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The Rundown: Mayor Johnson’s media missteps

Good afternoon! I drank way too much coffee this morning and feel like I could vibrate through a wall. Anyway, here’s what you need to know today.

1. Mayor Johnson’s media missteps may endanger his public image and agenda

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s relationship with the press appears to have hit a low point after some big communication blunders.

“The City Hall press corps has turned hostile, openly frustrated with a mayor who is seldom accessible and evasive when he does take questions,” my colleague Fran Spielman writes.

In an apparent effort to turn things around, the mayor scheduled a meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times’s editorial board this week. But the meeting ended abruptly after Johnson’s press secretary, Ronnie Reese, insisted the entire session be off the record.

Veteran media strategist Peter Giangreco said Johnson needs a better communications team that can effectively get his message out to the public. If things don’t improve, Johnson’s standing with voters could be damaged.

“We were extraordinarily patient with Mayor Lightfoot going through the pandemic. We gave her plenty of opportunity to shine. It didn’t happen,” Giangreco said. “This honeymoon is much shorter. And there is a growing suspicion that someone who’s a very good candidate and a very talented politician is not necessarily a very good mayor.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Pritzker unveils a budget providing more funding to the migrant crisis and creating a child tax credit

Gov. JB Pritzker today announced a $52.7 billion spending plan that includes the blueprint for a pension overhaul, funding for the migrant crisis and the creation of a child tax credit, my colleagues Tina Sfondeles and Mitchell Armentrout report.

The governor’s budget plan provides $181.7 million to continue to address the migrant crisis and $629 million to continue providing health care benefits to undocumented people aged 42 and up who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

Those two issues are likely to create some tension within the Republican caucuses.

The proposed budget also creates a $12 million child tax credit for lower-income families with children under age 3, for a credit of about 20% of the taxpayer’s state earned income.

Budget negotiations are expected to continue through the end of May, the deadline for lawmakers to pass a spending plan. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Two teenagers were charged with killing a Senn High School student and wounding two others

The boys, 14 and 17, were charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, Police Superintendent Larry Snelling announced at a press conference this morning.

The 17-year-old, Kashawn Purdue, was charged as an adult. The 14-year-old was scheduled to appear in Juvenile Court, where he also faced charges of aggravated battery with discharge of a firearm. His name was not released.

Officials said the shooting on Jan. 31 occurred about two blocks from Senn High School and stemmed from some sort of altercation.

Three students were walking in the 1200 block of West Thorndale Avenue about 3:35 p.m. when an SUV approached and several people got out and opened fire, authorities said.

Daveon Gibson, 16, was struck in the chest and taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, where he was pronounced dead, police said. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. Mayor Johnson wants to borrow $1.25 billion to build more affordable housing and other developments

The mayor today moved forward with his first major development proposal that could also mark a huge shift in how such projects are funded, my colleagues Mariah Woelfel and Tessa Weinberg report.

To pay for the massive borrowing package, the mayor proposes letting dozens of the city’s controversial tax increment financing districts expire.

Known shorthand as TIF districts, these special taxing areas have long been criticized as a slush fund for City Hall.

TIF districts siphon tax dollars away from the city’s general funds to pay for local development projects, and Johnson plans to use the recouped tax money from expiring TIFs to pay for the debt.

“TIF is not and has not been historically the most equitable tool,” said Ciere Boatright, Johnson’s planning and development commissioner. [WBEZ]

5. Monty and Rose are honored at the beach where the two piping plovers fell in love

A section of Montrose Beach is being renamed as the “Monty and Rose Wildlife Habitat,” my colleague Phyllis Cha reports.

The 3.1-acre area was added to the Montrose Dune Natural Area in 2021 to provide more permanent protection for piping plovers and other endangered wildlife.

Monty and Rose were the first piping plovers to fledge in the area in 71 years. In 2020 and 2021 they went on to mate and hatch their chicks. They also successfully took down an EDM festival.

Monty died in 2022 and Rose is feared dead, but their presence at Montrose introduced many in Chicago — and nationally — to birding and the importance of conservation. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Russia could put a nuclear weapon in orbit this year, the U.S. warns allies. [New York Times]

  • Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos are children, raising questions for in vitro fertilization clinics and hopeful parents. [NPR]

  • Beyoncé became the first Black woman to top the Billboard country chart. [BBC]

  • A man sued several groups that run Powerball in Washington, D.C., after he was told his $340 million “win” was a mistake. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

It feels like summer is around the corner with this unseasonably warm weather. And with the summer comes outdoor music festivals.

“Chicago now boasts one of the largest markets for music festivals in the United States,” my colleague Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis writes.

Sofie created a handy tool for fans of live music that will be updated as we get closer to breaking out the sunscreen. She’ll be listing the lineups of festivals as they’re announced, as well as when tickets go on sale.

Coming up are presale tickets for the American Music Festival, which will be available tomorrow. Headliners include Nikki Lane and Sierra Hull. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

What’s something that made you smile recently?

Alex Weir writes:

“This weather! As soon as I step out of the front door to walk my dog in the afternoon, I can’t help but smile!”

Margaret writes:

“I’m 83 and have been mostly housebound for two weeks with a reaction to a medication. At 4:30 yesterday, I ventured out the front door of my condo. My, the air smelled sweet and the nearly full moon made me smile with gratitude.”

And Paula writes:

“Monday was a school holiday. At the health club I saw a young boy (age 11ish?) working out with his dad. Dad would do a weight machine, then son would do the machine, following dad’s instructions and example. Cute and heartwarming way for father and son to bond.”

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

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