Mayor Johnson plan to fix CPS? Pour more money into a failing system, support the Chicago Teachers Union, and allow illegal migrants to not only go to school but expect to be taught in their native languages as well as English, which further burdens CPS. But the more illegal migrants in attendance, the more multilingual teachers will be hired As the CTU President Stacey Davis Gates said in her interview with South Side Weekly, “[Migrants aren’t] going to just need a place to lay their head; they’re going to need multilingual educators and support staff inside of the Chicago Public Schools.” Translated, this means more union dues for CTU. Also, there will now be an excuse for low test scores in the years to come, which will translate into dollars. For, the lower the test scores, the more money is allocated to schools who are “underperforming.”
And what is all of this dysfunction creating? Businesses leaving Chicago with no new enterprises entering. This, of course, will hamper the city’s growth. Youth are needed to revitalize a city. If Mayor Johnson cannot control crime and lower taxes, it affects businesses choosing Chicago as a hub. Thus no new jobs for college graduates are available, and they won’t be raising families in the city. This will lead to, of course, even higher taxes on those who remain.
However, Mayor Johnson is keeping one major campaign promise. He will get his wish to create an equitable city. Regardless of zip code, all are now subjected to violence and robberies. All are subjected to paying for illegal immigrants at $7,000 per person each month. All attending CPS schools will see failure. All will see their taxes rise. There’s no better illustration of a dying city than this equity.
But never fear, Mayor Johnson has awoken his supporters to what the rest of us already knew. He’s a CTU shill incapable of running anything. And Johnson makes no apologies for his lack of effort. Instead, his celebrity status is on full display. Photo ops abound with pictures of his attendance at a Cubs game with Kamala’ husband, meeting Dwayne Wade, introducing Billie Eilish at Lollapalooza, and shout outs to the likes of Beyoncé and the “thousands who enjoyed the aerial wizardry of Troupe Vertigo.” Johnson is merely beginning what will make an excellent scrapbook.
When will Mayor Brandon Johnson’s work really begin? According to John Roberson, the mayor’s chief operating officer, it will take time. Roberson recently told the Sun-Times, “Nothing can be done in a single year. It is going to require a strategic approach in terms of what things we can get done at what pace at what time, given the resources that we have.”
There it is, folks. This is the man YOU voted into office. Trust Mayor Johnson. He’s got your back.