Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) took the oath of office this morning, along with the 50-member Chicago City Council:
Thousands of spectators watched as Johnson was sworn in by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans at the Credit Union 1 Arena at the University of Illinois at Chicago on the city’s Near West Side. He was sworn in alongside the new City Council — which includes 13 freshman members, many of whom campaigned on pushing the body further to the left, and who also will increase the racial and LGBTQ+ diversity of the council.
“People of Chicago are counting on us to work together,” Johnson said, after turning around to applaud the new council. That gesture was in stark contrast to former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who in 2019 sarcastically turned to the council when speaking about her intentions to root out corruption in Chicago politics during her inaugural speech.
Lightfoot welcomed the crowd “to a peaceful transfer of power” as she called the inauguration ceremony, which doubles as a formal City Council meeting, to order. She watched as Johnson took the oath of office, as is customary for inaugural ceremonies. Over the weekend former Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent Johnson well wishes from his outpost in Tokyo, where he serves as U.S. ambassador to Japan.
The Tribune charted his rise to power:
To get here, Johnson took an unconventional route compared with previous mayors. Having cut his teeth politically as a top Chicago Teachers Union organizer a decade ago, Johnson brings with him a labor-friendly resume that has galvanized the city’s political left. That coalition of progressive unions and grassroots organizations propelled Johnson to victory after their chosen candidates suffered mayoral runoff losses in 2015 and 2019.
When Johnson first announced his run, his candidacy was often dismissed. He polled in the single digits while rivals such as the CTU’s former endorsed candidate in the 2015 mayor’s race, U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, jockeyed for the progressive vote.
Johnson’s campaign themes of racial justice and taxing the rich ultimately caught fire, however. Buoyed by cash from CTU and like-minded unions, he surged months later to knock out incumbent Lightfoot in the initial round of voting — the first time a sitting Chicago mayor had lost reelection since Harold Washington beat Jane Byrne to become the city’s first Black mayor in 1983. Johnson will be the fourth.
As a CTU organizer, Johnson had been an instrumental force in crafting the union’s reputation as a progressive powerhouse, but election opponents countered that Chicago doesn’t need a mayor beholden to the teachers union. He also faced frequent fire for his past support of the “defund the police” movement, or the activist-backed calls to reallocate law enforcement budgets and send the funds to other social services in the wake of the 2020 Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.
In his inaugural address, Johnson pledged to reopen Chicago's closed mental-health clinics and to tackle the crisis caused by Southern Republican governors shipping asylum-seekers to the city:
“I want to make sure that no one ever has to suffer because they do not have access to mental health services,” Johnson said in his speech.
Johnson repeatedly mentioned the migrant crisis unfolding across Chicago. Thousands of people have arrived in the city in recent weeks from the southern border, overwhelming the city’s shelters and forcing hundreds of migrants, including children, to sleep on the floors of police stations.
“We don’t want the story to be told that we were unable to house the unhoused or provide safe harbor for those who are seeking refuge here, because there is enough room for everyone in the city of Chicago,” Johnson said.
The new mayor also emphasized the need to revitalize neighborhoods that have lost people and resources by “rerouting the rivers of prosperity to the banks of disinvestment.” He rejected the “zero-sum game” of pitting the needs of migrant families against the needs of longtime residents to live in “a fully funded neighborhood.”
Johnson narrowly beat former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas (D?) in the runoff election on April 4th.