Good afternoon. It finally feels like winter in the Chicago area. Here are the better places for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledging. And here’s what else you need to know today.
1. A growing number of former gang members are working to prevent violence in Chicago
Cecilia Mannion says she refuses to give up hope in the face of violence that has escalated since the start of the pandemic.
She is one of many anti-violence workers in Chicago who are trying to prevent shootings while also helping families who have lost loved ones.
And elected officials hope this strategy works to bring down a stubbornly high level of crime. Last year Chicago allocated nearly $85 million to emergency workers. This followed up with $150 million from Illinois officials in 2021.
To get a sense of how these efforts are playing out on the streets of Chicago, my colleague Patrick Smith followed Mannion and tracked his successes and frustrations for a new season of the award-winning WBEZ program. Reason podcasts. [WBEZ]
You can find today’s first episode at Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. [WBEZ]
2. Chicago public schools told the Lightfoot campaign they could not solicit teachers for volunteer students
A new report from Chicago Tribune raises more questions about why Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign initially defended efforts to recruit student volunteers even though it had been warned multiple times of potential ethics violations.
A senior adviser to CPS told the Lightfoot campaign earlier this month – in a phone call and email – that it needs to stop soliciting teachers for student volunteers, according to emails obtained by grandstand journalist Gregory Pratt.
But hours later on the same day, the campaign released a public statement defending its outreach with teachers, claiming it was providing learning opportunities for students. The campaign later backed down amid mounting criticism, and Lightfoot issued a rare public apology the next day.
In August, the city’s network of community colleges told campaign officials they were violating ethics rules after soliciting staff for student volunteers, according to a statement from the City Colleges of Chicago.
Lightfoot’s campaign is now under investigation by the top watchdogs of City Hall and Chicago public schools. [Chicago Tribune]
3. Chicago residents can now vote in the February 28 election
Early voting began today for several races that will determine how the city deals with a variety of issues over the next four years, from a surge in violence to deteriorating conditions on the Chicago Transit Authority.
Today, my colleague Fran Spielman at Chicago Sun Times offers an in-depth overview of the mayoral race.
“Forty years ago, the first woman ever to serve as mayor of Chicago was transformed into a mayor by a defeat that paved the way for another first: the election of Harold Washington as Chicago’s first black mayor,” writes Spielman.
“Now, Lori Lightfoot is trying to avoid following in Jane Byrne’s footsteps by suffering a defeat that could set the stage for another piece of political history: the election of Chicago’s first Hispanic mayor.” [Chicago Sun-Times]
Spielman also takes a look at how the city council could be significantly different after this year’s election. [Chicago Sun-Times]
In the meantime, here’s a guide on how to register to vote in the Feb. 28 election and where to vote. [WBEZ]
4. Chicago Public Schools Will Consider Grades in Science and Social Studies Instead of the Standardized Test for Advancing Students
The requirements for promotion of public school students to the next grade are changing, with the district focusing more on core subjects and helping students who fall behind so they are not held back, reports my colleague Nader Issa of the Chicago Sun Times.
The changes will take effect in the next academic year, with students being measured for promotion or retention at the end of the second, fifth and eighth years.
So what exactly does that mean? Second grade students will need at least a “C” in reading. And fifth and eighth graders will need to achieve at least a “C” in reading, math and, for the first time, science and social studies.
If students lose those grades, they can still move on to the next grade as long as they meet intervention goals, such as summer school for fifth and eighth graders. [Chicago Sun-Times]
5. Pritzker dismisses DeSantis after Florida blocks an AP course on African-American studies
Gov. JB Pritzker this week slammed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for blocking an Advanced Placement course on African-American studies because it includes segments on queer theory and prison abolition.
And Pritzker went a step further, warning the nonprofit that oversees the AP program that Illinois will reject a revised African-American Studies curriculum if it doesn’t include “a factual account of history, including the role played by black queer Americans.” , reports my colleague Tina Sfondeles al Chicago Sun Times.
“It’s unclear how the course will be changed or if the revisions stem from Florida’s rejection, but the College Board said the new framework will be released on February 1,” Sfondeles reports. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Here’s what else is going on
- The US economy grew last year despite fears of a recession. [AP]
- Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tire Nichols. [AP]
- A controversial police academy on Chicago’s West Side opened this week. [Chicago Sun-Times]
- The fourth season of HBO Succession will premiere on March 26. [Variety]
Oh, and one more thing…
An Illinois woman is trying her hand at Fireball Cinnamon.
In a class action lawsuit, Anna Marquez claims there is no whiskey in the mini bottles of Fireball Cinnamon, reports CBS News, and accuses the drink’s maker of “misleading” packaging.
Instead, the bottles contain a malt drink to give a whiskey-like flavor to the drink, according to the lawsuit.
His lawsuit seeks to cover anyone in Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas and Utah who bought Fireball Cinnamon. [CBS News]
Tell me something good…
What is one little thing that brings you joy?
“One little thing that brings me joy is my radio: it allows me to tune into WFMT to listen to their classical music presentations. This is especially important to me during times of stress (like my husband’s battle with cancer, too much technology, or hearing news on BEZ).”
And Lorraine writes:
“There is a certain time of day when the sun is low in the sky, perhaps an hour before sunset, which I call the golden hour of the day. Of course it varies with the seasons, but when the sun is out and hitting my house and coming in through the windows, that’s the highlight of the day for me!”
Feel free to write to me and your answer may be shared in this week’s newsletter.