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Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson greets supporters at the Chinatown Red Line Station, the day after he defeated Paul Vallas in a runoff mayoral election, Wednesday morning, April 5, 2023.

Ashlee Rezin

The Rundown: Johnson changes tune on mental health clinics

Good afternoon! I can’t stop thinking about how heavy metal this headline sounds: “Webb Telescope Finds a Star Cloaked in 3 Rings of Ruined Worlds.” Anyway, here’s what you need to know today.

1. Team Johnson backs away from campaign pledges to quickly reopen shuttered mental health clinics

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson vowed to reopen mental health clinics that closed more than a decade ago as the city faced dire financial challenges in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

But as Johnson prepares to be sworn into office on Monday, one of his top aides says that approach is “yet to be determined,” reports WBEZ’s Tessa Weinberg.

The incoming administration’s first task will be to assess Chicago’s landscape of mental health services to see what’s working, said Cristina Pacione-Zayas, who serves as first deputy chief of staff for Johnson.

The news might sound like déjà vu to mental health advocates. Outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot campaigned in 2019 on reopening the clinics but backed away from that pledge once in office.

Reopening the clinics could cost up to $3 million per facility, according to a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Public Health. [WBEZ]

2. A faster police response would not have saved police Officer Aréanah Preston, says Johnson’s chief of staff

An internal investigation has been launched to answer a question lingering over the fatal shooting of Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston: Why did it take police more than 30 minutes to respond after being alerted by ShotSpotter, the city’s gunfire detection system?

Rich Guidice, the chief of staff for Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, says the delay played no role in Preston’s death and she likely died immediately.

“Chicago Police did the best they could to get to the scene of the incident as quickly as they did,” he said. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, the mother of a 16-year-old Jaylen Frazier, one of four teens charged in the killing, said she attended a memorial for Preston after turning in her son at a police station.

“She did not deserve that,” said the mother, Jaquanna Walker. “I am very, very sorry about what happened.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. The COVID-19 public health emergency ends today

And some Americans say it’s about time, while others worry relaxed attitudes about the virus could cause more disruptions.

“COVID-19 is still a significant problem, but emergencies can’t go on forever,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

With the emergency’s end, the federal government will no longer buy up vaccines and tests to give out to Americans for free, reports NPR. The health insurance industry will step in.

The White House says people without insurance will still be able to get free COVID-19 vaccines — and treatments like Paxlovid — through 2024. [NPR]

4. A pandemic-era border policy also ends today as Chicago struggles to find shelter for migrants

For three years, the policy known as Title 42 allowed the federal government to quickly expel people who crossed the border and halted the processing of asylum applications.

But those rules will expire tonight, and federal officials expect an influx of migrants will strain government resources and create a bottleneck at ports of entry and detention centers.

As of Wednesday morning, nearly 28,000 migrants were in custody — far above official capacity, NPR reports.

“It’s a lot worse than we thought it was going to be,” said Brandon Judd, the head of the Border Patrol union who is also a vocal critic of the Biden administration. [NPR]

In Chicago, advocates for migrants say the city is not doing enough to help migrants arriving from border states.

“We say we’re a sanctuary city, but I don’t think we’ve put in place the services to deal with this,” said Mary Kay McDermott, a volunteer with a local refugee resettlement group. [New York Times]

5. Chicago’s planned casino gets a significant makeover

City officials today released “evolved” renderings of Bally’s planned casino and hotel complex in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

The new design “replaces much of the original scheme’s Vegas-like glitz with a more sober look,” writes Chicago Sun-Times architecture critic Lee Bey.

“Under the redesign, the complex doesn’t yell casino! as loudly as before,” Bey writes. “The re-do makes it clear other amenities and attractions are there — and can be visited without going to the casino.”

But the new design “still can’t get past the fact a giant casino and entertainment complex at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street is a bad fit.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Former President Barack Obama shared words of advice with a new generation of community organizers. [WBEZ]
  • A 26-year-old woman was charged with randomly attacking several other women on Chicago’s Northwest Side. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • WBEZ’s “The First 12 Weeks” series tells the story of a new mother who immigrated to Chicago from Kyrgyzstan and wasn’t sure whom to call for help. [WBEZ]
  • One of the most anticipated video games of the year comes out tomorrow, and it’s supposed to be a banger. [Washington Post]

Oh, and one more thing …

Actor Tom Hanks was in town this week for a WBEZ event for his debut novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece.

And the famously nice guy said something that caught my attention: Hollywood is in a battle with TikTok and other forms of entertainment that’s easily accessible on smartphones.

“We’re all going through a massive change in how we decide to be entertained,” Hanks said during a conversation with Peter Sagal, the host of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.

And this shift in dynamics is making it harder to lure people back to movie theaters, Hanks said.

Sagal asked a question that’s probably on the minds of a lot of fans: What’s next for the Hollywood A-lister who appears to do anything he wants?

“The truth is, I don’t get to make any movie I want. I have to go in and fight tooth and nail,” Hanks said. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

Mother’s Day is Sunday. What’s your favorite memory of your mom?

Isabella writes:

“One of my favorite memories with my mom was when she first taught me to ride the CTA by myself.

“It was the day of my 8th grade graduation, and while the rest of my family drove home, my mom walked me through transferring from the Blue Line to the Red Line — and the several blocks walk from the station to our house, insisting that I ‘walk with purpose’ so nobody would mess with me.

“She taught me to love every part of the city and gave me the best possible gift: the independence to navigate it on my own!”

And Vicki writes:

“My mom always tried to make the best out of a situation, not always successfully.

“In the pre-cellphone days, my parents went to O’Hare to pick up my sister. They drove right past her (which my sister saw) and after circling around again and picking her up, my mom tried to make my annoyed sister happy by explaining that my sister had ‘looked so beautiful, we didn’t recognize her.’

“Still brings a chuckle to the rest of us.”

Feel free to email me, and your response might be shared in the newsletter this week.

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