May 17, 2023 - Politics

5 issues to test Mayor Brandon Johnson early in his term

Photo illustration of Brandon Johnson with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It took less than 24 hours in office for Mayor Brandon Johnson to face his first challenge.

What's happening: The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is threatening to leave the city if Johnson enacts his financial transaction tax in the next budget.

Why it matters: Johnson promised on the campaign trail to expand business taxes, lifting some financial burden off taxpayers and placing it onto downtown corporations.

  • But his efforts, if enacted, could alienate the business community and cost the city revenue if companies leave.

What they're saying: CEO Terry Duffy told Bloomberg News the CME could void its Chicago lease if Johnson enacts these "ill-conceived" taxes.

Flashback: Mayor Lori Lightfoot's legacy was damaged when high-profile companies like Boeing and Ken Griffin's hedge fund Citadel moved their headquarters out of the city.

Zoom in: That was just day two of Johnson's term. Here are four other issues, not including the ongoing migrant crisis, that will test the mayor early.

Preventing Memorial Day violence

police barrier on street
Do Not Cross board sign is seen in Chicago, Oct. 18, 2022. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Memorial Day weekend has become an annual barometer for Chicago's violence preparedness. In recent years, the city has seen hundreds shot and several killed.

What we're watching: Johnson has pledged to address the root causes of violence, but results might be hard to see in just a couple of weeks.

  • New interim Chicago Police superintendent Fred Waller, who took over Monday, will also face a big test within a small window of time.

The new City Council

politician in chambers
Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd. Photo: Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Unlike his predecessor, Johnson signaled a willingness to work with the City Council in his inauguration speech.

Yes, but: He's already pushed back on the council's vote for independence that passed in March.

  • Instead, he named his own committee chairs and removed Ald. Scott Waguespack, who led the independence movement, from his spot as powerful finance committee chair.

What's ahead: Will veteran alders rejected by the new administration (Waguespack, Lopez and Beale) obstruct Johnson's legislative agendas when they convene for the first time under the new mayor next week?

NASCAR street race

race car
NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace drives through Grant Park in July, 2022. Photo: Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

About 100,000 visitors are expected to descend upon Grant Park for the first-ever NASCAR street race in Chicago during Fourth of July weekend.

Reality check: Even if it's a tourism triumph, the rest of us will face weeks of street closings and noise certain to make locals grumpy.

The temporary casino

Medinah Temple is scheduled to house a temporary casino. Photo: Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Once the NASCAR racetrack is dismantled, the city's next big gamble is a temporary casino inside Medinah Temple in River North.

State of play: Opening day is slated for the end of July. Ald. Brendan Reilly has come out against the plan to locate the temporary Bally's casino there, citing traffic and security concerns.

  • Lightfoot seemed to back the move to the historic building, but what will Mayor Johnson say?

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