Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has shown himself to be an incompetent, panicked fool in dealing with the crush of migrants who have descended on the Windy City. And like any incompetent, panicked politician, he’s blaming his catastrophic job performance on others.
Specifically, he’s blaming his troubles on the popular Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and the state government, who have sense enough not to do as Johnson is demanding to deal with the crisis.
Last November, when Johnson presented his budget to the city council, he deliberately underfunded support services for migrants. Johnson, who has a whole host of radical, progressive programs he can’t wait to enact, is hoping that the crisis will get so bad that Governor Pritzker and the state will be forced to take a hand.
But last November, Pritzker made it clear that “the state doesn’t run shelters” and said he was waiting for Johnson to recommend shelter sites. “The state doesn’t control property in the city of Chicago that could provide a location. The city really has to do that.”
But finding shelter sites in Chicago is like looking for a losing lottery ticket in a minefield. No neighborhood in Chicago wants them. And Johnson has been forced to revisit his “sanctuary city” promise made last March.
Chicago must lead with and live by the promise to be a sanctuary city.
Longtime Chicagoans don’t have to lose for new arrivals to gain — there’s enough space at the table for all of us to sit and eat.
Immigrants are welcome here.🦋
— Brandon Johnson (@Brandon4Chicago) March 11, 2023
In December, Johnson tried to fob off a literal toxic waste dump site on the state as a tent city to house 2,000 migrants. The state refused to sign off on the site after “soil testing found mercury, arsenic, lead, manganese and a chemical used in PVC.”
Johnson got angry at the state’s reluctance to house human beings in a place where even Chicago’s notorious rats wouldn’t live.
The city was furious at the denial, and Johnson complained to reporters again last week that the state still has not fulfilled its promise to open those 2,000 new beds. The state claimed then and has ever since then that, despite repeated requests, the city has not yet offered up any more sites. Johnson told reporters this was not true. I’m still checking on this.
Desperate to do something, Johnson panicked and gave a February 1 deadline to migrants who had spent 60 days in a shelter to vacate the premises. They could reapply for a shelter spot but no one was sure how that worked, least of all the women and children who were going to be thrown into the street in the middle of a Chicago winter.
Johnson has relented slightly, but only because his incompetent assistants haven’t yet figured out how the eviction program could work and not force hundreds into the streets.
Johnson once again blamed the state.
“What the state committed to doing back in November, that process has not moved as quickly as this (60-day) policy will hold,” Johnson said. “This policy was really attached to a larger operation that included … 2,200 beds. That’s what the state of Illinois committed to doing.”
Um…no, that’s not what the state committed to, as everyone whose name isn’t Johnson knows.
All of this has soured the public on the whole idea of “sanctuary city” status for Chicago. An attempt to get a referendum on removing Chicago as a sanctuary city failed to make the ballot after Johnson and his allies torpedoed the effort.
But Johnson has had enough. He’s now asking Pritzker to build shelters anywhere else but Chicago.
On Jan. 12, city officials went even further and told state legislators the city had “begun planning for rightsizing” its shelter system. That’s corporate-speak for “downsizing,” although a city official now says they probably shouldn’t have used that word.
And then last week, Johnson told reporters the state government “can build a shelter anywhere in the state of Illinois,” adding the state “does not have to build a shelter in Chicago.”
The welcome mat has been rolled up.