Vallas: After 100 days, trying to make sense of Johnson’s plans for Chicago
If the slow start of the Johnson administration is any indication, Chicagoans could be looking at four years without any meaningful government reform.
The city of Chicago faces a pension crisis, heightened crime and a failing school system. In the past 100 days over 1,000 people were shot, 200 killed, over 2,000 robbed and 300 carjackings committed and 7,000 vehicles stolen.
But Mayor Brandon Johnson has yet to share any concrete steps or plans to deal with any of it.
The first 100 days traditionally has had mayors articulating a series of immediate actions to be taken to organize the government and to deal with problems and issues.
What we do know from the mayor’s first 100 days is that he is prepared to do the Chicago Teachers Union leadership’s bidding. Johnson proactively and unilaterally, outside the regular labor bargaining cycle, dramatically expanded parental leave and extended the five annual COVID sick days for his CTU allies.
Meanwhile, he shrugged off the same request from rank-and-file police officers for equal treatment. The mayor’s abrupt dismissal of Dr. Allison Arwady as Chicago’s top health care official was the CTU leadership’s revenge-taking for trying to reopen the city’s public schools.
Meanwhile, if the behavior and rhetoric coming from Johnson and his supporters during the first 100 days is any indication, do not expect any real structural governmental reform during the next four years. The mayor’s new floor leader, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, said providing the Council Office of Financial Analysis and the Legislative Research Bureau with more resources and staffing “is not a priority from his colleagues.”
In Ramirez-Rosa’s view, Chicago is a progressive and liberal majority city and “if the council’s progressive and liberal majority comes together with our progressive and liberal mayor, to get things done, that’s how government functions.”
This sentiment confuses electoral majoritarianism for democracy. Prior to the 2023 mayoral election, Ramirez-Rosa was one of the most vocal critics of the Chicago Way and its anti-democratic, non-participatory and standard-less mode of governance.
Beyond a couple of notable firings and hirings, plus concessions to the CTU in the form of expanded parental leave, city residents still know next to nothing about the mayor’s plans. The only other clue to his intentions for the future are evident in his “transition report.” Such reports are supposed to serve as blueprints for the city’s future. Instead, we get more of a “blue skies” document. It’s a myriad of broad goals and objectives, devoid of any real strategy on how all the things can be implemented or financed.
The public safety portion is particularly devoid of substance. The mayor’s transition team’s public safety recommendations had little to say about police strength and support, save for promoting 200 detectives during the next few years and the need to study how existing police personnel might be used more effectively.
The mayor has said publicly, more than once, in response to questions from the media over his lack of substantive plans to deal with the crisis facing the city like crime, that “if you’re not offering solutions or hope for our neighborhoods, shut your mouth about the city of Chicago.” Given his first 100 days in which he has been all talk and no action, he should consider applying the same rule to himself.