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Johnson defends his time as Chicago mayor amid growing criticism

CHICAGO — It was only a matter of time.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and allies, who’ve taken fire for their handling of the migrant crisis, a perceived lack of transparency and bad messaging, are pushing back hard campaign-style.

It’s a favorite for politicians – a way to reach a reliable voting constituency – a bingo game for seniors.

On Monday, someone not on the ballot again for another three years, Johnson, stopped by. 

“Over these first 10 months, I’ve had the privilege of serving the greatest city in the world,” he said.

In brief remarks, Johnson ticked off a list of his accomplishments. 

The message mirrored this ad placed in the Chicago Sun-Times this past weekend by an unknown group called Southside Chicagoans. They tout progressive legislative victories under the headline: Mayor Brandon Johnson is the People’s Mayor.

“People are excited about what we’ve delivered over the last ten months, as they should be,” Johnson said. “A quarter of a billion dollars into the unhoused, a hundred million dollars for violence prevention.”

After months of criticism from the right and left, Johnson holding up his progressive victories may seem like a shift in strategy, but the mayor insists he’s not changed messaging.

“We’ve been very consistent with our messaging from the very beginning,” Johnson said. “When I announced my candidacy over a year ago, I said we were going to eliminate subminimum wage. We did that. We said we were going to pass paid time off. We did that. I said we were going to invest more in youth employment. We’ve done that. I said we were committed to hiring more detectives. We’re doing that. “

Whether it’s a shift or not, some say Johnson is just not connecting. Radio talk host and former 6th Ward alderman candidate Kimberley Egonmwan says African Americans are losing patience with Johnson. 

“In a community like ours, especially for those of us who’ve been here our entire lives, we are not satisfied with some of the trends that we’re seeing,” Egonmwan said. “I mean, right where we stand, we had someone murdered right across the street at a convenience store. We had the first murders of the year in our ward.”

Egonmwan does point out that Chicago mayors often struggle to communicate with the South and West sides.

“There are a lot of people who did put a lot of faith in this administration – and there’s still time,” she said. “There’s still time, don’t get me wrong, we’re only nine months in. But we want to see something happen for our community so we can remain in our community.” 

Another big test and opportunity for Johnson will come on March 19 when voters will be asked to give City Council the power to alter the real estate transfer tax to generate $100 million annually to combat homelessness.

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