It wasn’t way back that Brandon Johnson, 47, was a county commissioner and lecturers’ union organizer, unknown to many Chicagoans. On Monday he was sworn in as the town’s 57th mayor.
Mr. Johnson’s speedy ascent from political obscurity to the helm of America’s third-largest metropolis was fueled by an unapologetically progressive platform, a present for retail campaigning, and enthusiastic help and cash from organized labor. He knocked out the incumbent mayor, Lori Lightfoot, within the first spherical of balloting in February, then beat Paul Vallas, a much more conservative and well-funded Democrat, within the runoff final month.
Now comes the onerous half.
Mr. Johnson inherits a proud metropolis that has not absolutely emerged from its pandemic funk. Chicago’s downtown is emptier, its public faculties have fewer college students, and crime charges stay far greater than earlier than the pandemic.
In an interview final week at his transition workplace alongside the Chicago River, Mr. Johnson mentioned he was cleareyed in regards to the scope of the challenges awaiting him however assured in regards to the metropolis’s trajectory.
Listed here are a number of the largest points dealing with Chicago, and what he needed to say about them:
Town wants a brand new police superintendent.
“It’s vital that the town of Chicago has confidence within the superintendent. That’s somebody who understands constitutional policing, however somebody who additionally understands that public security is an total aim that can’t be confined to policing.”
The superintendent chosen by Ms. Lightfoot, David Brown, resigned after she misplaced re-election, leaving the embattled Chicago Police Division below interim management. Mr. Johnson, who earlier than operating for mayor expressed help for eradicating some regulation enforcement funding, will quickly have to pick out a everlasting superintendent.
Mr. Johnson mentioned he would search somebody who understands Chicago and will earn the belief of rank-and-file officers, but additionally somebody who shared his view of policing as only one a part of a broader security technique. He mentioned the brand new superintendent have to be prepared to work with newly elected councils of residents created to offer suggestions and to make ideas on regulation enforcement in every of the town’s police districts.
Chicago has struggled to deal with an inflow of migrants.
“We’re a sanctuary metropolis. There’s an unbelievable historical past of the town of Chicago being a welcoming house for households throughout the nation and internationally.”
Mr. Johnson inherits an escalating disaster: the more and more giant stream of Venezuelans and different migrants arriving by bus and airplane from border states and searching for shelter in Chicago. Within the final a number of weeks, the variety of migrants coming into Chicago has multiplied, filling metropolis shelters and overwhelming police stations, the place migrants have been dropped off. With the lifting final week of Title 42, a federal coverage that allowed the USA to expel many individuals who crossed the southern border earlier than they may apply for asylum, much more migrants are anticipated to movement into Chicago.
The inflow is each an issue and a possibility for Chicago, a metropolis that grew in inhabitants from 2010 to 2020, however then noticed these features erased in the course of the pandemic, when 1000’s of residents moved out. Mr. Johnson mentioned that he supposed to assist welcome the migrants, however mentioned that he additionally wished to ensure that Black households who’ve been within the metropolis for many years should not lower out from metropolis assets.
Public training presents a formidable check.
“There’s no better establishment to rework on this second. Our public college system needs to be remodeled.”
A former social research instructor, Mr. Johnson most just lately labored as an organizer for the Chicago Lecturers Union, a progressive and politically highly effective group that engaged in repeated work stoppages throughout his tenure and was a chief antagonist of the newest two mayors.
Mr. Johnson has spoken repeatedly of investing in neighborhood faculties as a method to tackle the town’s broader challenges. He mentioned he envisioned “an training system that exposes our kids to as many industries as potential in an actual, tangible means,” with a far better give attention to connecting highschool graduates with profession alternatives, together with in trades that don’t require a school diploma.
Downtown nonetheless lacks its prepandemic swagger.
“I consider it’s a novel alternative for this era to set a course that might be studied a century from now.”
Downtown isn’t going to look the identical because it did earlier than the pandemic, Mr. Johnson mentioned. However exactly what it should grow to be is much less clear.
Mr. Johnson mentioned he sees an opportunity to construct on present industries, particularly within the life sciences, a sector that has seen latest development. Throughout his mayoral transition, Mr. Johnson has met with enterprise and civic leaders downtown, a gaggle that largely supported his opponent, Mr. Vallas.
And Mr. Johnson would be the face of the town throughout one in all its latest and most divisive occasions: a NASCAR avenue race downtown this summer season. Mr. Johnson mentioned that he intends to hold out the brand new automotive racing occasion with “care and sensitivity,” but additionally hopes to construct on the slate of extra established festivals and actions the town gives, particularly people who attraction to youthful individuals.
Public security stays an enormous concern.
“Have you learnt what protected communities do all around the nation? what they do? They put money into individuals.”
Mr. Johnson spoke on the marketing campaign path of creating deep investments in communities which have seen essentially the most violent crime, particularly on the South Aspect and the West Aspect, the place he lives. Individuals will really feel safer, he mentioned, after they have robust neighborhood faculties, low unemployment and entry to psychological well being companies.
These targets really feel long run, however Mr. Johnson additionally says he hopes to make rapid modifications like doubling the variety of younger individuals who have work after college and in the summertime.