Recap: 1 year of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, watch out in Year 2

Recap: 1 year of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, watch out in Year 2

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson took office on May 15, 2023. One year later, none of the $800 million in new taxes have passed. But expect a big taxpayer impact during his second year: he’s negotiating a contract with his former employer, the Chicago Teachers Union.

Before Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson took office on May 15, 2023, he described himself as an “investor” before anything else.

In that year, none of the $800 million in new taxes he proposed to invest have been enacted or approved. He has invested in Chicago’s influx of migrants, which dominated headlines early on in Johnson’s administration with city spending surpassing $300 million in his first year as mayor. Crime remains a problem.

Now he is in the middle of what could be an excessively expensive teachers contract negotiation with his former co-workers and the folks who largely financed his campaign, the Chicago Teachers Union.

Year 2 could forge his legacy as Chicago’s mayor, and what taxpayers think of him after he approves that CTU contract. Chicago voters are already displeased.

Year 1 has left him battered and very unpopular: Most voters – 43% – had a “strongly unfavorable” view of Johnson when polled from April 27-29. Total unfavorables were 62.4%, with only 27.1% favorable.

Here are the notable moments from his first year and the top issues facing his administration.


  • Voters decisively turned down one of his flagship tax increases: to hike the real estate transfer tax on million-dollar properties to generate $100 million for undefined “homeless relief” and affordable housing, including for CTU members. The rest of his $800 million tax hike plan faced either opposition from the city council, governor or state lawmakers.
  • As a candidate, Johnson called 6-10 mile-per-hour speed cameras a “cash grab” he planned to phase out. Now, his budget banks on $348 million from speeding and red-light ticket as well parking tickets and other fees.
  • He successfully pushed the city council to phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers by July 2028.
  • To the good, Johnson put out a “Cut the Tape” report with promising ideas to help both property developers and residents live in a more affordable real estate market.


  • Violent crime in Chicago Public Schools increased by 26% in 2023.
  • Johnson announced the city is ending its contract with ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection technology, after the summer ends.
  • As a candidate Johnson said he wouldn’t reduce the Chicago Police Department by one penny. His budget increased Chicago Police Department funding but eliminated 833 street-cop vacancies.


  • Johnson extended paid leave for Chicago Public Schools teachers to the 12-week policy city employees have.
  • The Chicago Board of Education, appointed by Johnson, unanimously voted to remove police officers from schools.
  • Johnson’s board also passed a resolution to move away from selective enrollment schools and magnet schools.

Johnson will soon head to the bargaining table with his former coworkers in CTU to determine the terms of their new contract. Their 142 pages of demands range from average teacher raises of $51,000 to a litany of pricey social and climate justice issues – matters of policy elected leaders should debate and with no place in a union contract.

So, after a year, Johnson is extremely unpopular, has the potential to be even more so as he fulfills his mission for the CTU and is about to be in the national spotlight as the Democratic National Convention comes to Chicago this summer.

Forecast is for a hot Chicago summer, especially inside City Hall.

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