Mar 20, 2024 - News

Mayor Brandon Johnson isn't giving up on Bring Chicago Home

Mayor of Chicago

Mayor Brandon Johnson discusses the status of the Bring Chicago Home referendum Wednesday. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Initial voting results have paved a tough path forward for Bring Chicago Home, but Mayor Brandon Johnson and progressive alders who backed the measure remain somewhat hopeful as ballot counting continues.

Why it matters: A concession is not yet imminent for one of Johnson's signature initiatives — an effort to generate $100 million a year for homeless services through a hike on high-end real estate transfer taxes.

State of play: Votes supporting the measure trailed opposing votes by 23,000 Tuesday night, and election officials are still counting outstanding election day votes cast at polling places.

  • They're not expected to start counting potentially thousands of mail-in ballots until Thursday, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

What they're saying: Backers and opponents are in a standstill.

  • "With all the work and the effort that everyone has put into this, particularly our grassroots organizers … we're gonna count every vote and make sure we know where we're at before any concessions are made," Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) told Axios on Wednesday.

The other side: "Given the large amount of outstanding mail-in ballots, we are waiting for the majority of those votes to be counted [before weighing in]," a spokesperson for the Building Owners and Managers Association, one of the biggest opponents of the measure, told Axios.

Between the lines: Hadden pointed to public distrust of the government as a hurdle for the referendum, as well as a well-financed advertising push by the real estate community in the final days of the election.

  • She also highlighted confusion about the measure's status as court challenges played out during early voting.
  • Alders who opposed the measure agreed that voters distrust the way the money would be spent but were also concerned that it "could lead to a potential property tax on them," Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) told Axios on Wednesday.

What we're watching: Johnson says a potential loss won't "put the brakes" on his agenda.

  • "[Investing in people] is what I promised that I was going to do, that's what I'm doing. So buckle up," the mayor said at a press conference Wednesday.

What's next: If the measure fails, supporters and opponents agree that more must be done to address homelessness in the city.

  • But Hadden doubts the measure will be resurrected for the November ballot due to limited resources and voters' potentially being distracted by other big races.
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