• Erin Hegarty
    MAY 16, 2023

    Johnson sworn in as Chicago’s 57th mayor, says he is ‘deeply optimistic’ about city’s future

    Mayor Brandon Johnson was sworn into office on Monday. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line] 

    Brandon Johnson was sworn in as Chicago’s 57th mayor Monday as he promised to invest in a variety of issues including housing, mental health, youth jobs and economic development across the city.  

    Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court Timothy Evans issued Johnson’s oath of office at the Credit Union 1 Arena Friday morning.

    Johnson focused his speech around what he repeatedly called the “soul of Chicago” and carried a generally collaborative tone for how he plans to work with the 50 members of the City Council who were also sworn in on Monday. 

    In politics "we think and talk and argue about the things that divide us,” Johnson said. “I want to be clear about something...these divisions are real…many people who love our city deeply have radically different ideas about how to confront the shared challenges that we face." 

    Johnson inherits a city that is facing a humanitarian crisis with the surge of migrants who are being sent to Chicago from states including Texas. During the new City Council’s first full-length meeting next week, aldermen are expected to vote on an ordinance that would use $51 million in reserves from 2021 to plug a shortfall the city is facing in funding for migrants through June. 

    Related: Lightfoot declares state of emergency over migrant surge as aldermen give initial OK to $51M budget amendment to support new arrivals 

    The new mayor addressed the migrant crisis during his speech Monday. 

    "The soul of Chicago tells us we will never close our doors to those who come here in search of a better life,” Johnson said while also rejecting "a zero-sum" competition between those who have been in Chicago for decades "and those who have been sent here on a bus even this morning." 

    After his inauguration and in his first act as mayor, Johnson signed four executive orders at City Hall Monday, including one on migrant, immigrant and refugee rights. The executive orders also addressed community safety, youth employment and labor relations. 

    Johnson renewed his call to reopen mental health clinics and reiterated his commitment to "treatment and not trauma" for mental health services. The newly sworn-in mayor said he wants to ensure "that no one has to suffer because they do not have access to mental health services." 

    “Let’s bring together the private sector, the public sector, the county, the state, and the federal government to find the best solutions for delivering these services,” the new mayor said. 

    The “Treatment Not Trauma” ordinance (O2020-5704) was introduced by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33) in 2020. The ordinance proposes to divert millions of dollars from the police department to the public health department to fund a network of “public sector mental health professionals” who would respond to mental health-related emergency calls instead of police. 

    Johnson also used his inauguration speech to renew some of his campaign promises. 

    "We can do it, Chicago. We can bring Chicago home," Johnson said. 

    Bring Chicago Home is the name of the proposal to increase the real estate transfer tax on sales of properties over $1 million and use the increased revenue to fund homelessness services. 

    A public hearing on whether to ask voters if they support raising the real estate transfer tax to fund affordable housing and homelessness services grinded to a halt in November after not enough aldermen showed up to council chambers to meet the required quorum. 

    Related: Lack of quorum grinds to a halt hearing on proposal to hike real estate transfer tax to fund homelessness services 

    Bring Chicago Home’s primary sponsor was Ald. Maria Hadden (49), who supported Johnson in this year’s mayoral election. 

    Speaking perhaps to businesses, Johnson during his inauguration speech called on the city to create a Chicago “that is the economic marvel of our state, the Midwest, and this nation” by growing the city’s economy and “re-routing the rivers of prosperity to the banks of disinvestment so that no one goes thirsty.  Too much of our land is dry right now. We have to change that, and we can.” 

    Addressing a recent tragedy, Johnson directly addressed the family of the late Chicago Police Officer Aréanah Preston who was fatally shot earlier this month. "My heart is with you and know it will be with you every step of the way,” Johnson said.  

    Johnson previously worked as a teacher and was a member of the Chicago Teachers Union. On Monday he mentioned resource-strapped schools in the city. 

    “Our schools call out for more resources to fulfill their mandate of providing every single child in our city with a world-class education that meets their specific needs,” Johnson said. 

    Chants from the Chicago Teachers Union briefly filled the air before Johnson was sworn in on Monday. 

    Johnson also thanked Lightfoot for her leadership and noted she "made history twice" as the first Black woman and first openly LGBTQ mayor of Chicago. Speaking to Lightfoot, Johnson said he is "grateful to you for your service and your sacrifice." 

    “You broadened the imagination of so many young people across this city, including my daughter,” Johnson said of Lightfoot. 

    Others sworn in Monday 

    In addition to Johnson, City Clerk Anna Valencia, Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin and all 50 aldermen were sworn into office during Monay’s ceremony.  

    Among the 50 aldermen were 13 new City Council members and three aldermen who were appointed by Lightfoot last year but were elected for the first time this year.  

    Johnson’s inauguration follows Lightfoot on Friday walking out of City Hall for the final time to cheers and confetti. The former mayor also issued 11 executive orders on her final Friday in office after issuing two executive orders earlier in the week. 

    Related: Lightfoot out, Johnson to be sworn in as Chicago’s 57th mayor today 

    Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Lisa Hernandez issued a statement Monday morning congratulating Johnson, Valencia, Conyears-Ervin and all 50 aldermen.  

    “I am excited to see how they will work together to serve the people of Chicago and look forward to collaborating with them as we prepare to welcome Democrats from across the nation to Chicago for the 2024 Democratic National Convention,” Hernandez said in the written statement. “I am confident that they will work diligently to move the city forward and build a strong and inclusive Chicago.”  

    Johnson mentioned the Democratic Nation Convention that will be held in Chicago next year during his speech saying he wants to build a Chicago “where big development projects get done, the poor have pathways out of poverty, and large events like the Democratic Nation Convention generate opportunity and vitality in every neighborhood.” 

    Hernandez also thanked Lightfoot “for her service” and wished the now former mayor “all the best.” 

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