Mr. Johnson Goes to Chicago

Chicago Civic Media
3 min readMay 31, 2023

Tuesday, May 31. By the Associate Editor

On Friday May 26, on the eve of a potentially violent Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced his community-based Things to Do plan for the long holiday weekend ahead.

At an outdoor press conference held at the 63rd Street Beach in Jackson Park, the mayor and a parade of city leaders including Interim Police Chief Fred Waller introduced the mayor’s Things To Do program.

Things To Do would give Chicago’s at risk youngsters access to hundreds of fun events manned by thousands of paid and volunteer workers organized by city, religious labor, community, philanthropic, business and state organizations.

It would give kids with nothing to do something to do in safe spaces free from violence.

Give the mayor credit. Less than two weeks into office, he had the guts to tackle Chicago’s violence head-on during the city’s most violent weekend.

Granted, community-based “Safe Spaces” events are nothing new. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and mayors before her long have been implementing them.

But Brandon Johnson took Safe Spaces to the max, energizing his Things To Do program with the infectious Soul of Chicago spirit of his May 15 Inaugural Address.

And again and again he drove home the fully inclusive nature of the reimagined, citizen-participatory public safety strategy that he had invited Chicagoans to help him create on May 5.

Media reports headlined his calls for a “collaborative,” “comprehensive” and “holistic” approach to Chicago’s violence.

And, for a “whole of government” effort whose success would on more than just government.

It’s going to take all of us,’ he insisted, “not just the police, not just city government, to ensure that our communities can live and thrive in peace and safety,”

OK, so Chicagoans have heard upbeat mayoral talk like this for years. But this time, the mayoral talk was backed with deeds — lots of them.

Mayor Johnson’s Things To Do program marks a shift in the evolution of public safety in Chicago.

It poured new wine into the old bottles of forlorn “We can’t do it alone” pleas for public support that Chicagoans have heard from their mayors and police ever since heavily armed, drug dealing, youth victimizing street gangs began taking over large portions of the city in the 1960's.

So was Things To Do a success? It wasn’t if you go by Chicago’s traditional public safety reckoning of numbers of people shot and killed. On Tuesday morning Channel 7 news was reporting 53 people shot, 11 fatally. The Sun-Times saw the weekend as the “City’s most violent Memorial Day weekend in 7 years”.

Yet by a modern, Public Health reckoning — the number of citizens and the amount of community involvement in public safetyThings to Do succeeded in three ways:

  • It gave Chicago’s outmanned, outgunned and overwhelmed police force a genuine outpouring of community involvement. The likely result? Lives saved. And the numbers of people shot and killed reduced.
  • It marked a step forward towards habituating Chicagoans to take responsibility for the safety of their neighborhoods: a critical factor for public safety in the Digital Age.
  • It marked a step forward in Chicago’s evolutionary shift away from Industrial Age violence (police force) towards Digital Age non-violence (medical and community support) as an instrumental force for public safety in the Digital Age.

This last point takes us to three related, big picture points:

  • Chicago is evolving from the Industrial Age to the Information/ Digital Age in the field of public safety — and it’s been doing so since the rise of network TV and local network TV newscasts in the 1960's.
  • Although Digital Age communications technologies have transformed Chicago in every field of life — often constructively — they have yet to effect constructive transformation in the city’s approach to public safety.​
  • To the contrary, these technologies have arguably exacerbated Chicago’s violence as opposed to reducing it.

Now you’re all set to proceed to the NEXT STEP in Chicago’s evolution into the fun-and-danger filled field of Digital Age public safety.



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