Brandon Johnson Claims Mandate to Reshape Public Safety, Pledges to Partner with General Assembly

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson on Wednesday claimed a mandate to reshape public safety, delivering a full-throated defense of his promise to take a new approach to crime and violence while offering to partner with state lawmakers during an address to an unusual joint session of the Illinois House and Senate.

“When we build a better, safer, stronger Chicago, we build a better, safer, stronger Illinois,” Johnson said, echoing his campaign slogan.

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Johnson, who got his start as an aide to Senate President Don Harmon, traveled the 202 miles from Chicago to Springfield to declare his election marks a “new day” in Illinois politics – and to serve notice that he would govern boldly as a progressive and supporter of organized labor.

“The people of Illinois are counting on us to figure it out, together," Johnson said.

Flanked by Harmon and House Speaker Emmanuel “Chris” Welch, Johnson decried the belief that what benefits Chicago comes at the expense of everyone else in Illinois, a notion that has long strained relations between state lawmakers and city officials.

“That is a false choice,” Johnson said. “There is enough for everyone.”

Johnson said he would govern Chicago as he said the General Assembly and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have governed Illinois: “at the vanguard of progressive politics.”

Johnson said he would take a page from state lawmakers when handling Chicago’s finances, and craft a spending plan that is “smart, responsible and bold.”

Johnson’s promise to implement his public safety plan — which includes expanding mental health care for officers, expanding job programs for teens and young adults and promoting 200 new detectives — got a warm reception from Democrats — and pointed silence from Republicans.

Johnson also vowed to reopen six mental health clinics closed more than a decade ago as part of his effort to address the root causes of crime in Chicago.

Johnson did not miss the opportunity to ask state lawmakers to help Chicago, urging them to "fully fund” the Chicago Public Schools. Under the state’s education funding formula, Chicago schools are due an additional $1.4 billion to serve the city’s students, according to CPS and state officials. In addition, if state funds paid for teachers’ pensions — as they do in every other school district — CPS would have an additional $552 million to fund schools.

“These are investments in ourselves, in our children and in our economy,” Johnson said, also vowing to help asylum seekers sent to Illinois by Republican governors as part of the national political fight over immigration.

Johnson also called for state officials to increase the share of the state’s income tax sent to cities, a perennial demand by local officials that frequently falls on deaf ears.

While Johnson’s 20-minute speech was frequently interrupted with applause, perhaps the loudest cheers erupted after he pledged to protect abortion in Illinois and help women who travel here for reproductive health care.

“We will come together as one state,” Johnson said. “Our best and brightest days are ahead of us.”

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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