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Mayor-elect Johnson to be sworn in Monday as Lightfoot says farewell

Photo caption: Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson

As Mayor Lori Lightfoot spends her final week at City Hall, a sold-out crowd is expected to attend Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s swearing-in ceremony, along with members of Chicago’s City Council, on Monday, May 15, at the Credit Union 1 Arena, formerly known as the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave.

According to Johnson’s inaugural committee, the swearing-in ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m.

The supply of free tickets for the ceremony ran out when they were offered on the Eventbrite website Monday. Tickets were free and available on a “first come, first served” basis. The Credit Union 1 Arena holds 9,500 people. Guests are strongly encouraged to arrive early to allow time to go through security checkpoints before entering the arena.

After that ceremony, an open house will be held at City Hall at 2 p.m. This event will also be open to the public, with details expected to be released later this week.

“I want every single Chicagoan to feel that together, we’re writing a new chapter for our city, because we are,” Johnson said in a statement. “The goal of this inauguration is to be as collaborative and inclusive as possible, because that will be the goal of our government in City Hall.”

Johnson defeated former Chicago Public Schools Chief Paul Vallas in the runoff on April 4. He will be Chicago’s 57th mayor and the city’s fourth Black mayor to lead the city.

Johnson recently appointed aldermen to serve as committee chairs during his administration. Among them are Black aldermen who supported Johnson in the runoff.

Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) will chair the powerful Finance Committee; Jason Ervin (28th) will chair the Budget Committee; Jeanette Taylor (20th) will chair the Education Committee; Maria Hadden (49th) will chair the Environmental Committee; and Matt Martin (47th) will chair the Ethics Committee.

As part of Johnson’s “Unity Plan” to organize Chicago, some Black aldermen who did not endorse Johnson during the campaign season will serve as chair on committees as well.

Emma Mitts (37th) will chair the Contract Equity Committee; Michelle Harris (8th) will remain chair of the Rules Committee; Greg Harris (7th) will chair the Transportation Committee and Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) will serve as vice mayor on a subcommittee.

Four new Black aldermen will be among the crop of City Council members taking the oath on Monday. Aldermen-elect Lamont Robinson (4th), Desmon Yancy (5th), William Hall (6th) and Ronnie Mosley (21st) will be sworn in on Monday.

Johnson will replace Lightfoot, who gave her final speech as Chicago’s first Black female mayor on Monday, May 8.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Lightfoot lost her re-election bid when she failed to make the runoff in the municipal election on February 28. During that election, Lightfoot received just 33 percent of the Black vote. It was a tough defeat for Lightfoot, who swept all 50 wards in 2019 in the mayoral runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

During her farewell speech at the non-profit organization BUILD in the Austin neighborhood, Lightfoot said, “The mandate that I was given four years ago was to break up the status quo that failed our residents for far too long and chart a new path, a new compact between the government and the governed, and that’s what we did.”

As an openly gay, Black female mayor, many Chicagoans believe Lightfoot had a progressive agenda that would usher in a new era of Chicago politics at City Hall. But Lightfoot’s policies and abrasive leadership style turned off many as crime soared throughout the city.

During her freshman term in office, Lightfoot steered Chicago during the pandemic, which killed over 8,000 residents, according to the Chicago Department of Health. With just 29 percent of the city’s 2.7 million population, Blacks were disproportionally impacted with 3,366 deaths, or 42 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Chicago.

“You see, when you literally look death in the eye, as I had to, and realize that the decisions that you make in the midst of a crisis will impact who lives, who dies, what businesses survive, which fail and who has income and who doesn’t, all of which were served up on my plate over and over again,” Lightfoot said in her farewell speech.

Lightfoot experienced challenges throughout her term. During the pandemic, her office temporarily suspended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Loretto Hospital on the West Side after some affluent but ineligible residents received vaccinations using Loretto’s vaccines, at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago and other places.

Lightfoot in December 2019 fired Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, after he was found slumped over the steering wheel of a vehicle and was accused of misleading the public about drinking with a CPD subordinate. Lightfoot replaced him with former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. As did many big cities during the pandemic, Chicago experienced soaring violent crime, from 521 murders in 2019 to a peak of 856 in 2021. Brown resigned one day after Lightfoot lost the primary election.

At times, Lightfoot clashed with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who were often accused of not bringing charges against individuals suspected of committing violent crimes.

During the pandemic, Lightfoot also clashed with the police union, whose members fought the city’s vaccination mandate. Lightfoot’s term was rocked by a Chicago Teachers Union strike before CPS Chief Janice Jackson stepped down. A lifeguard sexual assault scandal in the Chicago Park District led to the resignation of Superintendent Mike Kelly, who was replaced by Rosa Escareno, Chicago’s former Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner.

But it was Lightfoot’s record in the Black community that may have led to her defeat. Although she spearheaded INVEST South/West, Chicago’s $2.2 billion initiative to spur economic development on the city’s South and West sides, Lightfoot broke nearly all her campaign promises to the Black community, including the reopening of mental health clinics that her predecessor Rahm Emanuel had closed.

Her office was accused of protecting the Loop and the Mag Mile while businesses on the South and West sides were looted during the George Floyd protests in 2020.

As police reforms moved slowly under the 2019 consent decree, Lightfoot opposed an elected school board and fought against a Civilian Oversight Police Commission, whose goal to have the right to hire and fire the police superintendent fell through under Lightfoot’s plan.

Lightfoot clashed with Aldermen Roderick Sawyer (6th), Sophia King (4th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th). Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd), an ally of Lightfoot, broke with her and endorsed Johnson during the mayoral election.

The highly publicized Anjanette Young case, the opening of a migrant shelter in Woodlawn, the speed camera ordinance and a host of other problems left many Blacks feeling betrayed by Lightfoot. The city’s recent plan to transform the vacant South Shore High School into a second migrant shelter has outraged residents and added another stain to Lightfoot’s legacy in Black Chicago.

To the end, Lightfoot held her head high. During her farewell speech, she said, “To all of you, do continue serving our city and working toward equity, inclusion, safety, fairness, and vibrancy in every neighborhood. I will be here as private citizen Lightfoot, continually rooting for you and every resident of our city.”

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