This June, the City quietly conducted a study of lead levels in homes where new water mains had been installed together with water meters (part of a water conservation effort). The study found that eleven percent of tested metered homes showed elevated lead levels, above federal standards of fifteen parts-per-billion. Rather than releasing the information to the public–or even just the owners of Chicago’s 165,000 metered homes–the City only notified the fifteen homes where it found higher lead levels. Last week, the City revealed that a new study found that fifty-one of the 296 tested metered homes had elevated lead levels. The Department of Water Management had known for months, but didn’t release results until last week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended the use of meters, saying that he uses one in his own home and that “If I thought in any way this was a risk, I wouldn’t have it my own home when my kids were growing up.” As citizens expressed outrage that the water department had waited so long to release the information, Emanuel argued they had actually released the information early, claiming that they did “what is unprecedented, not just in conducting the study but an unprecedented step to inform people in the midst of a study.” Only last Friday, the City contacted the owners of metered homes and offered $60 filtration systems for free. Meanwhile, water meters will continue to be installed.
Following months of boring, excitable news coverage of where Amazon is going to place its second “headquarters,” including whether or not it would take up huge tracts of valuable vacant land on the South Side being offered by the City at what we can assume was a steal (though the City refused to release its bid), we finally have an answer: there are going to be two second “headquarters” for Amazon, neither of them in Chicago, according to a late-night report from the Wall Street Journal. It’s a bittersweet ending for us at the Weekly; while we’ve made no bones about our skepticism for tax writeoffs or effective public land donations for huge corporations, this was the most attention that really anyone outside of Bronzeville has paid to the old Michael Reese Hospital site in years. (The other named South Side location, the “Rezkoville” strip of riverfront land being developed into something called “The 78,” will be just fine, and probably ultimately infuriating.)
Uncertainty, Hope for Extended Bikesharing
After four years of anemic expansion, City officials have finally committed to bringing bikesharing to one hundred percent of the city. (Though it’s not that hard a choice; the city won a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, part of which will go to pay for the expansion.) According to a report from WTTW, City Hall has yet to determine whether the expansion will be in the form of Divvy, the existing system, or through contracts with companies offering dockless bikeshare (that is, bikes you can pick up and drop off anywhere within the usage zone), a pilot program which just ended on the Far South Side. Not mentioned anywhere in news coverage of this expansion is whether that grant money will be used to also expand bike infrastructure; the South and West Sides offer comically low amounts of bike lanes, protected or otherwise, and that coupled with discriminatory bike ticketing practices won’t encourage many to ride where it’s unsafe.