Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, will be the next mayor of Chicago. Johnson narrowly defeated opponent Paul Vallas in a run-off election on Tuesday.
Here is where Johnson stands on police and public safety, education, homelessness, CTA, property taxes, Bears stadium, neighborhood investments, and speed camera tickets.
Police and public safety
One of the hottest issues in this year’s mayoral race was public safety. Johnson, who would not initially commit to funding the CPD’s $1.94 billion budget in full or filling vacancies in the department, said on March 27 that he will not cut “one penny” from CPD’s budget.
Vallas, who has advocated for increasing CPD’s budget, had repeatedly attacked Johnson for seeking to defund the police.
“I’m not gonna defund the police,” Johnson said at City Club of Chicago luncheon last month. “Paul Vallas is lying. He’s lied about everything else so it should not be a surprise to anyone.”
Johnson’s original plan included closing the CPD’s Homan Square facility, streamlining “non-sergeant” positions and ending a $33 million contract with ShotSpotter. He planned to cut $150 million from CPD’s budget as mayor.
Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ in a January survey he would push for more efficient use of money and resources in the CPD budget as mayor.
“We can put those savings into investments that will better people’s lives and reduce crime,” Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ.
The cornerstone of Johnson’s anti-violence program has been investing in youth, communities and mental health resources. According to his website, Johnson also plans to expand police accountability and improve resources for victims and survivors of violence.
Johnson has also expressed concern over high suicide rates among police officers.
“We need to invest in expanded and better mental health resources for all our public safety personnel,” Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ.
With Johnson and Vallas’s backgrounds in education, the future of Chicago Public Schools took center stage during the race. While both agreed that CPS needs major changes, their approaches differed dramatically.
Johnson, a former educator and a union organizer with CTU, has a 12-point plan for improving public education in Chicago. The points include bolstering the City Colleges system, expanding child care options and basing school funding on “student and community needs,” rather than on a per-pupil basis, according to his campaign website.
Unlike Vallas, who has championed charter and selective-enrollment schools, Johnson favors investing in neighborhood schools. Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ he will not close under-enrolled schools when the moratorium on school closings ends in 2025.
The Sustainable Community Schools approach Johnson advocates on his website envisions a future where schools are “community hubs designed to provide wraparound academic, health, and social support for school communities.” Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ he does not support a police presence in Chicago Public Schools.
Throughout his campaign, critics accused Johnson of being in the pocket of CTU. Public records show the union continues to pay Johnson between $83,000 and $103,000 a year.
On his campaign website, Johnson expressed his belief that “everyone in Chicago deserves to have a roof over their head.” He added that addressing homelessness is important for “keeping our neighborhoods safe and strong.”
Johnson’s website indicates he supports the Bring Chicago Home campaign and City Council ordinance to increase the real estate transfer tax on properties over $1 million and use this money to fund resources to address homelessness.
“We face a serious challenge in assisting people experiencing homelessness. Obviously, we need more funding,” Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ. “A ‘mansion tax’ like New York’s is a top priority.”
As mayor, Johnson plans to expand both public and affordable housing options across the city and stop giving City Council members absolute veto power over housing developments in their wards, according to his website.
Accountability for the Chicago Housing Authority, which Johnson blamed in part for the housing shortage in Chicago, was another key aspect of the plan for homelessness on his campaign website.
Johnson has also advocated tenant protection measures to prevent more individuals from becoming homeless and pathways to home ownership.
During his campaign, Johnson emphasized the importance of improving and maintaining public transportation in Chicago. According to his campaign website, Johnson hopes to make public transit free for CPS students, seniors and individuals with disabilities. He also plans to expand CTA funding and complete the Red Line extension project.
“We cannot achieve a better Chicago without a reliable transit system that every Chicagoan can afford,” Johnson’s campaign website reads.
Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ he would reverse the policy that makes property tax increases automatic based on inflation.
“The city needs a long-term plan, not further stop-gaps, for restoring fiscal responsibility to City Hall,” Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ. “Property taxes are already too high.”
According to his website, Johnson plans to make $1 billion in new investments to create a “safer, stronger city” without raising property taxes. Johnson committed to not raising property taxes as mayor.
Johnson does not support a $2 billion proposal to add a dome to Soldier Field to encourage the Chicago Bears to stay in Chicago instead of moving to Arlington Heights.
Though Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ, “I want the Bears to stay,” he added that he believes Chicago could use the money for more important projects, like removing lead pipes, housing homeless individuals and funding public schools.
Investment on South and West sides
Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ he would not keep the current Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West program in place as mayor. He said the program has proved ineffective and has subsidized a few corporate developments, instead of listening to community interests.
“I’ll take those dollars and invest directly in South and West side people and communities via better and higher paying jobs, public amenities and fully resourced schools,” Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ.
Speed camera tickets
Chicago has lowered the threshold for speeding tickets for drivers from 10 mph over the speed limit to 6 mph. Johnson did not say for sure whether he would reverse this decision.
“The choice should not be between inequitable, regressive taxation and the potential for increased traffic violence,” Johnson told the Sun-Times and WBEZ. He added that he supports measures like reduced car access and speed limits in certain areas, car-free zones, speed bumps, safer intersections and expanded biking infrastructure.