The Crusader Newspaper Group

Campaign promises to Black Chicago wait for Mayor-elect Johnson

Photo caption: ON MONDAY, March 20th, Mayoral hopeful Brandon Johnson is pictured campaigning. Johnson was elected Chicago Mayor April 4, 2023. (Photo by Chinta Strausberg)

It’s been more than two weeks since Brandon Johnson was elected mayor of Chicago on the strength of the Black vote.

Mayor-elect Johnson won’t officially take office until next month when he will be sworn in as the city’s 57th mayor after winning all 17 Black wards in a dominating fashion.

Now, less than a month before he takes office, Johnson has a laundry list of promises to fulfill after making them during his mayoral campaign.

For now, Johnson’s biggest job is selecting a police superintendent and addressing last weekend’s incident where two teenagers were shot and 15 arrested after hundreds of teenagers stormed the Loop, set fire to one car and jumped on top of another. The Illinois Restaurant Association, in a statement, said it wants Johnson to come up with a new plan to “keep people in authority.”

Many callers on WVON criticized Johnson after he urged critics “not to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.”

Johnson has a busy freshman year ahead of him. Black Chicago hopes he will fulfill a bevy of promises he made while campaigning for mayor.

Those promises include passing the Anjanette Young ordinance to end no-knock warrants; elimination of the Chicago Police Department’s gang database, which Johnson called “racist” during his mayoral campaign; closure of the Homan Square facility in North Lawndale, where many Blacks and minorities were tortured under disgraced Commander Jon Burge; termination of officers affiliated with Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, and ending the city’s ShotSpotter contract.

Last year, CPD rebuffed calls to terminate Robert Bakker after the city’s Office of Inspector General said he lied to investigators about his ties to the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group known for its racist views. Bakker is now back on the street after being suspended for 120 days. Earlier this year, National Public Radio published a story that alleged 13 members of CPD have ties to the Oath Keepers. The department denied those claims to the Crusader.

Johnson also promised to re-open 14 mental health clinics, including six in Black and minority neighborhoods that Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed in 2011. Johnson also promised to expand the mental health crisis hotline to 24 hours and he plans to have an ordinance passed to help the city’s 65,000 homeless population.

But questions remain as to whether Johnson will eliminate Chicago’s red light speed cameras after Mayor Lori Lightfoot spearheaded a 6-m.p.h. threshold that generated millions of dollars in speeding tickets for the city.

Lightfoot, whose term ends next month, broke many promises she made to Black Chicago when she took office in 2019. After she was elected, Lightfoot declined to re-open the mental health clinics that she promised to do when she campaigned for mayor. In a meeting with the Black Press weeks after she beat Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in a runoff, she said she consulted with advisors who felt that Chicago was not suited to be in the business of operating mental health clinics.

Lightfoot’s decision to keep the mental health clinics closed led progressives to campaign against her re-election bid. Weeks before the primary city election, Lightfoot announced the city’s expansion of publicly funded mental health services for all 77 Chicago neighborhoods, but the effort wasn’t enough to save her job.

Many Blacks felt betrayed after Lightfoot made additional decisions that did not serve the interests or the agenda of Chicago’s Black electorate. Lightfoot’s failure on Black issues led to calls for efforts to hold future mayors accountable once they take office.

With the swearing-in inauguration ceremony set for May 15, the spotlight is now on Mayor-elect Johnson. He’s been quiet on establishing a timeline of fulfilling promises he made to win City Hall.

Brandon Johnsons Accountability Checklist

However, Johnson made known his agenda to Black Chicago, where he attended forums and interviews with Chicago’s Black Press.

During the meeting with the Chicago Black Press, Johnson said if elected he would re-open the 14 mental health clinics Emanuel closed in 2011.

In January during a meeting with Chicago’s Black Press at the Chicago News Weekly, Johnson said, “We’re going to re-open the mental health centers. Here’s the key: it needs to be publicly funded. So, when my term is up, it does not matter who the next mayor is, you can’t shut them down because you have a different sort of ideological presentation on what type of health care services should be provided in our community.”

On his campaign website, Johnson said, “Over a decade ago, Chicago politicians began closing down mental health clinics across the city. In the years since, we’ve seen the direct result of this cruel policy as a mental health crisis ravages our city. As mayor, Brandon Johnson will re-open all 14 publicly run mental health care centers in the city.”

But questions remain whether Johnson will eliminate Chicago’s red light speed cameras. On March 28 during a mayoral forum hosted by NBC 5 and WVON, Johnson said if constitutionally permissible, he supports phasing out speed cameras. In 2021, Mayor Lightfoot, citing a University of Illinois at Chicago study, had an ordinance passed that would ticket drivers $35 for driving over 6 miles per hour over the speed limit. Drivers who traveled 11 mph over the speed limit would be fined $100.

The Illinois Policy Institute in a 2022 report said the ordinance had generated $36 million in fines as of June that year. An ABC7 Chicago investigation in 2021 showed that the speed light camera at 536 E. Morgan Drive in Washington Park, between the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center and the Washington Park fieldhouse, issued 22,751 tickets that generated $3.66 million in fines, more than any camera in Chicago according to the Illinois Policy Institute. There are no traffic lights or pedestrian crosswalks near the camera in Washington Park.

Four of Chicago’s top money generating speed cameras are on the South Side, and the one in Washington Park is the highest grossing one in the entire city. Another speed camera at 445 W. 127th St. near Blue Island wrote over $3 million in tickets, according to the report.

Last year, Alderman Anthony Beale proposed an ordinance that would eliminate Lightfoot’s 6 m.ph. threshold. The City Council rejected that ordinance by a 26-18 vote, as 10 Black aldermen sided with Lightfoot.

To tackle Chicago’s crime problem, Johnson promised to hire 200 new detectives from the existing rank and file in the CPD to help boost the clearance rate for unsolved murders. He also promised to improve safety on the CTA and remove illegal guns from the city’s streets.

Johnson constantly defended his safety plan as opponent Paul Vallas, and the Fraternal Order of Police, accused him of planning to defund the police. Johnson said critics misunderstood his plan, which would appropriate $150 million toward other sources in the CPD that would help the Department be more effective in fighting crime.

Among his anti-crime promises, Johnson pledged to create a CTA Violence Intervention Program, establish a new Missing Persons Initiative, a new CPD Anti-Gun Trafficker Department, a new Mayor’s Office of Community Safety, and launch a full CPD Efficiency Audit.

Johnson’s most pressing concern is appointing a new police superintendent after David Brown stepped down in March. That month, Mayor Lightfoot appointed Deputy Superintendent Eric Walker as the interim superintendent. Walker worked his way up the ranks during his 30-year career on the force.

A new civilian oversight committee is now taking applications and has until mid-June to nominate three finalists for Johnson’s consideration.

“We’re looking for someone who’s compassionate, someone who’s collaborative, someone who’s competent, someone who has the trust and the voices of the rank-and-file members. Someone who obviously understands the value and importance of constitutional policing,” Johnson said.

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