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Johnson, Pritzker "not on same page" as Chicago tackles migrant crisis, expert says

Johnson, Pritzker "not on same page" as Chicago tackles migrant crisis, expert says
Johnson, Pritzker "not on same page" as Chicago tackles migrant crisis, expert says 03:17

CHICAGO (CBS) – On Tuesday, Gov. JB Pritzker scrapped the City of Chicago's plans to build a migrant camp in Brighton Park, citing serious environmental concerns at the site.

On Monday, the state halted work at the site and said the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was in the process of reviewing a 700-page environmental impact report that the city released last Friday.

The report described mercury found in the soil there, which the city said has since been removed. Other issues the city claimed were covered by 6 inches of crushed gravel.

But then the state said Tuesday that the site the city chose was a no-go.

So, how did this all come to be?

CBS 2 Political Reporter Chris Tye looked into the relationship between the governor and Mayor Brandon Johnson, and what's next for migrants in the city.

Winter officially starts in 16 days. Johnson promised to have a more formal plan in place to house migrants staying in Chicago police stations by that date.

The state's move on Tuesday was a set-back as the clock ticks and temperatures fall.

"I'm moving with an incredible expediency," Johnson said on Tuesday.

That urgency came after the blow dealt by Pritzker who said at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, "The plan by EPA had been to review, it's a 700-plus-page document that was delivered to them. So they're making sure that they're doing a thorough job."

An hour later came the knockout punch for Brighton Park's chances of ever housing migrants at the already built-out and paid-for migrant base camp.

Tensions arise between Gov. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Johnson as city deals with migrant crisis 02:18

Pritzker's head of the Illinois EPA John Kim wrote, "current and planned site conditions do not adequately reduce risks of human exposure to known and potential environmental conditions."

The governor added, "We will not proceed with housing families on a site where serious environmental concerns are still present. My administration remains committed to a data-driven plan to improve the asylum seeker response, and we will continue to coordinate with the City of Chicago as we work to expand available shelter through winter."

"The State of Illinois knew that this assessment was happening and felt confident enough to continue to build on this site and to go into a contract with GardaWorld," said Johnson.

GardaWorld is the company that built out the camp.

So what's the mayor's Plan B?

"As other folks have asked for Plan B. I've been planning for Plan B, C, and D and …E and F from the very moment that I became the mayor of the City of Chicago," he said.

But he offered no specifics for a Plan B.

Former University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson said the situation did offer a glimpse into what friction between a Democratic governor and Democratic mayor looks and sounds like.

"The relations between Brandon Johnson and Gov. Pritzker are a little tense," Simpson said. "They are not on the same page. The city needs more money. The state has less to give. So there's tension."

Simpson added that the city and state being out of step with each other isn't uncommon, and usually more acute when leaders are from different political parties.

"There's always some tension because they each have different agendas and timetables and resources," he said.

Johnson said base camps are just part of his larger plan, as are brick-and-mortar options. But he did not elaborate on where those might be located.

It's back to the drawing board for the political hot potato as, one again, winter arrives in 16 days.

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