Brandon Johnson, a progressive Democrat, was sworn in as the 57th mayor of Chicago on May 15.
He succeeds Democrat Lori Lightfoot, who lost in the Feb. 28 primary after years of coming under fire on issues ranging from COVID-19 to public safety. Johnson, 47, defeated Paul Vallas, a 69-year-old moderate Democrat in an upset in the April 4 runoff.
Johnson was sworn in by Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court Timothy C. Evans at an inauguration ceremony at the Credit Union 1 Arena at the University of Illinois Chicago. In addition to the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, the ceremony included the Black National Anthem and an acknowledgment that the land on which the arena stands was stolen from Native Americans.
The invocation was given by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, which included political overtones. Avery R. Young, Chicago poet laureate, recited a hopeful poem about the Windy City. Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom of Chicago gave a prayer for Johnson, comparing him to the biblical character Joseph. Imam Hassan Aly, of the Council of Islamic Orgs of Greater Chicago, gave a prayer of guidance for Johnson.
Elected officials, including Chicago’s 50 aldermen, were sworn in ahead of Johnson, who was embraced by Lightfoot after she conducted her final acts as mayor.
Johnson started his day touring the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, where Johnson and his family live. Following the ceremony, Johnson will host an open house at city hall, where Chicagoans can meet and greet him. In the evening, Johnson will attend a gala at the arena to celebrate his inauguration.
Two of the biggest issues in the mayoral election were education and public safety.
Johnson ran on a staunchly pro-public school platform as he was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, while Vallas ran on a pro-school choice agenda.
Johnson enters city hall with an underwhelming public school system in the Windy City.
The high school graduation rate in Chicago is just 78.4 percent as students have struggled to demonstrate proficiency in mathematics and reading. At the elementary school level, the test score proficiency in math is 21 percent, and 25 percent in reading. At the middle school level, the test score proficiency in math is 21 percent, and 24 percent in reading. At the high school level, the test score proficiency in math is 23 percent, and 21 percent in reading.
Johnson expressed opposition to cutting city funding to schools.
In terms of fighting crime, Johnson came under fire, including from Vallas, for his past support of the “Defund the Police” movement, which Johnson in 2020 called an “actual, real political goal.”
Johnson sought to distance himself from that cause. In March, he told Laura Washington, a political analyst for ABC’s Chicago affiliate, that he “said it was a political goal. I never said it was mine.”
“As far as my vision for public safety, I’m not going to defund the police,” he said.
On his campaign website, Johnson vowed to “work with police and first responders to invest in community-based interventions that de-escalate conflict, reduce violence and make our neighborhoods safer.” He also vowed to “create an Office of Community Safety, reopen the city’s mental health clinics, fully fund year-round youth employment, and foster partnerships between communities and law enforcement to make critical investments preventing crime before it happens.”
Johnson pledged to “direct more funds to violence prevention and community safety programming that address the root causes of community violence” and “attack these root causes of crime and poverty by investing in the basics: good schools, good jobs, housing and mental health.”
Fiscally, Johnson wants to raise $800 million in new taxes, although not property taxes, which are already high in Chicago.
Johnson will have to deal with an influx of migrants who illegally crossed the southern border and have been sent by GOP governors, including Texas’ Greg Abbott, to Democrat-led cities like Chicago.
On May 3, Johnson criticized governors who have been sending illegal immigrants to Democrat-led cities, including Chicago, which he has pledged to maintain as a sanctuary city for illegal aliens.
“We have, you know, governors at the border that have demonstrated that they are not willing to collaborate in a real way, and so that is, of course, very disappointing,” he said at a news conference to introduce the city’s incoming interim police chief.
Johnson noted that he’s “prepared to have conversations with everyone, in particular, those who may use this as a weapon against cities.”
He accused the governors of using illegal immigrants as a “political football,” something he called “unconscionable.”
Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who represent a state that has been overrun amid the migrant crisis, fired back at Johnson on May 3.
“I would ask the question, ‘What are the governors of border states like Texas supposed to do and these border communities that are being overwhelmed?’” Cornyn told The Epoch Times.
“I think Gov. Abbott and [Florida] Gov. [Ron] DeSantis and others who have bused migrants and basically facilitated their travel to some of these cities like New York, Washington, and Chicago, they’ve done so in desperation, trying to gain the president’s attention, thinking, ‘Well, he won’t listen to Republicans. Maybe he’ll listen to Democrats, and maybe he’ll listen to these mayors of large cities.’”
Cruz called Johnson a hypocrite.
“There’s no shortage of hypocritical Democratic mayors who are perfectly happy for America to have open borders and to have 6 million people cross illegally, the vast majority of whom crossed into the state of Texas, and to say, ‘It’s not my problem,’” Cruz told The Epoch Times.
“And yet when the illegal immigrants arrive to their city, they hysterically and hypocritically declare an emergency. It is an emergency. It is a crisis. But it’s a crisis caused by Democrats deliberately.”
Cruz ridiculed Democrats, including Johnson, for shedding “crocodile tears.”
Cruz offered a remedy to Democrat mayors, whose circle Johnson just joined.
“For every Democrat mayor who screams and howls when illegal immigrants arrive in their cities, they have an easy solution: Pick up the phone and call the White House. Joe Biden could solve this problem today,” he said. “He doesn’t want to.”
While Johnson, a father of three children, will be the third black mayor in Chicago history, his wife, Stacie, will be the first black first lady of Chicago.
Despite running as a progressive, Johnson has vowed to be a mayor for all Chicagoans.
Just before entering his vehicle after casting his early morning ballot in the April 4 election, Johnson told The Epoch Times, “I expect to lead the city of Chicago for everyone.”
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