Brandon Johnson Envisions Higher Heights For Black Chicago
Photo Credit : Amber Marie Green Cook County Board Commissioner and Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson discussed his policies, vision, and hopes for a grander, more equitable Chicago for Black residents with members of Chicago’s legacy Black press in a 90-minute editorial roundtable on Friday afternoon. Johnson, a former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher at … Continued The post Brandon Johnson Envisions Higher Heights For Black Chicago appeared first on Chicago Defender.
Photo Credit : Amber Marie Green
Cook County Board Commissioner and Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson discussed his policies, vision, and hopes for a grander, more equitable Chicago for Black residents with members of Chicago’s legacy Black press in a 90-minute editorial roundtable on Friday afternoon. Johnson, a former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher at Jenner-Academy and Westinghouse College Prep, has previously organized with the Chicago Teachers Union to advocate for greater resources for CPS students.
Johnson is one of eight challengers vying to unseat incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot. The Defender recently participated in a round-table conversation with former Chicago Public Schools CEO and mayoral candidate Paul Villas. Election Day 2023 in Chicago is Tuesday, Feb. 28.
The Defender joined journalists from The Chicago Crusader, N’DIGO, among others for the sit-down conversation held at the Chicago News Weekly office located at 8348 S. Stony Island Ave. in the city’s Avalon Park neighborhood.
Johnson discussed his vision for Chicago Public Schools, his budget for Black Chicago, how he would address missing Black women and girls, environmental justice and urban farming, Chicago police, among other topics.
(Interview questions and responses have been condensed for clarity and length.)
Q: How do you understand food as playing a role in environmental justice? If elected as mayor, how would you incorporate food justice into your environmental plan? Could you elaborate on the Green New Deal and what it looks like for Chicago?
JOHNSON: I’m going to support what is going to be a cumulative study so that we have a full understanding of the environmental needs for the city of Chicago. I am confident we can do that within the first 100 days. I’m not going to be the type of mayor that dictates. That’s not my style. I believe in co-governance.
As far as co-ops, urban farms and gardens, I think it plays an incredible part in creating healthy, safe communities. There are a couple of examples on the southeast side of Chicago, on the West Side of Chicago, where entire neighborhoods are being supported and sustained.
Talking about the Green New Deal, there are opportunities in which we can build a green economy, restore people in terms of their economic development, while also creating a safer environment for people to breathe and drink water.
Q: What is your posture on a fully elected school board versus an appointed school board?
JOHNSON: The office of the mayor will not be our parents’ or our grandparents’ office. It won’t. Because we’re going to have an elected representative school board. The mayor isn’t going to have absolute control over public school anymore. I fully support a fully elected school board.
Q: If elected, what are your three wishlist items? And, if you’re one of the eight that’s not elected, what then?
JOHNSON: The first thing I’m going to initiate is the most robust youth hiring program. It’s going to be a year round with a direct correlation between youth employment and violence reduction. I’m going to every single space where our people live and say ‘send me names’. All of the agencies and entities the fifth floor have jurisdiction over we are going to hire.
Second thing is there’s a ordinance right now that’s been blocked by the mayor called treatment not trauma. What it would do, it would provide 24-hour access to mental health professionals to respond to the calls that are otherwise diverted to law enforcement.
And the third thing is we’re going to reopen the mental health centers. Here’s the key: it needs to be publicly funded. So, when my term is up, it does not matter who the next mayor is, you can’t shut them down because you have a different sort of ideological presentation on what type of health care services should be provided in our community
I wish it wasn’t a wish list. Why are we making this so difficult? Why do we refuse to see young people?
I’m going to keep advocating for people, to keep pushing to support you to make sure that our people are seen. That work doesn’t end on February 28.
Q: Is it correct that I read that you want to do an income tax of three percent on those getting $100,000 or more?
JOHNSON: That was an error and the outlet that reported it in error has corrected it. I do know that sometimes mistakes happen. They corrected it. They got it wrong. For clarity, too, I’m the only person in this race that has released a budget plan. People can talk about all their plans, but if they don’t put on the table how they plan on supporting it, paying for it, then that’s irresponsible. And by the way, I don’t raise property taxes in my budget plan.
Q: Can you share your thoughts about restorative justice and addressing recidivism?
JOHNSON: So the one of the first things that I did on the county board was to eliminate the game. Here’s why that’s important. And we need to eliminate the gang database in the city of Chicago as well. It is a wicked structure. No one knows what the criteria is to get on that database. There is no structure in place that if something happens in error, like what happens in all of our industries, how to have someone’s name removed. They had a person on their youngest six or eight and then someone on the list was 104 years old. Like the oldest G in the history of the world. The first law that I passed as a lead sponsor was the just housing ordinance. It eliminated discrimination against those who are seeking housing or formerly incarcerated. Now, you can only go back three years from their arrest.
Q: To follow up, does that also include in the courts as well when people are sentenced? Does that include restorative justice as well?
JOHNSON: It has to. I want to make sure that we do everything in our power to prevent [incarceration]. I want to make sure I am clear about that because Cook County Jail is a homeless shelter. The sheriff talks about it being a mental health center, it’s a homeless shelter. I hate how they treat our people. I do. People talk about how much they love Chicago. How about loving people?
Q: So, is there a plan in your administration to deal with human trafficking and kidnapping of Black women out of this very city?
JOHNSON: When we mentioned the school closure there are over 1,000 children who are still missing from the school. When we talk about Black children who are lost or worse, unseen, I get it. It breaks my heart that we don’t have a never forget hashtag. I need help with this. The disappearance of our people and our children starts before they are kidnapped.
Q: What would you do about crime?
This ain’t just about being tough, y’all. It’s about being smart. And if we’re smarter about how we deploy law enforcement, we alleviate pressure on the front line by getting the folks who are on desk duty to provide more support and then alleviating law enforcement from these day-to day-interactions that don’t keep our community safer, right?
Q: Who would you appoint to run Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges, and the Chicago Police Department?
JOHNSON: I believe you have to be caring, collaborative, and competent. I can’t tell you who. That would be premature.
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