Dear Mayor-elect Johnson

By Patrick F. Cannon

First of all, congratulations on your election. Although I no longer live in Chicago, I have lived on its western border for more than 40 years. Before that, I had lived in South Shore, Rogers Park, Logan Square and the near Southwest side. I have regularly attended and supported Chicago’s wonderful theatres and restaurants; and belong to and support no fewer than five of its museums. I am also a long-time member of its public radio and television stations. I have even written seven books on Chicago architecture and architects. Bottom line: I have a vested interest in your success.

            Considering that more than 60 percent of Chicago’s registered voters didn’t bother to go to the polls, you should keep in mind that only some 20 percent of Chicagoans actively supported your candidacy. And I’m sure you realize that one of the prime factors in your election was the support of your former employer, the Chicago Teachers Union. Many people now assume you are “their” mayor, and will carry out the parts of their agenda that have nothing directly to do with educating Chicago’s children.

            What they don’t understand – and what you need to accept if you are to succeed – is that your country and your city are part of a Capitalist economic system, a system it shares with most of the world; and that has been largely responsible for almost eliminating abject poverty. Granted, it can be messy, but it certainly seems more rational – and fairer, to be honest – than the Socialist paradises of Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, where the governments still try to  control means of production that hardly exist anymore.

            When you claim that the rich and corporations must “pay their share,” of taxes and fees, are you aware that 10 percent of the nation’s taxpayers pay 90 percent of its taxes? I haven’t been able to find actual figures for Chicago, but I suspect they’re roughly the same. Also, keep in mind that our unique Federal system permits corporations to shop around for better deals. If the folks in Texas and Florida offer lower taxes and less red tape, then there’s nothing to stop the Boeings, Caterpillars, and Citadels from leaving town. By all means, add a “head tax” to the burden of doing business in Chicago; just don’t be surprised when more corporations vote with their feet.

            You’re on record as advocating defunding the Chicago Police Department (CPD). When it became obvious that the increase in crime had become a major issue, you claimed you really didn’t mean it. But when you said it, you really did mean it.. Has experience, or the need to get elected, changed your views? If so, why not just admit it? One of your biggest challenges will be to restore the morale of the rank and file of the CPD. It should come as no surprise that they don’t like you.  I don’t envy you this task, but you might start by appointing a new superintendent that they can trust and support, but who will also actually seek to comply with the 2018 Federal Consent Decree.

            You should also meet with the head of the police union, John Catanzara. I know, he’s a jerk, but he represents a third of your future employees. He almost certainly thinks you’re out to destroy the CPD. Don’t tell him what you plan to do; ask him to tell you what he thinks you should do. Don’t argue with him; just listen. Confrontation didn’t work for Mayor Lightfoot, and it won’t work for you.

            Test the conventional wisdom. Just like most candidates, you claim that what’s needed is economic development on the south and west sides, and the jobs this would provide. The reality? Chicago’s unemployment rate is 4.3 percent, about as low as it’s ever going to be. If you want to work, you’ll probably be able to find a job. It might be a menial job, but it will at least pay the $13/hour Chicago minimum wage. It won’t, however, tempt the young gang member lured by the untaxed income available in the drug and organized-theft trades. And don’t criticize retailers for closing up shop in these areas; you know the real reasons only too well.

            It’s no accident that 400,000 African-Americans have moved out of Chicago since 1980. Many of them were  my neighbors in Oak Park. They moved to provide a safe haven and a better education for their children. The claim that they were forced out of the city by gentrification and high rents is ridiculous. Are rents in Austin and Humboldt Park higher than in Oak Park? Really?

            Progressive politics and democratic socialism might seem like good ideas, but they don’t translate well to local government. You should read the Chicago Tribune’s series on the mess the Cook County court system has become. It has been operated by members of your party for decades – everyone from the judges to the states attorneys to the clerks and bailiffs. The concept that “justice delayed is justice denied” has become a joke in Chicago and Cook County.

            Again, congratulations on your election. Everyone in Chicago and its suburbs has a stake in your success. Everything that contributed to Chicago’s emergence as the capital of the Midwest – abundant water, hub of rail, air and water transportation for the entire nation, great educational and cultural resources – are all available to you. But the city cannot truly thrive again until people feel (and are) safe; and major corporations and local merchants feel they are valued as more than just taxable nuisances.  

Copyright 2023, Patrick F. Cannon


4 thoughts on “Dear Mayor-elect Johnson

  1. No one could have said it better. Let me know if you get a reply from Mayor Johnson, if you send him this letter.

    I wasn’t surprised by his election but certainly dismayed. You are right to point out that the people who voted for him constitute only a small percentage of Chicago’s eligible voters. This was also the case with previous mayors Lightfoot and Emanuel. Chicago’s runoff voting system, with its absence of competing political parties, produces exactly these types of results marked by “tribal” identity. Even here in Mayberry, the race for mayor has come down to three Democrats, two women and a gay black man. Diversity in action.

    There is always hope, but experience tells us not much will change for the better. Mayor Johnson may give lip service to law and order and the importance of a thriving business environment, but he was elected because of his ties to unions, his stand against the police and his appeals to racial divisions. The Democrat mantra is DEI which means privileging the supposedly marginalized and marginalizing the supposedly privileged. Rather than be cowed into silence by accusations of racism and economic oppression, more Chicago’s businesses will soon be heading for the state line. I read Wal-Mart already is closing several Chicago stores citing financial losses. Look for others to follow.

    America’s Capitalist economic system is in retreat. We are run by entrenched, unelected government bureaucracies. The EPA now determines what type of car you will buy. I sense Chicago’s new mayor is very comfortable with that system.

    P.S. I recently came across which details with a touch of dark humor Chicago’s descent into chaos and mayhem. It even has statistics on how many people have been shot in the ass!


      1. They will need to find the Republican Party first. The one in Mayberry practically disappeared. The only candidates who occasionally show up are disgruntled cranks!

        Liked by 1 person

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