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Monday, September 24, 2018

Here's hoping that the myth of the bad teacher is finally laid to rest

Posted By on 09.24.18 at 06:00 AM

Karen Lewis, then-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaking at CTU rally outside the Thompson Center, April 1, 2016 - ONE ILLINOIS/TED COX
  • One Illinois/Ted Cox
  • Karen Lewis, then-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaking at CTU rally outside the Thompson Center, April 1, 2016

If I'm reading the cards right, 2018 will go down in history as the year the  myth of the bad teacher finally, mercifully, and hopefully was consigned to the dustbin of history.

I say hopefully, because some myths die hard, especially when the powers that be—and that would be you, Governor Rauner—have much to gain by promoting them.

But let's focus on the good news.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hotel workers' strike now in its second week with no end in sight

Posted By on 09.18.18 at 06:00 AM

Picketers in front of the Palmer House Hilton. The strike started on September 7. - BRITA HUNEGS
  • Brita Hunegs
  • Picketers in front of the Palmer House Hilton. The strike started on September 7.

On Monday the largest hotel workers' strike in Chicago history entered its second week with negotiations still under way and many hotel beds still left unmade. Thousands of members of Unite Here Local One, which represents more than 15,000 area hospitality workers, are picketing around the clock at 25 local hotels (a full list is here). The union is calling for year-round health care for workers as part of its new contract. Currently workers laid off for the off-season lose their health care benefits. Meanwhile the workloads of others increase to compensate for their absence.

"There are just certain times of the year they say, 'Hey we're going to cut back,'" says Roushanda Williams, a bartender with Hilton Hotels for 18 years. "There's no real rhyme or reason as to when and how. If you're laying people off and the occupancy rates at the hotels are still high, somebody still has to do that work. Most times, it falls on the employees that are still working."

"We don't feel like people should be punished for Chicago being cold in the wintertime," says Sarah Lyons, a research analyst for Unite Here, which represents workers in the hospitality industry and a range of other service industries. "Everyone should be able to take themselves and their child, a sick child, to the doctor."

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Monday, September 17, 2018

With Bill Daley running for mayor, it’s good to remember what happened the last time we turned Chicago over to the Daleys

Posted By on 09.17.18 at 01:09 AM

Bill Daley - JAMES FOSTER/SUN-TIMES
  • James Foster/Sun-Times
  • Bill Daley

Just when I thought the mayor's race couldn't get any weirder, into the fray jumps a Daley.

William M., to be exact. As opposed to—well, I'll get to the Daley clan in a bit.

There were already 11 announced candidates when, on September 4, Mayor Emanuel dropped a "Rahm-Shell," as the Sun-Times headline put it, announcing he wouldn't seek reelection.

Now 20 or so relatively high-profile pols—including Toni Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza, and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia—are talking about running.

If this keeps up, the Tribune may have to rewrite its recent story about how tough it is to run Chicago. If being mayor is so "grueling," how come so many want to do it?

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

How women came together to take down the Orwells

Posted By on 09.13.18 at 03:56 PM

The Orwells - SUE KWONG/ORIGINAL PHOTO BY KELLY PULEIO
  • Sue Kwong/original photo by Kelly Puleio
  • The Orwells

Content warning: sexual assault

For years, women in Chicago had been warning each other to steer clear of the Orwells. Ugly rumors about the local garage band traveled mostly along back channels, fueled by whispers at DIY shows and graffiti in the women’s room at Cole’s. On August 26, private talk finally led to concerted public action when former Orwells fan Riley Kmet, who now lives in Ohio, created a Google Doc where she and several other women collected and posted specific but anonymized allegations of sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, misogyny, homophobia and violent behavior against three of the five members of the Orwells: front man Mario Cuomo, drummer Henry Brinner, and bassist Grant Brinner.

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Pro tip for mayoral hopefuls: Don't govern by press release, do sweat the small stuff

Posted By on 09.13.18 at 06:00 AM

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking about gun violence in Washington, D.C., 2013 - SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
  • Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking about gun violence in Washington, D.C., 2013

This story was originally published by ProPublica Illinois.

The day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel rocked the city's political establishment by announcing he wasn't running for reelection, Chicago police officer Ray Tracy opened the September community meeting for police beats 815 and 821 the way he does every month, by going over the good news and bad news in the area's recent crime statistics.

It was just hours after jury selection began in the first murder trial of a Chicago police officer in decades. Although neither of those topics came up at the meeting, it was held not far from where CPD officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed teenager Laquan McDonald four years ago—a case that continues to roil Chicago and surely contributed to Emanuel's decision.

Tracy noted that crime in the two beats, which make up much of the Archer Heights and Brighton Park neighborhoods on the city's southwest side, remains relatively low.

But the totals had ticked up in a number of areas, Tracy told the 20 residents gathered in a Catholic school classroom, many sitting in kid-size chairs. Several garages had been burglarized. And in the second half of August, there had been three shooting—none fatal, though still troubling.

"We're on it," he said.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Say what you will about Mayor Rahm … he’s on to bigger and no doubt wealthier things

Posted By on 09.11.18 at 06:00 AM

People to see and places to go - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • People to see and places to go

Soon after Mayor Rahm announced he wasn't running for reelection, I got a text from my old friend Ken Davis, host of CAN TV's Chicago Newsroom, asking how long it would be before I wrote a sentence that began: "Say what you will about Rahm, but . . . "

In other words, how long would it take before Rahm's successor—and right now the heavy favorite's got to be Toni Preckwinkle—does something so foul, so stupid, so counterproductive that I find myself longing for the good old days of Rahm's reign? As hard as that is to imagine.

It was that way with Mayor Daley, by the way. Man, I complained about Daley week after week, a decade from the end of one century to the end of a decade at the start of another. And then, three months into Rahm's tenure, I found myself intoning, "Say what you will about Daley, but . . . "

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Will Elon Musk's bullet train to O'Hare go up in smoke?

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 06:54 PM

Elon Musk says his Boring Company is a "hobby company" that started as a joke.
  • Elon Musk says his Boring Company is a "hobby company" that started as a joke.

Is Elon Musk's electric rollerskate tunnel to O'Hare just an elaborate prank on Chicago?

The Tesla and Space X CEO's bizarre, pot smoke-filled performance on Joe Rogan's podcast Thursday night makes it an open question. Near the beginning of the rambling two-and-a-half hour conversation on The Joe Rogan Experience — and before the two shared a joint — Musk described The Boring Company as a "hobby company" that started as a joke.

"And we decided to make it real, and dig a tunnel under L.A.," he said. "And then other people asked us to build tunnels so we said yes in a few cases."

Those "other people" includes the city of Chicago, which in June gave the Boring Company the green light to build a high-speed electric pod-based underground mass transit system in Chicago to O'Hare. Since the announcement, details of the Boring Company's deal with the city of Chicago have remained maddeningly scarce. The Better Government Association sued the city last month for failing to provide public documents relating to the project. 
Musk bragged that the whole project would cost less than a $1 billion and be operational within three years. Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised it as "the fast lane to the city's future" and pooh-poohed critics who said the numbers for the "Tesla-in-a-tunnel" didn't seem to add up.

"Look, there were doubters about putting a man on the moon," Emanuel told CBS News in June while on a mini-media tour with Musk. Even after he announced he wouldn't run for re-election earlier this week, the mayor said he still wants to move forward with the plan.

But one of those doubters now appears to be Musk himself. He casually admitted that his plan to build a high-tech underground transportation network in Los Angeles—one that he described as "like an underground snake"—may not work.

"I'm not asserting that it's going to be successful," Musk told Rogan. " ... I've lived in L.A. for 16 years. And the traffic has always been terrible. I don't see any other ideas for improving the traffic. So in desperation, we're going to dig a tunnel. And maybe that tunnel will be successful, and maybe it won't. I'm not trying to convince you it's going to work."

Rogan seemed dumbfounded by the statement. "This is a project you've started though, right?" he asked.

"We've dug about a mile. It's quite long," Musk said matter-of-factly. "It would take a long time to walk it."

This far, the Boring Company's biggest accomplishment—beyond digging a mile-long hole in the ground in Los Angeles—is convincing the public to buy 50,000 baseball caps bearing the company's logo and 20,000 devices dubbed "not-a-flamethrowers." The flamethrowers, Musk says, were based on a gag from Mel Brooks's Star Wars spoof.

"In Spaceballs the Movie, (the Yoda parody character) Yogurt goes through the merchandising section, and they have a flamethrower in the merchandising section...the kids love that one," Musk said. "And it's like, 'We should do a flamethrower.'"

"Does anyone tell you no?" Rogan wondered. Isn't selling a $500 flamethrower online a dumb idea?

"Yeah, it's a terrible idea. Terrible, you shouldn't buy one. I said don't buy this flamethrower. Don't buy it. Still, people bought it," Musk replied. "To be totally frank it's just a roofing torch with an air-rifle cover. It's not a real flamethrower. We were very clear, this is not actually a flamethrower."

In other words, Musk duped a bunch of suckers into buying his fake flamethrowers.

Did he pull off the same feat with several municipalities buying into his unproven underground "electric skates" transit systems? Time will tell.

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A jury expert weighs in on what to expect in the Jason Van Dyke trial

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 06:00 AM

Jason Van Dyke's bail was raised slightly for giving media interviews just days before jury selection was set to begin. Critics accused the defense of trying to bias the jury pool. - ANTONIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune
  • Jason Van Dyke's bail was raised slightly for giving media interviews just days before jury selection was set to begin. Critics accused the defense of trying to bias the jury pool.

Jury selection in the murder trial of former Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke began this week. Nearly four years after he fired 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and nearly three years after he was indicted for the on-duty shooting, Van Dyke's attorneys and the special prosecutor have commenced the painstaking process of picking the 12 men and women who will evaluate his actions.

According to data released this year by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, just 1 percent of the some 300,000 felony cases in the county have been decided by a jury since 2009. Typically, a pool of potential jurors is selected randomly from a list of Cook County residents compiled from state driver's license records and voter registration rolls. For each case, the number of jurors in the pool varies, but for the Van Dyke trial an exceptionally large pool of more than 100 people was called for evaluation. On Wednesday selection began with a written questionnaire administered to potential jurors.

Attorney and psychologist Shari Seidman Diamond, an expert on juries and a professor at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law, says paper questionnaires are "not atypical of large, publicly notorious kinds of cases." The questionnaire will allow special prosecutor Joseph McMahon, Van Dyke's defense attorney Dan Herbert, and Judge Vincent Gaughan to weed out people who clearly couldn't be impartial before beginning one-on-one interviews with each potential juror (known as voir dire). The questionnaire is also "a good idea on psychological grounds," she adds, because people may feel more at ease disclosing information about themselves in writing than speaking up in front of a packed courtroom.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The end of Rahm Emanuel’s rule means that the center may no longer hold in Chicago

Posted By on 09.05.18 at 04:18 PM

Rahm Emanuel has opted out of the Game of Thrones in Chicago.
  • Rahm Emanuel has opted out of the Game of Thrones in Chicago.

Rahm Emanuel ducked out of City Hall alone on Tuesday afternoon, his usual security detail walking slightly ahead of him.

Across the street at Daley Plaza, 150 or so activists had gathered to celebrate his vanquishing at an event called "Celebrate the End of Rahm Emanuel’s Reign of Terror" on Facebook. He didn't appear to notice. Instead, he stopped to offer a friendly gesture to a random passerby while strolling hastily down LaSalle.

"Farewell, good luck," said the man at the other end of the mayor's index finger.

"You too, man. You too," Rahm replied before strolling to his car.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

I guess we won’t have Rahm to kick around anymore

Posted By on 09.04.18 at 01:04 PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, accompanied by his wife, Amy Rule, announced Tuesday morning that he won't be running for a third term as mayor. - RAHUL PARIKH/SUN-TIMES
  • Rahul Parikh/Sun-Times
  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel, accompanied by his wife, Amy Rule, announced Tuesday morning that he won't be running for a third term as mayor.

Mayor Rahm isn't running for reelection!

Wow. Can't say I'm too surprised to hear he's stepping down—though I expected the announcement to come much earlier.

Like four years ago.

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