Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is preparing to take office, facing multiple challenges in his first term. These include an influx of migrants in need of shelter, the need to build support among skeptical business leaders, and the historical spike in violent crime during the summer months. Johnson’s election was seen as a victory for progressives, who believe that bold stances can lead to electoral success. However, his ability to turn proposals into solutions for issues exacerbated by the pandemic, such as public safety, economic growth, and housing affordability, will now be put to the test.
Despite being relatively unknown when he entered the mayoral race, Johnson managed to climb to the top of a crowded field with the support of influential unions, endorsements from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and local progressive groups. In an effort to appeal to those who didn’t support him in the election, he has included individuals from Chicago corporations and philanthropies on his transition team, alongside leaders from organized labor and progressive groups.
One of Johnson’s top priorities will be addressing public safety, which will shape his relationship with business leaders, elected officials, progressive activists, and residents of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Chicago has a higher per-capita homicide rate than cities like New York and Los Angeles, but it is lower than other Midwestern cities like St. Louis and Detroit. However, the number of homicides in Chicago reached a 25-year high in 2021, and other crimes such as carjackings and robberies have also increased.
Business leaders in Chicago largely endorsed Johnson’s opponent, Paul Vallas, due to concerns about his tax proposals and the impact on large companies and the wealthy. However, Johnson has made efforts to reach out to these leaders following his victory. The commercial office industry, in particular, has been affected by the pandemic and is hindered by concerns about public safety and real estate taxes.
Johnson’s approach to addressing crime focuses on solutions beyond policing. He has proposed increased mental health treatment, hiring more detectives, expanding youth jobs programs, and increasing taxes on the sale of high-value properties to support affordable housing. He will also have the final say on naming the city’s next police superintendent, with input from an appointed citizen commission.
Johnson also faces the challenge of dealing with the growing migrant crisis in Chicago. The city is already struggling to provide shelter and assistance to migrants arriving from the southern border, and the flow of new arrivals is expected to increase now that pandemic-era restrictions on migrant crossings have ended.
Paying for campaign promises, including public safety initiatives, will depend on implementing tax increases, which may face opposition from high earners and large companies. Johnson’s ability to bring together philanthropies, businesses, police, and activists to create a comprehensive strategy to prevent violence and address its underlying causes will be crucial.
Johnson will need to maintain his campaign strategies and continue engaging with the community to achieve his priorities. Authenticity and open conversations about the future will be key to gaining the support of Chicago residents.