Free gas and Ventra cards

Notes from the 5/05/22 issue

Free gas and Ventra cards

On April 27, City Council approved Chicago Moves, a giveaway of gas gift cards and Ventra cards for mass transit. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, perhaps responding to Willie Wilson’s recent gas giveaways ahead of next year’s mayoral election, spearheaded the program, which will give out about $12.5 million total, divided up into 50,000 gas cards and 100,000 Ventra cards. Those interested can apply online at bit.ly/383oh5l or at a public library, and will have to select between applying for a $150 gas card or a $50 Ventra card. To be eligible, applicants must make less than 100% of the Area Median Income, which is around $93,000 for a family of four. For those applying for a gas card, they must also provide proof of a vehicle city sticker and mailing information.

Driver debt relief

The City unrolled a pilot program last month that forgives some vehicle tickets and late penalties for low-income drivers, including red light, speeding, and certain parking tickets. The Clear Path Relief program requires applicants to pay off all tickets from the last three years, minus late penalties, and in return will forgive all ticket debt from before three years and allow drivers to pay only half of any tickets they incur a year from enrolling. Applicants must either be currently enrolled in the Utility Billing Relief (UBR) program or be within three hundred percent of federal poverty guidelines—$40,000 for a single person, or around $83,000 for a household of four. Those who enroll will also not be assessed late penalties for future tickets until December 2023. Applicants need to have a valid email address and provide proof of income or UBR status. The City is also piloting a Fix-It Defense program that forgives one expired sticker or license plate per vehicle, with proof of renewed sticker or plate. More information about both programs can be found online at bit.ly/3LHfRz2 

The Reader is safe

For the Chicago Reader, the last fifteen years have been filled with uncertainty: ownership transitions, threats of closure, and reductions in staff and paper size. Prospects for the city’s largest alt-weekly seemed good when in 2018, East Lake president Elzie Higginbottom (see story on page eight) and wealthy Crown family member and defense attorney Leonard Goodman agreed to take on the paper’s debts and begin a years-long transfer to nonprofit status, which would be financially viable for the Reader. That transition was supposed to take place at the end of 2021, but a few months earlier, Goodman—who had been writing columns for the paper as a somewhat unofficial stipulation of his co-ownership—wrote a column attacking COVID vaccines for children that was filled with a dozen falsehoods and misleading statements. When the Reader’s editors hired an independent fact-checker to issue a correction, Goodman went rogue—he began issuing illegal demands to the board and prevented the transition from taking place. Last month, with the paper just a few weeks from insolvency, the Reader union began a public pressure campaign, calling on Goodman to step down from his position and let the Reader transition to a nonprofit. The campaign culminated in a rally outside Goodman’s mansion in Lakeview. Less than a week later, Goodman announced he would step down after all, and the Reader’s future is more certain—and hopeful—than ever.

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