Union organizer and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson speaks after being projected winner as mayor on April 4, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
Union organizer and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson speaks after being projected winner as mayor on April 4, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

Brandon Johnson is the newly elected mayor of Chicago, succeeding Lori Lightfoot. Prior to his election, Johnson served as a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and as a community organizer.

During the mayoral campaign, BGA Policy asked Johnson to complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire asked Johnson to provide his positions on a range of issues, including policing, public safety, education, and economic development.

Below are the questions and his responses:

1. Do you agree that FOIA violations are a threat to democracy and to the proper functioning of City government?

Yes. Open access to information and open government are essential to our democracy. The role of the press, in particular, is “to serve the governed, not the governors,” and FOIA requests by media outlets are key to providing access to information for the general public. Many requests, however, are made by non-journalists, which makes engaging in the process an act of engaging in democracy. FOIA violations threaten democracy and erode trust between government and individuals who have elected “governors” to serve. And as we have seen in Chicago, with more than 100 lawsuits filed against the Lightfoot administration, the pursuit of information becomes more of a story than the information itself.

2. Will you commit to the timely release of all Inspector General reports and limit redactions only to information that would compromise third-party privacy or undermine an ongoing investigation?

Yes. I would absolutely commit to the timely release of Inspector General reports, and limit redactions only to sensitive and/or compromising information. Why dither, or delay? Not only is access to information important, but so is expedient access to that information. Urgency is evidence that these investigations and the subsequent reports are priorities to an administration, and as such, prioritized for the people of the city of Chicago.

3. Will you commit to implementing recommendations of oversight agencies, such as COPA and Inspectors General of the city and its sister agencies, and to providing a detailed explanation in any case where you opt not to implement a recommendation?

Yes. There must be trust in decisions and recommendations that are made by agencies that provide oversight of city services. To outright reject recommendations from entities such as COPA and Inspectors General runs counter to the need for checks and balances in our government. To have oversight that mayoral administrations are constantly at odds with erodes credibility and contributes to mistrust from the general public. Let oversight perform the task it is entrusted to perform, and in instances where recommendations are rejected, city leaders must provide the proper analysis to justify that decision in a pragmatic and transparent way.

4. Do you commit to disclosing and abiding by an open and uniform appointment process for filling aldermanic vacancies?

Yes. I fully support any process that brings consistency, clarity and transparency to the process for filling vacancies on the Chicago City Council. Democracy must be for all, but it must start with the people entrusted with governing our city.

5. Will you commit to releasing a full dataset including appropriations, revenues, and positions as part of your mayoral budget proposals? (Currently, positions are stored in a separate dataset that is not linked to the appropriations data, and revenues are not included in either dataset.)

Yes. Mayors have used the City of Chicago budget to hide, obfuscate and misrepresent actual City spending and commitments for years. The City budget – and the budget presentation – is convoluted by design. Leadership means telling people the truth. The truth starts with greater budget transparency, especially in the release of information to the press and the public.

6. Direct introductions of proposed ordinances are often made in committees with no public posting of the text. Do you commit to making all direct introductions of legislation publicly available at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting?

Yes. City Council committees should not be a black hole of backroom dealing and rubber stamps. Legislation introduced in Council impacts the lives of residents throughout the city of Chicago. The public has every right to have access to legislation prior to committee meetings, to allow time for residents to engage with their alderpersons about the scope of proposed ordinances.

7. Will you require heads of “sister agencies” – the CTA, CPS, Park District, etc. – to appear before City Council committees when requested?

Yes. My administration will require leadership of the CPD, CTA, CPS, Chicago Park District and other agencies to appear before Chicago City Council committees when requested, and especially during periods of crisis and/or concern. Prior to these requests, however, my administration will encourage committee chairs to actually hold regular meetings with their colleagues, and perform the duties for which they are entrusted and appointed. An active City Council is how we truly make Chicago work for its people.

8. In your administration, how will appointments to City Council committees and leadership positions be made?

I believe the Chicago City Council must function as a robust and democratic body that legislates in the best interests of residents of the city of Chicago. To that end, I will reset the relationship between the Council and the mayor’s office, regain their collective trust, and work collaboratively and respectfully with alderpersons to determine committee leadership positions and composition.