Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson evaluates first year in office in one-on-one interview with ABC7

Johnson is getting mixed reviews from Chicagoans on issues like crime, the migrant crisis and dealing with the business community.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Mayor Johnson sits down with ABC7 to evaluate first year in office
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson had few misgivings, but like many mayors before him, said his toughest challenges are what he inherited.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In the Ceremonial Room of his fifth-floor office in City Hall, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson reflected on his accomplishments on Monday.

"I'm very pleased of how we've gotten out the gate thus far," Johnson said.

Watch Terrell's full interview with Mayor Johnson

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson had few misgivings, but, like many mayors before him, said his toughest challenges are what he inherited.

ABC7's Terrell Brown asked Johnson what he thinks he could have done better over the course of this last year.

The mayor had few misgivings, but, like many mayors before him, said his toughest challenges are what he inherited.

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"I wish that we didn't have so many years of neglect and disinvestment. There are things that I want to move faster," Johnson said.

As Brown pointed out, Johnson was elected to fix those things.

SEE ALSO | Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson sits down 1-on-1 with ABC7's Cheryl Burton

"All of them right? Yeah. You know, so I really wish that, you know, the hole was not as deep," Johnson said.

Front and center has been the migrant crisis. The mayor is now confident that it is under control.

"No other city in America has been able to handle this crisis as well as we have. If there is someone out there that's doing it better than Chicago, I would like to know, because we certainly will take notes," Johnson said.

And, if buses show up during the Democratic National Convention, Johnson said, "We're preparing for it."

When asked whether he is expecting buses during that time, Johnson said, "We don't need to expect it."

"We have structured our migrant temporary shelters to be able to manage this crisis a little better," the mayor added.

The DNC is part of Chicago's busy summer, which is also when crime is, historically, at its worst.

"Since I've been in office, homicides and shootings continue to go down. Vehicular carjackings has gone down," Johnson said.

But an ABC7 data analysis found robberies in the last 12 months are up compared to the last three years.

"Look, there's still a lot of work to be done. Don't misunderstand me," Johnson said.

The mayor campaigned on a promise to end ShotSpotter, the gunshot detection system that alerts police to shootings in the city.

READ MORE | Chicago will not renew controversial ShotSpotter contract, drawing support, criticism from aldermen

Johnson has been adamant about ending ShotSpotter. When asked why that is, he said, "Oh, because it didn't work."

However, the city is planning to keep the technology around through the DNC.

"I'll work with the corporation to phase it out so that there's a deeper opportunity to give them the chance to provide more substantive research of its benefit," Johnson said.

Chicago Police Department Superintendent Larry Snelling and the police union have insisted that ShotSpotter is a valuable tool.

When asked if he believes Chicago police officers respect him, Johnson said, "Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I respect them."

But some officers say they don't feel like Johnson has their backs. Brown asked what Johnson's message is to those officers.

"I'm grateful to have the support of police department, and my entire administration support the men and women who show up every single day, risking their lives," the mayor said.

Johnson said he has upheld his commitment to officers by extending their contract, and aims to do the same with upcoming Chicago Teachers Union negotiations.

"So, to taxpayers who look at this contract negotiation, and they're a little leery," Brown pointed out.

Johnson responded, "They don't have to be. I have the vision for a public education system that expects every single child to have everything that they need. Who's in disagreement with that? No one's in disagreement with that."

Brown also asked Johnson, as a former school teacher, how he would grade his first year in office.

ABC7's Terrell Brown asked Mayor Brandon Johnson how he would grade his first year in office.

"Well, first of all, it has really been the joy of my life serving in this capacity. I really wish more people could see the view of the city of Chicago through the lens of a mayor. You know, we've made critical investments of fighting this homelessness crisis, a quarter of $1 billion, $100 million for violence prevention. We have this big bond deal, $1.25 billion to build homes and to create economic development," Johnson said.

But the mayor added, "Until we have the type of economic stability within all of our communities, I actually don't believe that any politician should be walking around patting themselves on the back."

What do Chicagoans think about Mayor Johnson's first year in office?

Brandon Johnson is getting mixed reviews from Chicagoans on issues like crime, the migrant crisis and his dealing with the business community.

Meanwhile, ABC7 political reporter Craig Wall has been hearing from people directly affected by the Johnson administration's policy decisions.

Wall spoke to various stakeholders to get their evaluations on things like crime, the migrant crisis and Johnson's dealing with the business community.

As with any first-year politician, the mayor got mixed reviews. He had some wins, some failures and some things where he's still considered a work in progress.

Chicago crime is one example. Though homicides and shootings are down, armed robberies are up.

"I feel like the mayor is not making violence a top priority," Purpose Over Pain founder Pam Bosley said.

Purpose Over Pain helps families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Bosley met with Johnson before he took office, and he promised her he'd be a collaborator. She hasn't heard from him since.

"So, I'm talking to moms and dads every single day who's losing their children. And I feel like the mayor is not talking about it. He's not saying anything. If it's a police shooting, they address it. But when is the day-to-day crime, nobody says anything," Bosley said.

On the migrant crisis, Johnson inherited a situation where hundreds of new arrivals were sleeping in police stations. He has since gotten them into shelters.

Annie Gomberg coordinated volunteers helping in Austin, and she continues to help migrants.

"We looked for leadership. We looked for planning. We looked for expertise," Gomberg said.

But instead, Gomberg said, they found a lot of excuses.

"I understand this was really hard, and I don't think anybody doesn't think it was hard, but, also, he campaigned for this. He told us he wanted the job. This was part of the job," Gomberg said.

Then, there's the business community, which was very leery because of Johnson's progressive agenda.

"I definitely think there's been some ups and downs and positives and negatives. There's definitely been an extended learning curve and period of time for the business community to get to know the mayor and the mayor to get to know the business community," said Jack Lavin, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

Those who supported the mayor's efforts to get rid of tipped wages sing his praises.

"I will give him an A because he historically abolished to end sub-minimum wage," said Nataki Rhodes, with One Fair Wage.

And Johnson's former campaign rival, state Rep. Kam Buckner, said Chicagoans should be patient.

"I think it's fair to give him more than a year to figure things out," Buckner said.

While Johnson has succeeded in pleasing progressives who helped get him elected, another state representative, La Shawn Ford, told Wall that Johnson needs to learn how to be the mayor for the whole city, not just his base.