‘Bring Chicago home’: Mayor Brandon Johnson’s homeless plan appears headed for defeat

Photo of author

By journalsofus.com

Complete coverage of local and national primary and general elections, including results, analysis and voter resources to keep Chicago voters informed.

Mayor Brandon Johnson and the progressive movement behind him appeared headed for a humiliating defeat Tuesday that will force them to look for another source of revenue to combat homelessness.

By a margin of nearly 8 percentage points, Chicago voters rejected a binding referendum that would have authorized the City Council to raise the real estate transfer tax in high-end property transactions to generate approximately $100 million in annual revenue to combat homelessness.

The vote was 53.7% to 46.3%, with 98.2% of precincts counted.

The lowest turnout in at least 80 years in a presidential primary would have seemed to favor the Chicago Teachers Union, the CTU-affiliated United Working Families, and progressive unions that had demonstrated their ability to attract their own voters in a low-ball election. participation in electing Johnson last year.

But the Building Owners and Managers Association and other real estate and business interests mounted a furious campaign to block the referendum, first in court and then through television commercials urging voters to reject a plan they said would increase the rents.

The $2 million-plus campaign also questioned Johnson’s handling of crime and the immigration crisis and asked voters if they were willing to give the mayor $100 million to spend without specifying exactly how.

Voters’ response on Tuesday seems certain politically weaken the mayor and embolden his critics.

“Bad policies must be defeated and voters saw that it was bad policy,” said veteran political strategist Greg Goldner, who led the anti-referendum campaign.

“You can’t build affordable housing. You can’t solve homelessness. You can’t provide mental health services. You can’t solve the immigration crisis. You can’t provide affordable housing for teachers and veterans. You can’t do all those things for an influx of income that has proven to be unpredictable,” he added. In the end, Goldner said, voters agreed that the referendum was “poorly constructed, poorly defined” and a “very cynical public policy initiative.”

Aldo. Carlos Ramírez-Rosa (35th), former floor leader of the mayor’s City Council, made no attempt to hide his disappointment.

“This is not the result we wanted. We will have to take a very hard look at what happened and figure out how to move forward from now on,” said Ramírez-Rosa, who was instrumental in getting the binding referendum approved in the City. Council now to the polls after years of failure.

The referendum asked voters to triple the transaction tax on the portion of a property sale of more than $1 million, quadruple the tax on the portion above $1.5 million, but slightly reduce the tax on sales of less than $1 million.

Ramírez-Rosa wants to “clear the dust” before assessing how big a political blow the defeat of ‘Bring Chicago Home’ would be for Johnson, the most progressive mayor in Chicago history.

“The mayor’s critics were already emboldened,” Ramírez-Rosa said. “At the end of the day, this is a blow to people who wanted to address the homeless crisis that is growing in our communities.”

A source close to the anti-tax campaign known as “Keep Chicago Affordable” accused Johnson of misinterpreting his own victory, just as former Mayor Lori Lightfoot misinterpreted her victory.

“Just because he got 52% against Paul Vallas didn’t mean he had a mandate,” the source said.

“Before this campaign started, before ads were run, their numbers were around 20. This result is a reflection of their performance.”

Referendum supporters gathered in Austin to watch the results at Intentional Sports, 1841 N. Laramie Ave., and tried to stay positive as a DJ played a mix of songs in English and Spanish and black BCH balloons floated against a wall.

“We won’t give up until every single damn ballot is counted,” Communities United organizer Dianne Limas said as the crowd chanted, “We won’t give up.”

As well as the political and financial blow, the likely defeat of the referendum is also deeply personal for Johnson, who has spoken of his own brother dying “addicted and homeless”.

Johnson’s first deputy chief of staff, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, addressed the referendum in newly elected state Rep. Graciela Guzmán’s Northwest Side party.

“We will continue working. The problem is not going away,” Pacione-Zayas said, attributing the results to the court battle over whether referendum votes would be counted, causing potential confusion among mail-in voters.

Last year, downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), an enemy of ‘Bring Chicago Home’, had called the CTU and United Working Families “the new machine.”

But less than a year after Johnson was chosen, that “New Machine” may have suffered a failure that could have long-term implications for the man behind the wheel.

Contributing: Michael Loria, Francia García Hernández

Leave a comment