Notes for 10/3/18

Dirty Water Politics

A whisper is sweeping through the homes of Chicago: one if by election, two if by gubernatorial appointment. Well, not quite, but we will all be waiting anxiously on word from a judge as to exactly how the next Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner will be elected, or potentially not. The seat has been vacant for nearly a year, following the death of commissioner Tim Bradford last December. A last-minute write-in election secured nominations for both Democrat Cameron Davis and Green Party candidate Geoffrey Cubbage. (No Republican candidate ran.) But just three days after the primary, Governor Bruce Rauner appointed his go-to interim district commissioner, Republican David Walsh, to fill the vacancy—and argued that Walsh would stay on beyond the upcoming general election and until 2020, when Bradford’s term would have ended. The appointment, which Rauner made three and a half months after Bradford’s death, was met with raised eyebrows at the Cook County Clerk’s Office. Spokesperson Nick Shields responded, via the Sun-Times, that “November’s general election will determine who fills the … vacancy,” and that “whoever receives the most votes in this race will be certified by our office as the winner of the race.” Now, with that November deadline looming, the MWRD is relying on a court-issued declaratory judgment to settle the dispute. With Davis promising to focus on green infrastructure and against corporate pollution, and Cubbage criticizing the MWRD’s pay-to-play politics—which he helped to reveal earlier this year in a Green Party–conducted analysis of campaign donors who received contracts from the MWRD—we are hopeful that the judge sends a clear signal to Chicagoans that their votes do, in fact, matter.

Another One Bites the Dust, or: What Goes Around Comes Around

After fifty-five years, the family-owned Chicago grocery chain Treasure Island will permanently close all locations. October 12 will be the last business day according to an employee from the Clark and Elm streets location, as told to Crain’s Chicago Business. Patrons of the Hyde Park location may be experiencing déjà vu at the sight of empty shelves and long lines to buy the remaining discounted inventory, just as they did ten years ago when the same empty shelves at the same location signaled the close of the seventy-five year old Hyde Park Co-Op, which was one of the nation’s oldest and largest consumer grocery co-ops. But that closure ushered in the then new Treasure Island store. In fact, according to a 2008 Tribune article, a lease had been signed for the Hyde Park Treasure Island location before the Hyde Park Co-Op had actually closed its doors. Although there is no scoop at present as to what will occupy the 55th Street space once Treasure Island exits, it is highly probable whatever moves in will move in will do so at warp speed, in stark contrast to the the five-year vacancy in South Shore’s Jeffery Plaza—which to date is the only location in Chicago not to be replaced by a new grocer after the Dominick’s grocery chain left the Chicago area in 2013.

Reader Redux

It’s hard out here for an alt-weekly paper. Everywhere you look it seems like local indie publications are shuttering (or getting bought out by mysterious right-wing shell companies). But somehow—improbably—the Reader keeps on keeping on. Just last year, Chicago’s largest alt-weekly narrowly escaped being TRONCed into oblivion. Now it’s changed hands for the second time in a little over a year, and has been operating without a permanent editor-in-chief since January. But the Reader’s latest sale has given us a few reasons to be optimistic about the paper’s future. In what must be a historic twist, the notoriously white and North Side-oriented paper is about to be Black-owned. The new ownership group—led by Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy Leavell—officially took over on Monday. The group also announced two new hires: Anne Elizabeth Moore as editor-in-chief and Karen Hawkins as managing editor for digital. Moore is a cultural critic, author, punk anthologist, comics journalist, and self-identified queer-crip. If you go to her website the first words you’ll see are “Sweet Little Cunt” (the name of her newest book). We think this is—um—cool. Hawkins is the founder of Rebellious, an online feminist magazine about Chicago, politics and pop culture, and a Black lesbian from the south suburbs who has been hustling in Chicago media for years and deserves a come up. The two women join longtime Windy City Times editor and publisher Tracy Baim, who was installed as the Reader’s publisher back in September. By our count that means that the editorial leadership of The Reader is now entirely made up of queer women—particularly remarkable when you realize that just a few months ago, the paper was run by a narcissistic shock jock who openly abused his staff and thought it was a cool idea to print a racist slur in a headline. We hear there’s another big change in store for the Reader: they’re moving to Bronzeville. We’re excited to welcome our new neighbors to the South Side, and for any Reader staff who are feeling lost down here, we recommend checking out our Best of the South Side Issue.

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