What does Chicago’s new mayor have in store for the Windy City?
The mayor’s election is a significant social and cultural event in the city of Chicago. The mayor is the chief executive of the city and plays a crucial role in shaping its future. The job carries a range of vital responsibilities, including managing the city’s budget, overseeing the police department, and leading economic development initiatives.
In Chicago, the mayor’s election is particularly important because the city faces a range of serious challenges, including high levels of crime, economic inequality, and a strained relationship between law enforcement and the community. The mayor has a crucial role to play in addressing these issues and improving the quality of life for all residents.
The mayor’s election in Chicago is often hotly contested, with multiple candidates vying for the position and intense public interest in the outcome. This is in part due to the city’s history of political corruption and machine politics, which has led to a highly competitive and sometimes contentious political environment.
After former Mayor Lori Lightfoot failed to advance in the February runoff, two candidates vied bitterly for the job. Last Tuesday, former Chicago Teachers Union organizer and progressive criminal justice reformer Brandon Johnson triumphed over his more-conservative, law-and-order Democratic opponent, Paul Vallas.
Now that he’s Mayor-elect, what is Brandon Johnson’s vision for the city?
“What are the practical steps that your administration would take to demonstrate what a progressive approach to public safety looks like?” then-candidate Brandon Johnson was asked by In These Times columnist Maximillian Alvarez back in March.
“How would that approach address the immediate concerns that people, including many poor and working class people, have about both public safety and abuse by the police?” questioned Alvarez. “And how would it address the longer term vision of a Chicago that treats the root causes of crime instead of just policing the symptoms?”
“You’re right, it’s a concern for people all over the city of Chicago,” acknowledged Mr. Johnson. “It’s beyond a concern. I mean, it’s a serious problem. It is quite gruesome, frankly, the amount of lives that have been lost because of violence, and particularly gun violence.”
“I live in a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago,” Johnson told his interviewer. “It’s a beautiful community, the Austin neighborhood. It’s the largest concentration of Black folks anywhere in the city, probably one of the highest concentrations of Black folks anywhere in the country.”
“And as beautiful and as dynamic as my neighborhood is, that my wife and I are raising our three young children in, it is one of the more violent neighborhoods in the entire city,” he lamented. “So this is something that I live through every single day, and it’s the experience that people are having all over the city of Chicago. But I can tell you just on a very personal note, we’ve had to change a window from one of the bullets that have come through our home.”
“And so, from the perspective of someone who is living the experience every day, much like people are throughout the city of Chicago, you can do both — you can get at the root causes of crime and you can address the immediate dynamic of solving crime,” Mr. Johnson promised.
“And that’s what my public safety plan does, it calls for investment,” he began. “So the first thing that I invest in is promoting and training 200 more detectives to actually solve crime. Right now, particularly in Black and brown communities, the clearance rate for violence that happens in our neighborhoods is below 20%. You’re not going to engender confidence in policing if you’re not solving crime.”
The Chicago Police Union, which backed Johnson’s opponent in the race, has no doubt greeted the defeat of its preferred candidate with regret. With crime on the rise in Chicago, both the understaffed and demoralized Chicago Police Department and Mayor Johnson’s new administration are certain to have their work cut out for them.
“COVID pandemic, lockdowns set student learning back decades, new data shows,” was the bombshell report in September 2022. ABC News was one of the hundreds of news outlets to broadcast this bad, if unsurprising, news.
It is doubtful these learning setbacks — experienced in the greatest concentration in cities that kept students out of classrooms longest, including Chicago — will do much to improve juvenile crime rates in afflicted areas.
Some at-risk High School and Middle School students —in particular those from low-income households — left school in March 2020 and never went back. Likely, the long-term impacts of this level of catastrophic learning loss and educational attrition are going to be enduring, if not intractable.
Public school students during virtually every other period of natural or man-made disaster in recent history seem to have fared better. In a nation that managed to educate its school-age children in public institutions of primary and secondary learning during two World Wars and the Cuban Missile Crisis, there is a growing consensus that the system failed Covid kids.
Can Brandon Johnson turn this perception, and the reality, around?
Overall, the mayor’s election is a big deal in Chicago because it has the potential to shape the future of the city and its residents for years to come. The mayor’s policies and priorities can have a significant impact on the lives of millions of people, making it a critical decision for voters and an important moment in the city’s history.
The mayor of Chicago is also often viewed as a national figure, with the potential to influence policy and public opinion on a range of issues. Chicago is a major city with a rich history and a diverse population, and the mayor’s actions can have a ripple effect beyond the city’s borders.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)