Chicago Mayor Silences the Masses at City Council

Rudy Balasko /
Rudy Balasko /

Brandon Johnson insists on calling himself the “progressive” Mayor of Chicago and has been making waves in the Windy City since he took office. Walking into a living nightmare of an office, nobody said the job would be easy, yet that seemed to be exactly what he expected. Elected in April and sworn in back in May 2023, he hasn’t had but a few months to settle into the position.

Continuing on the Sanctuary City status the city held under former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, he has faced a lot of scrutiny since taking office. Lately, those voices of opposition have been showing up at the city council meetings. Open to the public, people were using this opportunity to express to Johnson exactly how bad his policies were for the people who put him in office. Rather than meet with them to discuss the options, he simply closed the gallery.

The second-level viewing area had been open to the public for years, strictly on a first come-first served basis. Doing so allowed people from across the city to see and learn about the city council, as well as have a clearer understanding of how their city government was run. A great way to explain politics to kids and those new to democracy, this was heralded as a great opportunity.

Now, Johnson is tired of being called out for his policies on taking in migrants and not relocating them. Those who attended would raise their voices to object or voice opposition to any spending plan on them. Instead, they wanted to see Johnson do away with this policy and focus on the people of Chicago. To spend that money on making a difference for the people who paid in on that fund in the first place.

For those who talk to their local alderman, they can still get admittance to the second-floor viewing gallery, but it’s on an invitation-only basis. It likely would result in a permanent ban if they were to act out, and could easily cost that alderman to get them access. Those without that connection still have an option, though. A glassed-over and soundproof third-floor location exists. This small viewing perch has little room and zero ability to impact the council.

According to local outlet WBEZ, this change has yet to be unveiled to the public as a permanent thing, but it will be. Chicago’s Better Government Association (BGA) heard the news and immediately was up in arms over the issue. Talking about the issues with people being able to be there because they have status with the city or know an alderman is something they just won’t stand for. They also say it runs contradictory to his platform.

“Despite pledges of greater transparency during his campaign and a “City Hall Open House” photo-op at his inauguration, Mayor Johnson has more significantly restricted access to the upper floors of City Hall – including aldermanic and mayoral office suites as well as the council chambers – than any of his predecessors. The public is not even allowed access to the stairs or elevators until shortly before public meetings, and the new, unpublished seating rules banish most attendees to the upper balcony, which offers more limited viewing and hearing, as well as suffering from overcrowding and overheating.”

The BGA is not alone in this protest either. A storied Chicago paper, The Chicago Tribune, published a strong piece against Johnson, against his change and his tactics. In their eyes, for a man who claims to be for the people, he seems to be only for the progressives. They also take major issue with his doing this kind of change with no input from those whom this is impacting.

The paper wrote:

“The substance of what has happened here isn’t the only thing disturbing about this move. A civic decision of this magnitude isn’t ordinarily communicated solely via a strikingly sycophantic story in an outlet the mayor perceives as friendly. The tactic just raises more questions about this administration’s competence in handling basic functions and its lack of an effective and transparent communications operation.”

Yikes. Chicago clearly needs better leadership.