On the night of March 20, at the end of a race that had cost candidates a combined $5 million, Joseph Berrios called Fritz Kaegi to congratulate him on his victory. Barring the unlikely introduction and even less likely victory of a Republican candidate in the fall, Kaegi will assume the office of Cook County Assessor in December and attempt to deliver on his reformist platform. What voters may not realize—and what Kaegi will have to contend with—is that the anticipated reforms are years away.
Late in March, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards heard testimony on a piece of new legislation from 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza. Garza’s ordinance, which passed both the committee and, the following day, City Council, regulates manganese-bearing companies in Chicago by prohibiting new facilities from being built and preventing existing ones from expanding. It also requires that companies that handle bulk materials with manganese have a 150-foot setback from areas that are zoned residential, and that manganese-bearing facilities submit quarterly reports to the Department of Planning and Development detailing the amount of manganese passing through or stored in their facility.
Historically, agriculture and urban planning have had a tight-knit but fraught relationship. In the lower-income neighborhoods of nineteenth-century American cities, livestock—necessary sources of food and wealth—were common, as were concerns about the public health consequences of dense tenements clustered with people and pigs. Some early attempts at outlawing animals for sanitary reasons were met with public derision: As the New York Times reported in 1865 in response to the apparent arrest of a cow in New York City, “The spectacle of ten or twelve policemen guarding a solitary cow on her way to the cattle-jail provokes too much merriment even for those who are interested in having the streets kept clear of four-footed nuisances.” But over the course of the nineteenth century, the expanding power of the field of public health in urban planning meant that many forms of urban agriculture, particularly those involving animals, were significantly curbed.
By now, many of us are aware of the increasing conversation around “food deserts” in Chicago and across the country. Food deserts are typically defined as low-income areas in which a significant portion of residents live a mile or more from grocery stores and supermarkets. In Chicago, the majority of food deserts are in predominantly African-American neighborhoods lacking accessibility to fresh food options, with much easier access to fast food, liquor, and convenience stores. While a great deal of the momentum that has emerged around the issue has focused on increasing food accessibility, many of these proposed solutions—including the proposal to increase grocery stores in the city—actually operate within the status quo and fail to make structural change.
At 11:30pm last Wednesday, a group of fifteen people was standing on a street in West Town, watching for the arrival of a truck. They were members of Chicago Animal Save, an animal anti-cruelty group, and they were holding a monthly vigil to protest the animal cruelty that goes ignored in slaughterhouses. Each member was ready to stand until the truck came, which might not happen until four in the morning. The truck would be bringing chickens for slaughter.
This week on SSW Radio we talking with a beatmaker, heard from attendees of a public newsroom, and continued our series on WHPK community DJs.
How’s the community garden doing?” That’s a question that 6th District State Representative Sonya Harper asks in most of her meetings with the city of Chicago, just for good measure. The city’s response to Harper is usually that the garden is doing fine, and that nothing’s changed.
Lucy Parsons Labs, a Chicago- and San Francisco-based nonprofit that works toward more transparency in government and business, first gained attention in 2014 for its use of public records lawsuits to uncover the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) undisclosed purchase and use of Stingray cell phone surveillance devices. In addition to concerns about surveillance, a 2016 investigation the nonprofit published with the Chicago Reader lent visibility to the CPD’s controversial use of civil asset forfeiture, the process by which police can seize money or goods they believe are connected to a crime. The CPD drew from its civil asset forfeiture funds to purchase the Stingrays and other surveillance equipment, their investigation found.
At a presentation held last month at the Grace Place Episcopal Church in Printer’s Row, the Coalition to End Money Bond released the most recent results of its community court-watching initiative. Their efforts tracked the implementation of an order, issued by Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans, that bond court judges set more affordable bonds for legally innocent pretrial detainees in the Cook County criminal justice system. This is the most recent result of the long history of activism for bail reform in Cook County—a history which began in the 1970s, as detailed in a three–part series in the Weekly earlier this year.
Alexander Tadlock, an artist born in California and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, was commissioned by the Mexican National Electoral Institute (INE) to paint a mural in Little Village. Located on 26th Street and Troy Street near the iconic Little Village Arch, Tadlock’s mural serves to persuade Mexican immigrants living in Chicago that if they register as voters in Mexico, their votes will be crucial in Mexico’s general elections that begin this July.