SPRINGFIELD — Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson urged Illinois lawmakers to deliver funds for schools and youth employment Wednesday during his first visit to the state Capitol since winning election, launching his pitch for a Springfield agenda that he says will benefit the entire state.
Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson urged Illinois lawmakers to deliver funds for schools and youth employment Wednesday while pitching legislators on the critical role that Chicago plays in the rest of the state’s trajectory during his first visit to the state Capitol since winning election.
In a joint address to the Illinois House and Senate, Johnson made the case for revising the formula that allocates funding for Chicago Public Schools, saying that and other boosts in investments in the city are long overdue. He also stressed the importance of a united Illinois prevailing over the age-old dynamic of a fight over resources between Chicago and downstate interests.
“They’ve told us that this is a zero-sum game. And if something is good for Chicago, well, that means we’re taking something away from Peoria,” Johnson said. “But I’m here to deliver an emphatic message today. It is a false choice. No one has to lose at the expense of someone else winning. There is more than enough for everybody in the state of Illinois.”
Johnson arrived in Springfield midday Tuesday and began a marathon itinerary of meetings with various caucuses during his two-day trip. The general objective was to establish a good rapport with legislators ahead of his term, but he also stressed more specific priorities on his agenda in both private discussions and his floor speech.
Among those priorities was his campaign pledge to boost job opportunities for young people, an area where he said Chicago falls short despite evidence such investments help tackle “the root causes of crime.” He said in his speech that he will draw from government, philanthropy and private sectors to increase job opportunities.
“Too many young Chicagoans feel there is nowhere to turn,” Johnson said. “Instead of lagging behind other major cities on youth summer jobs, Chicago will look to aggressively expand the number of jobs for young people.”
Johnson also drew on his experience as a former CPS teacher, a previous career that he touted often on the campaign trail. He opened up the speech noting how far he had come from the middle school classroom to mayor-elect of Chicago — and said that schools today need many more resources to combat the increased number of students dealing with trauma.
While arguing for a revised state funding formula for CPS to ensure a nurse and social worker in every school, Johnson vowed to “build a comprehensive trauma response network at the schools most impacted by violence … to offer a range of social services to students and families to help them process this trauma and heal while also interrupting the cycle of violence.”
He also pressed for support for increasing the Local Government Distributive Fund, which is the portion of the state income tax that goes to municipalities.
“By increasing funding, this body can help provide Chicago and cities and towns across the state with the resources that are needed to build from the ground up,” Johnson said. “And when we build a better, stronger, safer Chicago, we are building a better, stronger, safer Illinois.”
Johnson also touched on other causes, such as supporting migrants who have come to the city from Central and South America and ensuring Chicago’s status as a haven for abortion rights.
“There are those that are trying to divide our communities,” Johnson said about the influx of asylum-seekers in Chicago. “The attempt to divide the Black and brown community? Not under a Johnson administration.”
While attempting to portray an era of collaboration, the mayor-elect was also sure to tout his progressive bona fides and align himself with similar-minded legislators in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. He touted the success of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s worker’s rights amendment push last November as well as the state’s investments in anti-violence programming.
And he also harkened back to his campaign pledge to fulfill the mission of Black Americans from generations past to bring about racial equality.
“We are building the political infrastructure to ensure that we do not leave it to chance that families will have access to health care and transportation and good paying jobs,” Johnson said. “We have to make it a guarantee that every single family in the state of Illinois has access to the very fundamentals that my people in particular fought for at the end of emancipation.”
Johnson was at the Capitol before 8 a.m. on Wednesday, showing up with a cadre of aides and bodyguards to a fourth-floor meeting room to engage in meet-and-greets with Democratic lawmakers from the progressive, moderate, Asian American and Latino caucuses.
Lawmakers said he talked about focusing on violence prevention, summer jobs, youth programs, addressing homelessness and making sure there’s plenty of nurses and social workers in public schools.
“It’s incredibly exciting to have, just, being around Mayor-elect Johnson is always exciting. He’s such a positive, hopeful person,” said state Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat from the progressive wing of the legislature. “He brings not only a vision that is aligned with ours from the progressive caucus’ perspective but also a desire to work with us to build constructive relationships in Springfield.”
State Rep. Marty Moylan, a Democrat from Des Plaines who joined a group of other moderate lawmakers to meet Johnson, said he saw Johnson’s approach as differing from that of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who had a sometimes contentious relationship with Springfield.
“Generally, it was good to see him because the previous mayor didn’t come down here and work with us at all,” Moylan said of Lightfoot. “He’s very … workable and made a good impression.”
Moylan said “generally, he’s going to have cooperation from us.”
“If there’s going to be money for programs that help with anti-crime…we would like to see results for the money that’s being spent,” Moylan said.
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April 19, 2023 at 02:34PM