Brandon Johnson celebrates his victory behind podium on stage
Brandon Johnson celebrates his victory at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on election night on April 4, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

Some key dates in Mayor Brandon Johnson’s first year in office

The ongoing migrant crisis, crime, staff shake-ups, City Council turmoil — and some legislative wins for progressives — were among the highlights and lowlights of Johnson’s first term.

Brandon Johnson celebrates his victory at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on election night on April 4, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times
Brandon Johnson celebrates his victory behind podium on stage
Brandon Johnson celebrates his victory at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on election night on April 4, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

Some key dates in Mayor Brandon Johnson’s first year in office

The ongoing migrant crisis, crime, staff shake-ups, City Council turmoil — and some legislative wins for progressives — were among the highlights and lowlights of Johnson’s first term.

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From crime to migrants to Gaza to a slew of progressive initiatives, Mayor Brandon Johnson had a busy first year in office, with successes sprinkled amidst a variety of crises. Here are some of the highlights, lowlights and key events from the past year.

Feb. 28, 2023: Election, Round One

Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner and former Chicago Teachers Union organizer, emerges from a crowded field to take one of the top two spots in the first round of mayoral voting. Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas came in first, with nearly 34% of the vote. Johnson was second, at about 20% and incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot was third, at 17%. It was a stunning fall for Lightfoot, who just four years earlier had swept all 50 city wards to win her first term.

Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas shaking hands on debate stage
Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson, left, and Paul Vallas shake hands before a debate at WLS-TV ABC Channel 7’s studio on March 16, 2023. Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times

April 4, 2023: Runoff Election

Johnson wins the runoff election to become mayor of Chicago, defeating Vallas by about three percentage points.

Brandon Johnson supporters cheering and dancing
Supporters cheer and dance at Brandon Johnson’s election night party at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on April 4, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

May 15, 2023: Inauguration

Johnson is inaugurated at Credit Union 1 Arena on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago. “Welcome to the peaceful transfer of power,” the outgoing mayor, Lori Lightfoot, told the crowd as she kicked off the proceedings, and before getting a friendly hug from her successor. In a speech that included more than a dozen uses of the phrase “the soul of Chicago,” Johnson promised “to build a city that works for everyone.”

Brandon Johnson in gray suit behind podium
Mayor Brandon Johnson makes his inaugural address during the city of Chicago’s inauguration ceremony at Credit Union 1 Arena on May 15, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

July 5, 2023: School board reshaped

Johnson cleans house at the Chicago Board of Education, replacing all but one member of the seven-person board overseeing Chicago Public Schools. Johnson’s appointees included several activists and only one lawyer, who runs a legal aid group. The board will triple in size next year, with some members elected, the beginning of the transition to a fully elected board.

Board of Education members sitting and listening during meeting
Chicago Board of Education members Elizabeth Todd Breland, Joyce Chapman, Sulema Medrano Novak, Michael Scott Jr., Paige Ponder and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez listen during a Chicago Board of Education meeting at the Chicago Public Schools headquarters in the Loop on Aug. 24, 2022. Pat Nabong / Chicago Sun-Times

Aug. 14, 2023: Picks top cop

Johnson announces his choice as superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. It’s Larry Snelling, the department’s counterterrorism chief, a 29-year CPD veteran.

Larry Snelling speaking behind podium in police uniform
Larry Snelling speaks during a news conference at City Hall on Aug. 14 at which Mayor Brandon Johnson (left) announced Snelling as his choice to be the next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

Oct. 6, 2023: Subminimum wage

In one of several big wins for the progressives who helped put Johnson in office, the Chicago City Council eliminates the city’s subminimum wage for tipped employees. Restaurants previously had been allowed to pay some employees a much lower wage, on the assumption that tips would make up the difference.

Brandon Johnson
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson presides over a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall in the Loop on Oct. 4, 2023. Pat Nabong / Chicago Sun-Times

Oct. 11, 2023: His first budget

Johnson unveils his first city budget, a $16.6 billion spending plan balanced in part by using $434 million in surplus funds from tax increment financing districts.

Alderpersons standing and clapping in City Council chambers
Mayor Brandon Johnson receives a standing ovation after presenting the 2024 Executive Budget Recommendations during a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Oct. 11, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

Nov. 7, 2023: Censure vote tiebreaker

Johnson’s City Council floor leader, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), narrowly avoids censure, with the mayor voting to break a 24-24 tie. Ramirez-Rosa already had resigned as floor leader and as zoning committee chair after being accused of bullying members to prevent members from forming a quorum at a special Council meeting called to approve an advisory referendum asking Chicago voters whether Chicago should remain a sanctuary city. Ramirez-Rosa was accused of manhandling Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) to prevent her from entering the chambers.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) reacts after Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) made a motion to censure Ramirez-Rosa during a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Nov. 7, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

Dec. 5, 2023: Brighton Park migrant camp nixed

The ongoing migrant crisis was one of many challenges Johnson has dealt with since his election, and one of the ways he sought to deal with it — building winterized “base camps” — suffered a setback when Gov. J.B. Pritzker shut down construction at the mayor’s chosen location for the first of those camps, in Brighton Park. The cancellation came just days after the city released an environmental report shoeing the location at 38th Street and California Avenue required cleanup of heavy metals and toxic chemicals.

aerial shot of migrant camp
An aerial drone shot of the migrant camp being constructed at 38th Street and California Avenue in Brighton Park. Gov. J.B. Pritzker canceled the project amid concerns about toxic chemical pollution at the site. Brian Ernst / Chicago Sun-Times

Jan. 31, 2024: Another tiebreaker — this time, on Gaza

At a raucous City Council meeting, Johnson cast the tie-breaking vote to approve a symbolic resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The vote came after a meeting punctuated by chants and shouts from the crowd, with the situation at one point growing so chaotic, Johnson cleared the chambers, delaying the meeting for about an hour. Johnson had taken similar action in October, clearing the chambers before a divided Council approved a resolution condemning the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the war.

Supporters cheer from the third-floor gallery of the Chicago City Council chambers
Supporters cheer from the third-floor gallery of the Chicago City Council chambers after a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza passed on Jan. 31, 2024. Pat Nabong / Chicago Sun-Times

Feb. 21, 2024: Bonds for housing, development

Johnson proposes issuing $1.25 billion in bonds to fund housing and economic development programs. Borrowing the money for such programs through a bond issue would be a shift away from relying on tax increment financing to fund such programs. The bond issue is approved by the Council two months later.

close-up of Brandon Johnson holding gavel
Mayor Brandon Johnson bangs his gavel as he presides over a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on June 21, 2023. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

March 19, 2024: ‘Bring Chicago Home’ rejected

One of Johnson’s major initiatives to reduce homelessness, nicknamed “Bring Chicago Home,” fails at the polls. The ballot referendum asked voters to adjust the real estate transfer tax to generate about $100 million a year (increasing the rate on higher-end sales, cutting it on sales under $1 million).

Brandon Johnson in black suit behind podium with U.S. flag in background
Mayor Brandon Johnson speaks during a news conference after presiding over a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on March 20, 2024. Anthony Vazquez / Chicago Sun-Times

April 3, 2024: LaSalle Street transformation

Johnson moves forward in the effort to convert La Salle Street office buildings to residential use, announcing four projects that will create a total of 1,037 apartments. Combined, they would receive $151.2 million in tax increment financing assistance.

BMO Harris Headquarters exterior
The BMO Harris Chicago headquarters at 111 W. Monroe St. in the Loop on April 20, 2021. The building would be converted to housing with a hotel on lower floors. Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times

April 24, 2024: Bears stadium cheerleader

Johnson is one of the featured speakers at a Soldier Field news conference, leading the cheers as the Chicago Bears unveil their full pitch for a new domed lakefront stadium that would need a substantial amount of public funding. “This is a beautiful day for the city of Chicago,” Johnson declares, as he emphasized what he saw as the public benefits of the plan in creating thousands of jobs, and insisting it would not require any new taxes.

Bears stadium rendering
A rendering of a proposed new stadium for the Chicago Bears on the lakefront. Courtesy of Chicago Bears