We Turned The Page
By Delmarie Cobb, Media and Political Consultant
For 35 years, Black Chicago has been wandering in the desert. Ever since Mayor Harold Washington’s sudden death, we have been searching for the Promise Land.
Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is the first Progressive mayor Chicagoans have elected since Washington. Unfortunately, we never got to see if Mayor Eugene Sawyer was progressive. To the dismay of those who selected him on that fateful night following Washington’s death, Sawyer did continue and fund his predecessor’s programs and policies--specifically, minority hiring and contracting. The substantial split in the Black community that forced the Special Election resulting in Mayor Richard M. Daley’s victory cast us to wander.
As Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said a the time of the 1989 Special Election, “Harold Washington’s death was the rope and the special election was the grease on the rope.” In other words, the division in our community threw us into decades of chaos.
For only the second time, in Chicago’s history, we rose to take the proverbial foot off our necks. After losing 250,000 Black Chicagoans since 2000, hundreds of Black businesses and jobs, the closing of 50 school buildings, millions of dollars in regressive taxes, fees and fines, and paying a billion dollars for police misconduct and wrongful death lawsuits, we chose someone to lead the city with no connection to the Daley Dynasty.
On more than one occasion, I’ve stated that I don’t fall in love with elected officials. They are not to be idolized and put on a pedestal. Rather, they are elected to represent us and we should hold them accountable at all times. I’ve often stated, “There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies only permanent interests.” These are two of my core beliefs.
It shouldn’t be lost on us that Brandon Johnson was elected during Easter Week, the most political story in the Bible. It shouldn’t be lost on us that Brandon Johnson was elected 55 years after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while in Memphis to support the striking sanitation workers. It shouldn’t be lost on us that Brandon Johnson was elected 40 years after Harold Washington became mayor. It shouldn’t be lost on us that Brandon Johnson is the second Black man to be elected mayor in our city’s rich Black history. It shouldn’t be lost on us that Brandon Johnson will not be our savior. We are our saviors and we took the first step toward saving our city by electing Brandon Johnson and turning the page.
I shudder to think how much more Black Chicago would suffer under a law and order mayor, a charter school expansion mayor, a lift the ban on video poker mayor, a Fraternal Order of Police endorsed mayor and a beholden to the Republican business community mayor.
It’s past time for those who can afford it the least, to continue shouldering the city’s financial burdens. Why shouldn’t the city’s largest companies pay a nominal head tax? Remember, eliminating the head tax was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first nod to the business community, which had been in place since 1973. At the point it was eliminated, the head tax was generating approximately $23 million a year.
To make up for the shortfall, the Emanuel administration began an aggressive effort to ticket red light camera violators. From 2011 to 2016, his administration generated $285 million in fines.
When Mayor Lori Lightfoot created a new $35 ticket for speeding 6-9 miles per hour over the posted limits, $79.5 million was generated in little over a year, from mostly Black and Latino communities.
Property taxes, fees and fines, tickets, gambling revenue and marijuana are all regressive revenue streams, which impact poor people disproportionately. Yet, the business community balks at the very mention of a head tax, real estate transfer tax, hotel tax or any tax suggesting they pay their fair share.
Johnson is proposing progressive policies that should reflect our values to shelter the unhoused, provide quality public education, treatment not trauma, constitutional policing, public safety, create jobs for all skill levels and invest in people and neighborhoods.
On Election Day, Chicagoans chose to vanquish our bad past and resurrect our good past. Let’s hope our decision provides the rebirth our communities and city need.
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