WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/tags/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Looking out for climate change in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/looking-out-climate-change-chicago-109968 <p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: <a href="#event">Key interviews that contributed to this story</a> about climate change and the future of Chicago were first presented during <a href="#event">The Raw Report,</a>&nbsp;a live media event co-produced by WBEZ and <a href="http://www.prairie.org/programs/public-square" target="_blank">The Public Square</a>, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council.&nbsp;</em></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20family%20photo.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 200px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Mark Mesle, center, asked his question out of concern for his family, including wife Abby and daughter Parker. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mesle)" />Some people find it hard to get worked up about the fate of future generations. But Mark Mesle, who came to Curious City with a big question about climate change, has no problem putting a face on future environmental anxieties.</p><p>Her name is Parker. She&rsquo;s Mark&rsquo;s 18-month-old daughter. He and his wife Abbey have another kid on the way, and it got him wondering:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>How will climate change impact Chicago?</em></p><p>Mark runs a website, <a href="http://www.50yearforecast.org" target="_blank">www.50yearforecast.org</a>, devoted to raising awareness on climate change, so he&rsquo;s no stranger to the topic. What he asked us for was a higher-resolution picture of the problem: a better understanding of how greenhouse gases might change life for his kids here in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;You always see 2100 projections,&rdquo; said Mark, who is 33 years old. &ldquo;How about 2045, when my daughter is my age?&rdquo;</p><p>Mark wants to know what kind of world his kids will grow up in, so understandably he asked for a high degree of detail.</p><p>&ldquo;Do the Cubs not play August games anymore?&rdquo; he asked, for example.</p><p>But here&rsquo;s the thing: Mark&rsquo;s asking for something that we don&#39;t have a clear answer for, according to Liz Moyer, an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry and transport at the University of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We know physically that climate change will happen. We know geologically what&rsquo;s happened to species in the past,&rdquo; Moyer said. &ldquo;How do you turn that into saying, &lsquo;It&rsquo;s going to cost this much, it&rsquo;ll change our economy in this way.&rsquo; That&rsquo;s something we&rsquo;ve had trouble doing, and the economic models are set up to reflect that.&rdquo;</p><p>The basic science is settled. Greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, most notably) trap heat within the atmosphere, causing a global temperature rise. As it gets warmer, sea level rises due to the physical expansion of heated water and melting ice around the globe.</p><p>What all this means for Chicago is harder to say &mdash; the<a href="http://www.ipcc-data.org/guidelines/pages/gcm_guide.html" target="_blank"> climate models scientist use don&#39;t provide that kind of resolution</a>. But the situation could be improving. <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/03/19/climate-data-initiative-launches-strong-public-and-private-sector-commitments" target="_blank">In March the federal government announced</a> it would release data from NOAA, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Defense, and other Federal agencies on its website, climate.data.gov, <a href="http://resilience.maps.arcgis.com/home/" target="_blank">to help cities and regions plan</a> for climate change. The <a href="http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/warm/cdflist.asp?typ=a" target="_blank">Illinois Climate Network&#39;s data</a> is part of that growing cache of information.</p><p>Globally, though, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/climate-change-warnings-sharp-relief-104942" target="_blank">scientists are concerned</a>. A<a href="http://whatweknow.aaas.org/" target="_blank"> report issued March 18</a> by the American Association for the Advancement of Science warns, &ldquo;We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.&rdquo;</p><p>So, if we won&rsquo;t be able to give a foolproof picture of what Chicago&rsquo;s climate will be like in 2045, is there any insight we could send Mark&rsquo;s way?</p><p>It turns out there is.</p><p>We found scientists, economists, activists and Chicago officials who are on the lookout for local effects of climate change. While none gives a full-blown prediction, each identifies which areas of life &mdash; the local economy, the lake, whatever &mdash; are most vulnerable and why Mark (and the rest of us) should consider them.</p><p><strong>What&rsquo;s on Chicago&rsquo;s radar</strong></p><p>The city <a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/climate_change_and_chicago/5.php" target="_blank">laid out what it knows</a> in its<a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/research___reports/8.php" target="_blank"> Climate Action Plan</a>, which was adopted in 2008. City Hall has three main concerns:<a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/temperature/20.php" target="_blank"> it will get hotter</a>, exacerbating<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/weary-high-chicago-asthma-rates-some-lobby-washington-107461" target="_blank"> problems with air quality</a> and perhaps making<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/consecutive-days-warm-temperatures-could-break-1995-record-97332" target="_blank"> deadly heat waves</a> stronger and/or more common;<a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/precipitation/21.php" target="_blank"> flooding could get worse</a> as intense<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174" target="_blank"> rainstorms become more common</a>, further burdening<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731" target="_blank"> an already swollen sewer system</a>; and<a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/ecosystems/22.php" target="_blank"> Chicago&#39;s native ecosystems could change</a>, forcing farmers, gardeners and landscapers to change their habits.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/THUMB%20flickr%20seth%20anderson%20-%20possible%20thumb.jpg" style="float: right; height: 260px; width: 325px; margin: 5px;" title="The Fisk generating plant in Chicago was closed in 2012. (FLickr/Seth Anderson)" />High school students at Robert Lindblom Math &amp; Science Academy in the West Englewood neighborhood are working on that last problem, studying which tree species are best suited to a warmer climate. So Parker Mesle and her forthcoming sibling will likely plant different saplings than her father, our question asker.</p><p>In the future there might be less Lake Michigan than Mark&rsquo;s used to, if <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-causing-record-low-levels-lake-michigan-105262" target="_blank">a trend toward low lake levels</a> continues. On average, warmer average temperatures should mean less ice cover during winter, which means the Great Lakes may evaporate faster than they&rsquo;re recharged. That could change coastal ecosystems <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/24/low-waters-and-high-anxiety/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">and hurt the lucrative shipping industry</a> in the region, which <a href="http://www.marad.dot.gov/documents/US-Flag_Great_Lakes_Water_Transportation_Industry_Final_Report_2013.pdf" target="_top">the U.S. Department of Transportation says</a> supplies $14.1 billion in annual income to U.S. citizens, and $33.6 billion in annual U.S. business revenues.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s thinking through effects of climate change that may not be so dire, however. If Mark&rsquo;s kids choose to live in Chicago, they could have plenty of company. That&rsquo;s because, under some scenarios, transportation (especially forms that involve climate-changing fossil fuels) could become more expensive, making life in the dense, urban core more attractive.</p><p>Chicago is thinking through encouraging or adapting to higher residential density, and strategies include everything from neighborhood walkability to <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/city_sustainability_is_about_t.html" target="_blank">historic preservation and affordable housing</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;If you think big picture, a lot of this is about creating a really livable, really competitive and really livable city,&rdquo; said Karen Weigert, Chicago&rsquo;s chief sustainability officer. She said urbanites have a lower per capita carbon footprint than those in less densely populated communities, which tend to have higher transportation emissions.</p><p>&ldquo;Living in an urban environment, as a start,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is actually a pretty good climate choice.&rdquo; <a href="http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6218" target="_blank">Even suburbs are starting to reinvest in transit-oriented development</a> and walkability&mdash;characteristics traditionally associated with inner cities. Reducing the distance people need to travel reduces their fuel use, which can save <a href="http://www.nhc.org/media/documents/pub_heavy_load_10_06.pdf" target="_blank">money as well as greenhouse gas emissions</a>. So it&rsquo;s likely Mark&rsquo;s kids will have more transit options (not to mention <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/54-mpg-argonne-natl-lab-wins-grant-fuel-efficiency-research-90433" target="_blank">more fuel-efficient vehicles</a>) wherever they decide to live.</p><p><strong>Knocking on Chicago&rsquo;s door?</strong></p><p>But what if rising seas in Florida and New York &mdash; let alone Bangladesh &mdash; send &ldquo;climate refugees&rdquo; flocking to Chicago? This is an example of an indirect &ldquo;knock-on&rdquo; effect of climate change that came up during <a href="#event">our panel discussion </a>in February. As University of Chicago Law Professor David Weisbach said, however, the Chicago area might be well-positioned to handle newcomers and other unforeseen impacts.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a temperate environment. We have a highly diversified economy &mdash; it&rsquo;s not dependent on any one sector. We have a stable fresh water supply,&rdquo; Weisbach said. &ldquo;If you think about what the effects of climate change will be in Chicago, it&rsquo;s going to be the knock-on effects. We&rsquo;re connected to the rest of the world, and what matters to the rest of the world matters to us. That will affect us potentially very, very deeply.&rdquo;</p><p>When we try to figure out what those potential impacts will be, we&rsquo;re inevitably speculating about the ability of our city to respond to change. One key problem with that is our ability to cope with challenges isn&rsquo;t uniform. Poorer communities, or those with less political clout, get passed over.</p><p>That&rsquo;s true in Chicago,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/qa-kim-wasserman-little-villages-coal-crusader-106742" target="_blank"> according to Kimberly Wasserman Nieto</a>, who is executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. During <a href="#event">our event in February</a>, she said sustainability efforts need to address communities all around the city &mdash; not just on the North Side.</p><p>&ldquo;If it&rsquo;s about saving the butterflies and building green streets in Lincoln Park, that&rsquo;s great for them,&rdquo; Wasserman said, &ldquo;but what does that do for the people on the Southwest Side of Chicago?&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/flickr%20rainforest%20action%20network.jpg" style="float: left; height: 222px; width: 335px; margin: 5px;" title="Activists from the Little Village Environmental Justice organization protested in 2011 against the Crawford coal plant, which closed in 2012 (Flickr/Rainforest Action Network)" />She said local efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions can help marginalized communities take control of their future, possibly creating jobs in turn.</p><p>&ldquo;For us it&rsquo;s about showing how a local economy can help a community and how that in change can also help turn the impacts of climate change,&rdquo; Wasserman said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re working, breathing, living in our communities, fighting for our environment, and we want to showcase that bringing it local is really one of the only ways that we can save our environment.&rdquo;</p><p>Climate justice is a global issue, too, because the poorest countries also happen to be those that will get hit hardest by the effects of climate change. Countries in the tropics tend to have both fewer resources and far greater biodiversity than countries in temperate zones. Sea-level rise in Bangladesh alone<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/04/14/us-bangladesh-climate-islands-idUSDHA23447920080414" target="_blank"> is expected to displace tens of millions of people</a>.</p><p>Northwestern University Economist Benjamin Jones recently co-authored <a href="http://economics.mit.edu/files/9138" target="_blank">a study</a> examining the connection between severe weather and economic impacts. He and his colleagues found there&rsquo;s a surprisingly large range of possible economic outcomes.</p><p>&ldquo;For example, it&rsquo;s increasingly clear that when you have extreme heat in the U.S., that you see a large negative impact on agricultural output. It&rsquo;s increasingly clear that very high heat leads to at least temporary large spikes in mortality, especially among the very old and very young,&rdquo; Jones said. And, he said, it can impact economic growth on a large scale. With colleagues at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jones <a href="http://economics.mit.edu/files/9138" target="_blank">statistically analyzed the connection between severe weather, climate change and economic impacts</a>. One degree Celsius of warming could curb a country&rsquo;s growth by as much as one percentage point &mdash; a huge effect, considering the U.S. growth rate <a href="http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-growth" target="_blank">was around 3 percent in recent years</a>.</p><p><strong>Climate of opportunity</strong></p><p>But figuring out how to respond to change &mdash; what experts are calling climate &ldquo;resiliency&rdquo; &mdash; could create huge opportunities, too.</p><p>Jones said if Chicago innovates within the low-carbon tech sector, it can make money and jobs while coping with climate risk.</p><p>Chicago is<a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-19/changing-gears-will-advanced-batteries-charge-midwest-economy-93278" target="_blank"> the nation&rsquo;s hub for battery technology</a>. The<a href="about:blank" target="_blank"> wind energy industry is big here</a>, too, as is<a href="about:blank" target="_blank"> energy efficiency</a> and<a href="about:blank" target="_blank"> water technology</a>. Perhaps Mark Mesle&rsquo;s children will be among the scientists and engineers who will help us adapt to climate change.</p><p>&ldquo;Necessity is the mother of invention. We&rsquo;re already seeing a lot of innovation around clean energy, around agriculture,&rdquo; Jones said. &ldquo;If there is a lowest-cost way out, it will be that route.&rdquo;</p><p>Ultimately it&rsquo;s a question of managing short-term shocks and long-term changes. A short-term influx of climate refugees could be a good thing, providing skilled labor and boosting the local tax base. But too much too fast could overburden city services, especially if those services are already strained by severe weather.</p><p>In the six years since Chicago set out on its climate action agenda, the city has implemented a few notable initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Ratepayers voted to buy power through municipal aggregation,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003" target="_blank"> which doubled the share of wind energy in the city&#39;s electricity supply</a>. That followed the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129" target="_blank"> closure of two coal-fired power plants on the Southwest Side</a> ahead of schedule. And last year Chicago<a href="http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6798" target="_blank"> directed landlords of buildings larger than 50,000 square feet, which account for 15 percent of the city&rsquo;s total energy use, to report their energy consumption</a>. That&rsquo;s expected to improve the rate of energy efficiency improvements already hastened<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/progs/env/retrofit_chicago.html" target="_blank"> by a slimmed-down approval process</a> for retrofits.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/flickr%20steven%20vance.jpg" style="float: right; height: 289px; width: 385px; margin: 5px;" title="A stretch of Cermak Road in Chicago is meant to serve as a model for sustainable streetscape. (Flickr/Steven Vance) " />And parts of Chicago itself may look different for our question asker&rsquo;s children. Chicago has invested in green infrastructure, including<a href="http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6409" target="_blank"> a stretch of Cermak Road meant to serve as a model for sustainable streetscapes</a>. With rain gardens and smog-eating pavement, Sustainability Chief Karen Weigert said &ldquo;It&rsquo;s the kind of infrastructure that will be strong and critically important going forward.&rdquo;</p><p>That project cost less than competing proposals, city officials said when it was announced in 2012, but not all climate resiliency infrastructure projects are easy sells. Potential costs are huge, but so are upfront investments.<a href="http://www.cnt.org/2013/05/14/urban-flooding-is-chronic-and-costly-but-not-correlated-with-floodplains/" target="_blank"> The Center for Neighborhood Technology found</a> floods cost Chicagoans $660 million between 2007 and 2011 (just based on insurance claims paid out), for example. But, as we learned from atmospheric chemist Liz Moyer, cash-strapped governments don&rsquo;t typically make major investments to fend off future pain that is <a href="http://www.cicero.uio.no/media/9411.pdf" target="_blank">inherently uncertain</a>.</p><p><strong>Global citizens</strong></p><p>Absent national movement on a carbon tax or trading scheme that might catalyze development for climate-resilient infrastructure, Chicago will probably continue to lean on its most reliable resource: its people. As Weigert said, the city&rsquo;s motto is <em>Urbs in Horto</em> &mdash; city in a garden.</p><p>And that city is increasingly connected to others around the world. Whether it&rsquo;s in response to business opportunities, climate refugees and other knock-on effects, or carbon emissions from around the globe, Chicago&rsquo;s going to change with the climate. Our question asker Mark Mesle hopes we&rsquo;ll rise to the occasion. So for the sake of his kids, he&rsquo;s urging action.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve sort of always felt there needs to be international cooperation,&rdquo; he said at <a href="#event">our panel event</a> in February. &ldquo;That doesn&rsquo;t happen unless U.S. politicians care about it, and U.S. politicians don&rsquo;t care about it unless you tell them to care about it.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City, and a freelance journalist. <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">Follow him on Twitter at @Cementley</a>.</p><p><strong><a name="event"></a>The Raw Report: An experiment in live media-making</strong></p><p><strong><iframe frameborder="0" height="420" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/29067314&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></strong></p><p>In February 2014, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.prairie.org/programs/public-square" target="_blank">The Public Square</a> (a program of the Illinois Humanities Council) co-produced &nbsp;&ldquo;The Raw Report,&quot; an experiment in live media-making. The event, held at the Jim &amp; Kay Mabie Studio at Chicago Public Media, included a <a href="#sources">panel of knowledgeable sources</a> that answered Mark Mesle&rsquo;s question in front of a live audience. Teams of young and newly-minted reporters interpreted that answer and created their own original audio presentations in real time, which they reported back to the audience.</p><p>Moderator Laura Washington led a follow-up discussion that explored questions such as: How do the stories generated by the teams of young reporters differ and why? How important is it to realize that each story we consume in media is only one of an infinite number of ways to tell that same story?</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="352" scrolling="no" src="http://files.slidemypics.com/app/js/iframe.html?bg_color=1f1f1f&amp;amp;hash=ab3ebd6dc91362591b5843aca1360030&amp;amp;r=0.32371021481230855" width="526"></iframe></p><address style="text-align: center;">(Full set of photos and more info in WBEZ&#39;s Flickr pool:&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.is/1pXyf5r" target="_blank">http://wbez.is/1pXyf5r</a>)</address><p><strong><a name="sources"></a>Sincere thanks to our panelists:</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~moyer/MoyerWebsite/Home%20Page/HomePage.html" target="_blank">Elisabeth Moyer</a>, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Transport at the University of Chicago. Moyer&rsquo;s research explores climate modeling and impact assessment. As a researcher with the <a href="http://www.rdcep.org/" target="_blank">Center for Robust Decision-making on Climate &amp; Energy Policy</a> (RDCEP), she&rsquo;s interested in sizing up and dealing with the uncertainty involved with making climate change predictions &mdash; case in point, a recent paper, &ldquo;<a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2312770" target="_blank">Climate Impacts on Economic Growth as Drivers of Uncertainty in the Social Cost of Carbon</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Kimberly Wasserman Nieto, executive director, <a href="http://lvejo.org/" target="_blank">Little Village Environmental Justice Organization</a>. She&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129" target="_blank">led the charge to close Midwest Generation&rsquo;s Crawford coal plant in her Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, as well as the Fisk power plant in Pilsen</a> &mdash; an effort for which she <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/news/chicago-activist-wins-goldman-environmental-prize-106645" target="_blank">won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize</a> in 2013. LVEJO&rsquo;s success has been recognized worldwide, but Wasserman says the attention has only sharpened her focus on environmental justice in Chicago.</p><p><a href="http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/weisbach" target="_blank">David Weisbach</a>, Walter J. Blum Professor of Law and Senior Fellow, the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Trained as a mathematician and lawyer, Weisbach is primarily interested in issues relating to federal taxation and to climate change.</p><p><strong>Thanks, too, to our teams of journalists, who represented the following organizations:</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.chicagoreporter.com/" target="_blank">The Chicago Reporter</a>: An investigative news organization that identifies, analyzes, and reports on the social, economic, and political issues of metropolitan Chicago with a focus on race and poverty.</p><p><a href="http://themash.com/" target="_blank">The Mash</a>: A weekly newspaper and website written largely by, for, and about Chicago high school students.</p><p><a href="http://www.freespiritmedia.org/" target="_blank">Free Spirit Media</a>: An organization that provides education, access, and opportunity in media production to underserved urban youth.</p><p><a href="http://www.karilydersen.com/teaching.html" target="_blank">The Social Justice Chicago Reporting Fellowship program</a>&nbsp;at Northwestern University&rsquo;s Medill School of Journalism</p><p><a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Journalism/" target="_blank">Columbia College Journalism Department</a></p><p><strong>Thanks to our partner for the Raw Report:&nbsp;</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.prairie.org/programs/public-square" target="_blank">The Public Square</a>&nbsp;is a program of the Illinois Humanities Council.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IHC-Logo_Color_Plain.jpg" style="margin: 5px; height: 89px; width: 400px;" title="" /></div></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/looking-out-climate-change-chicago-109968 In Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, integration is no accident http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-beverly-neighborhood-integration-no-accident-109922 <p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" scrolling="no" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/wDl-MDSpfrk?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Erin McDuffie is from Ohio. Her husband grew up in Champaign, Ill. A mixed-race household with a toddler, they wanted to buy a house in a stable integrated South Side community. Their search led them to Beverly about three years ago. Beverly still has strong ties to its white ethnic roots, but also has a sizable number of African-Americans. Erin wondered what happened to make this South Side neighborhood different than Roseland or Englewood, which long ago became predominantly black.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/erin snow FOR WEB.jpg" style="height: 137px; width: 220px; float: right;" title="Erin McDuffie, left, asked how Chicago's Beverly neighborhood maintained racial integration. (Photo courtesy Erin McDuffie)" /></p><p>Erin asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How has Beverly managed to maintain racial integration while the majority of other South Side neighborhoods experienced white flight?</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>A little background</strong></p><p>In hyper-segregated Chicago, Beverly is often regarded as a South Side oasis of integration. Unlike integrated Hyde Park or Rogers Park on the North Side, there&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.uchicago.edu/"> no</a> university<a href="http://www.luc.edu/"> to anchor</a> Beverly or play a significant role in real estate.</p><p>The neighborhood is home to arguably the<a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/top-notch-beefburgers/Location?oid=1024342"> best cheap burger</a> and fries in the city. Beverly&rsquo;s beauty is visible in its hilly streets and oversized lots, with homes designed by this <a href="http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM73DF_Raymond_W_Evans_Residence_Chicago_IL">legendary architect</a> among others. Mansions snake along Longwood Drive and the neighborhood&rsquo;s interior boasts an array of architectural styles, from Tudor to Italianate to Queen Anne to Spanish Colonial. Buoyed by its commitment to supporting local businesses, there&rsquo;s<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-01-09/classified/chi-beverly-profile_chomes_0109jan09_1_houses-landmark-districts-neighborhoods"> a quaintness</a> to Beverly.</p><p>According to the Woodstock Institute, today the neighborhood is 62 percent white and 34 percent black. But it wasn&rsquo;t always that way.</p><p>For the first half of the 20th century, Chicago&rsquo;s black families were confined to a chain of neighborhoods on the South Side known as the Black Belt &ndash; often in<a href="http://museum.icp.org/museum/exhibitions/bronzeville/bronzeville1.htm"> cramped kitchenettes</a>. But after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case<a href="http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/334/1/case.html"> Shelley v. Kraemer</a> struck down <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1067.html">racially restrictive real estate covenants</a> in 1948, Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhood racial composition changed dramatically.</p><p>With new housing options, blacks moved farther south to neighborhoods with attractive single-family homes such as Chatham, Englewood, Avalon Park and Calumet Heights. White families couldn&rsquo;t pack their bags fast enough, at times even moving during the middle of the night. From 1950 to 1960, Englewood&rsquo;s white population dropped from 89 percent to 31 percent. The story of<a href="http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/11/mapping-60-years-white-flight-brain-drain-and-american-migration/7449/"> White Flight</a> played out similarly in other neighborhoods. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-beverly-neighborhood-integration-no-accident-109922#censusdata2">(see Census chart.)</a></p><p>Beverly, however, was an exception.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/for%20web%20houses.jpg" style="float: right; height: 214px; width: 320px;" title="Single-family houses on a residential Beverly street, 1974. (Photo courtesy UIC Digital Collections)" /></p><p>Black families didn&rsquo;t immediately move to Beverly, which was almost as far south as one could get before leaving the city and included more expensive housing stock. Some of the white Beverly families had already fled places like South Shore and Roseland once blacks starting buying homes there in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1970, Beverly was 99 percent white. Some community leaders and real estate agents warned the neighborhood would devolve into a &ldquo;black ghetto&rdquo; if blacks started moving in. But a band of determined neighborhood planners helped Beverly push past the early opposition.</p><p>My search for an answer to Erin&rsquo;s Curious City question led me to <a href="http://chicagohistory.org/research">Chicago History Museum&rsquo;s Research Center</a> and the<a href="http://www.ridgehistoricalsociety.org/commun_hist02.html"> Ridge Historical Society</a> in Beverly. Combing through documents and original source material, I discovered that the<a href="http://www.bapa.org/content.asp?contentid=25"> Beverly Area Planning Association</a> (BAPA) stepped in to quell white fears, welcome its new black neighbors, battle the real estate industry and craft a new mission statement that celebrated diversity. The nonprofit community organization changed its direction in 1971 from a group concerned with zoning and parking to one working toward stabilized integration. BAPA&rsquo;s service area includes the sister community Morgan Park.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;Integration is inevitable&rdquo;</strong></p><p>That line comes from a flip chart called<a href="http://www.bapa.org/article.asp?articleid=1544"> &ldquo;Beverly Now&rdquo;</a> by future BAPA member L. Patrick Stanton. In 1971, Stanton toured the neighborhood to give presentations about integration. I found the original sheets penned in magic marker when Erin and I visited the Ridge Historical Society. (Stanton still lives in Beverly, as do six of his nine children and three grandchildren.)</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bapa%20pat%20stanton.jpg" style="float: left; width: 190px; height: 400px;" title="Patrick Stanton gave presentations about positive racial integration in Beverly throughout the 1970s. " />During this 1970s period, Beverly was a mostly Irish-Catholic neighborhood. BAPA hired Phillip Dolan, a former city administrator from Columbus, Ohio, as its new executive director. He set up a hotline for rumor control to relay accurate information in the wake of buzz about blacks buying in the neighborhood. BAPA staff members visited certain blocks to encourage people to stay in Beverly.</p><p>Residents also chafed against<a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/147.html"> &ldquo;blockbusting,&rdquo;</a> efforts by real estate agents to trigger the turnover of white-owned homes to blacks. Also known as &ldquo;panic peddling,&rdquo; this practice urged whites to sell before it was &ldquo;too late&rdquo; and &ldquo;the blacks&rdquo; lowered their property values. Agents might hire black subagents to walk or drive through a changing neighborhood to solicit business or behave in such a way to exaggerate white fears. In these scenarios, worried whites would sell their home cheaply and a panic peddler would inflate the price to, in turn, sell the home to a black family.</p><p>At the Chicago History Museum, I unearthed original BAPA newsletters from the 1970s. BAPA implored homeowners to sign &ldquo;letters of agency&rdquo; to prevent unauthorized solicitation from real estate agents. These letters asserted homeowners had no intention to sell. BAPA kept the letters on file and served &ldquo;uncooperative&rdquo; real estate firms with a notice to cease solicitation. Homeowners also refrained from putting for-sale signs in their yard.</p><p>Dolan told the Tribune in 1976: &ldquo;White families in urban areas must realize they can&rsquo;t run away from blacks. And they must realize that middle-class blacks and whites both want the same things &ndash; good schools, good services, low crime rate. At the same time, blacks are realizing that a neighborhood that is all one race increases the process of deterioration.&rdquo;</p><p>Between 1970 and 1980, the black population in Beverly grew from .1 percent to almost 14 percent. My aunt Joyce Bristow, a retired Chicago Public Schools administrator, was among the wave of those first black families.</p><p>She and her husband had been living in Little Italy and wanted to put down roots on the South Side near family. They felt Hyde Park was too congested and the houses in Chatham too old. In 1977, the couple fell in love with a tri-level house in Beverly.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a neighborhood that was always fascinating,&rdquo; Aunt Joyce said. &ldquo;I wanted diversity but that wasn&rsquo;t the main selling point. The house was the main selling point.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m always proud to say I&rsquo;ve lived in Beverly for 35 years. People are always taken aback by that.&rdquo;</p><p>Financially, it has been a good decision; her property value is up 300 percent. But that first year someone threw rocks in the big picture window off of the living room. My aunt said she assumed it was racially motivated.</p><p>&ldquo;We knew people weren&rsquo;t happy about blacks in Beverly. It made me nervous. A lot of times I closed the drapes. It made my parents very nervous.&rdquo;</p><p>Only one other black family resided on the well-manicured block when my aunt moved in. (Today there are at least 10.) Back then, apparently, that made the lone black owner nervous. Aunt Joyce said he filed a complaint against her black real estate agent for selling to another black on the block.<a name="censusdata2"></a></p><hr /><p><i>Chart: Racial makeup of South Side neighborhoods (1950-2013)</i><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Am-AbC8HDbXMdGhITU9jTkt1YTNxd1NhN2hPaUV5U2c&transpose=0&headers=1&range=A1%3AC56&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Left vertical axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"sortColumn":null,"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Chart title","showRowNumber":false,"annotations":{"domain":{"style":"line"}},"alternatingRowStyle":true,"hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Horizontal axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"width":600,"height":371},"state":{},"view":{"columns":[0,{"label":"WHITE","properties":{"role":"annotation"},"sourceColumn":1},{"label":"BLACK","properties":{"role":"annotationText"},"sourceColumn":2}]},"isDefaultVisualization":true,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p><p><i>Sources: Local Community Fact Book of Chicago, Woodstock Institute</i></p><p><strong>Racial steering</strong></p><p>Presumably, my aunt&rsquo;s neighbor feared so-called &ldquo;racial steering&rdquo; on his block. BAPA publicly worried about re-segregation in Beverly, too. They didn&rsquo;t want real estate agents selling homes consecutively, say three or more, to blacks on any given block.</p><p>Charles Shanabruch, who&rsquo;s white, led BAPA in the 1980s. I met up with him at a downtown Chicago coffee shop. He moved to Beverly in the late 1970s with his wife and two sons.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/historic%20society%20embed%20photo%20FOR%20WEB.png" style="float: right; height: 192px; width: 300px;" title="WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore, right, flips through original documents from the Beverly Area Planning Association with question-asker Erin McDuffie, left, at the Ridge Historical Society. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></p><p>&ldquo;It was a diverse community; that was important to us,&rdquo; Shanabruch said. Blacks continued to move to the neighborhood but another real estate force threatened that progress.</p><p>In the mid-1980s, Beverly, and a dozen integrated south and western suburbs conducted a testing program in which black and white couples of comparable incomes posed as potential home buyers to see how real estate agents treated them. BAPA said white testers were discouraged from racially integrated areas and black testers usually were steered away from homes in predominantly white suburbs. My aunt and late uncle &ndash; then a BAPA board member &ndash; were testers.</p><p>BAPA sued four Southwest suburban real estate firms for steering blacks to Beverly only. White clients were told they wouldn&rsquo;t want to live in Beverly because they wouldn&rsquo;t be comfortable in an integrated neighborhood. BAPA lost the first case and settled the other four. Real estate agents went through training, but more importantly, Shanabruch said it put the industry on notice.</p><p>&ldquo;I still have a visceral reaction,&rdquo; Shanabruch said of the first case. &ldquo;The problem was the jury was an all-white jury. Every time a black came up to be considered, the defense did a preempt [to keep blacks off.]&rdquo;</p><p>Realtors struck back. They sued BAPA, accusing the organization of trying to keep suburban brokers from doing business in Beverly and Morgan Park. BAPA prevailed against the lawsuit.</p><p>But some proponents of open housing took umbrage with BAPA. Frank Williams, a realtor, Beverly resident and president of the South Side NAACP branch told <em>The Chicago Tribune</em> in 1985: &ldquo;What is the difference between Cicero, which says we don&rsquo;t want any of you, and a community like Beverly, which says we are going to practice integration maintenance and we will do everything possible not to allow any more than three of you on a block? I don&rsquo;t see a difference.&rdquo;</p><p>Shanabruch, then and now, insisted Beverly did not have a quota system to keep a racial balance. In a <em>Tribune</em> letter to the editor, he wrote: &ldquo;If only blacks are being shown houses in certain areas of our neighborhood or on certain blocks, we watch more carefully, encouraging blacks to look at other parts of the neighborhood and other areas in order to offset any effect that dealers&rsquo; steering might have. Likewise, we encourage whites not to limit their options, but encourage them to consider the aforementioned block.&rdquo;</p><p>During our recent coffee, Shanabruch told me he worried resegregation on a block-by-block level would&rsquo;ve made whites nervous and disrupted the neighborhood. BAPA saw the neighborhood in competition with suburbs like Oak Park and Evanston, communities that put a premium on integration. BAPA placed ads in <em>Chicago</em> magazine and set up booths and home fairs. The pitch? If you like architecture, great schools and leafy canopies, come to Beverly.</p><p><strong>Integrated Schools</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sutherland%20photo%201.jpg" style="height: 180px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Sutherland Elementary School was part of a desegregation plan in the early 1980s. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />I grew up in Chatham, but my siblings and I rode a yellow school bus to attend Sutherland Elementary in Beverly. In the early 1980s, Chicago Public Schools unveiled a<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1981/04/04/us/chicago-announces-plans-to-desegregate-schools.html"> desegregation plan</a> for students that included busing. My parents loved our black middle-class neighborhood but felt strongly that their three children should receive an integrated education. I didn&rsquo;t realize I was part of a social experiment until much later in college. I just knew that only black kids rode the bus and I couldn&rsquo;t walk home for lunch. Not just because it was too far, but because unlike many of my white classmates&rsquo; mothers, mine worked during the day.</p><p>Overall, I loved Sutherland, loved my teachers and had black and white friends over for sleepovers, and vice versa. But I did experience odd moments of racial consciousness at a young age in Beverly. For a long time I thought only white kids ate white bread and black kids ate wheat bread, based on what I saw at the lunch tables. Imagine my surprise when one day I saw a white classmate unwrap his sandwich with wheat bread. Then there was gym class, which I hated because the teacher was mean to me. A few years ago, I ran into our beloved former principal, who&rsquo;s white, and told him the story. He explained the gym teacher eventually left because she didn&rsquo;t adapt too well to new black kids in the school.</p><p>During this time Beverly leaders like Shanabruch pushed for magnet schools and enhanced programs &ndash; like the one at Sutherland called Options for Knowledge - to keep and attract families. Sometimes white families stayed, but the neighborhood schools remained strong irrespective of racial composition.</p><p>Jennifer Smith, who is white, grew up in Beverly along with her six siblings. They all attended Vanderpoel Magnet for elementary school in the 1980s. One year she was the only white girl in her classroom.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was a kid, I didn&rsquo;t really think about the fact that all of my friends were African American. It was just normal,&rdquo; Smith said. Her parents believed in public education. Smith and her younger sister were best friends with two black sisters on their block.</p><p>The racial tension came from elsewhere.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel in the 1980s, there was a sharp divide between the (white) Catholic school kids and the (white) public school kids. Most of the white people in Beverly sent their kids to Catholic schools,&rdquo; Smith said. &ldquo;We got called a lot of racial epithets like &lsquo;n-word lover.&rsquo; But it didn&rsquo;t shake our world up too much. We would throw stuff back and fight with them.&rdquo;<a name="cpsdata"></a></p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Am-AbC8HDbXMdEd1QWFEbVhlZW1xVDRxOW1ibl9jRGc&transpose=0&headers=1&range=A1%3AC7&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"titleTextStyle":{"bold":true,"color":"#000","fontSize":16},"series":{"0":{"errorBars":{"errorType":"none"},"color":"#c9daf8"}},"animation":{"duration":500},"theme":"maximized","width":600,"hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindowMode":null,"viewWindow":null,"maxValue":null},"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":null,"minValue":null,"logScale":false,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"logScale":false,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Racial makeup of public schools in Beverly","height":371,"domainAxis":{"direction":1},"legend":"in","focusTarget":"category","isStacked":true,"tooltip":{}},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":false,"chartType":"ColumnChart","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script><p><span id="cke_bm_366S" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_367S" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_368S" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_371S" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><i>Source: Chicago Public Schools</i><span id="cke_bm_371E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_368E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_367E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><span id="cke_bm_366E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Back in the early 1990s, then 16-year-old Morgan Park High School student Todd Clayton and a group of black friends would play basketball at Beverly Park on West 102nd Street. One day, he recalled, a group of white boys with bats and chains chased them away screaming &ldquo;Nigger, this is our park.&rdquo; Clayton and his friends ran to a nearby gas station payphone to call the police.</p><p>&ldquo;When the police arrived on the scene, they didn&rsquo;t do anything to the boys that were still in the park. They told us it would be best for us to stay away from the park to avoid trouble,&rdquo; Clayton said.</p><p>Clayton said they ignored the police officers&rsquo; warning and kept coming back to the park &ndash; but with more guys as &ldquo;reinforcement.&rdquo; The white guys didn&rsquo;t bother them again.</p><p>&ldquo;Our main point was we weren&rsquo;t going to be pushed away,&rdquo; Clayton said. &ldquo;We evened the number for a fair fight if it came to that.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Today&rsquo;s Beverly</strong></p><p>The public schools in Beverly today don&rsquo;t necessarily reflect the diversity of the neighborhood. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-beverly-neighborhood-integration-no-accident-109922#cpsdata">(See chart.)</a></p><p>Most chalk it up to the strong Irish-Catholic identity and Catholic schools in the community. <a href="http://morganparkcps.org/special_programs.jsp">Morgan Park High School</a> now has a wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme that current BAPA executive director Matt Walsh hopes will be a draw to families.</p><p>Walsh said BAPA&rsquo;s annual home tour, <a href="http://www.bapa.org/RIDGERUN/">Ridge Run</a> and other special events are used to lure people to the area. &ldquo;People here want to live in a racially diverse community. We continue to work on it,&rdquo; Walsh said, acknowledging that people don&rsquo;t always socialize as much as he would like. Recently, the <a href="http://www.beverlyartcenter.org/">Beverly Arts Center</a> hired<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/beverly-arts-center-hires-new-executive-director-109725"> Heather Ireland Robinson</a>, in part, to bring in more diverse programming.</p><p>But challenges remain. In late February, a musician wrote in his&nbsp;<a href="http://icestentatious06.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/too-many-black-people-at-mcnallys-says-chicago-police-officer/">blog</a> about an untoward racial incident at McNally&rsquo;s, a bar on 111th and Western &ndash; technically the Morgan Park neighborhood. Many of the bars on Western Avenue between Beverly and Morgan Park have a reputation &ndash; rightly or wrongly &ndash; of not being open to blacks. The blog post spread via social media. &nbsp;</p><p>I called McNally&rsquo;s and was told the bar did not have a statement.</p><p>BAPA swiftly responded with an e-mail blast: &ldquo;Recently, an incident which allegedly occurred at a local establishment generated a whirlwind of passionate conversations on diversity in Beverly Hills/Morgan Park. While BAPA does not have all the details or specific facts involving this incident, it is clear from the exchanges on blogs, emails, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media that diversity, whether it be racial or ethnic, is an important cornerstone of this community. In fact, Beverly Hills/Morgan Park is one of the most integrated neighborhoods in Chicago, and BAPA has a rich history in working to achieve this&hellip;. With so many neighbors reaching out to BAPA and the greater online community to share their commitment to integration, diversity and inclusion, we truly do believe that we have a new &lsquo;shot at greatness.&rsquo; Bring us your concerns and your ideas, get involved in not just the conversation but the connection.&rdquo;</p><p>So, is that connection something Curious City question-asker Erin McDuffie feels living in Beverly today?</p><p>&ldquo;As far as the South Side is concerned, it means something to people &ndash; and to white people in Beverly in particular &ndash; to have integration,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And I think for black families who live here, my hope is that we feel accepted and know that&rsquo;s coming from a genuine place.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-beverly-neighborhood-integration-no-accident-109922 Hawks on the rise http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hawks-rise-109889 <p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/hawks/#/page1" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bird%20TOPPER.jpg" title="" /></a></p><p><em>Artwork by Chicago-based artist <a href="http://dianasudyka.com/">Diana Sudyka</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/140433257&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curious City podcast includes a story about the resurgence of Cooper&#39;s Hawks in Chicago. It starts at 4 minutes, 45 seconds into the program.&nbsp;(Subscribe via&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes&nbsp;</a>or&nbsp;<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)&nbsp;</em></p><p>This story about hawks was a long time coming for Carole Zemont of Chicago&rsquo;s Norwood Park neighborhood. Carole thinks she&rsquo;s &ldquo;genetically predisposed&rdquo; to be interested in birds, after growing up watching them at the bird feeder her mother put up in their backyard.</p><p>That lifelong interest &mdash; as well as a recent hawk sighting of hers &mdash; led Carole to ask Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is anybody studying the increasing hawk activity in Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhoods?</em></p><p>Her question covers several topics, including the people on the lookout for hawks, but we thought we owed it to Carole to suss out whether &mdash; in fact &mdash; there&rsquo;s a local population of hawks on the rise. While tracking this down, we came across a bit of a wildlife conservation success story.</p><p><strong>(Chicken) hawks on the increase</strong></p><p>Observant bird-watchers like Carole suspect there are more hawks in the area, but have professional researchers taken note, too?</p><p>Well, there are several local researchers who study and document the goings-on of wild critters in our urban and suburban environment, but when it comes to studying hawks specifically, we can turn up only one: Mason Fidino of the Urban Wildlife Institute. Founded in 2009, the Institute&rsquo;s part of Chicago&rsquo;s Lincoln Park Zoo.</p><p>For the first part of Carole&rsquo;s question, does Fidino&rsquo;s work show that there is an increased hawk population in Chicago? &nbsp;&ldquo;Yes! It&rsquo;s a pretty resounding yes,&rdquo; he says. Fidino is recreating a historic bird count that was conducted in Lincoln Park from 1897 to 1903, and he&rsquo;s able to compare current bird populations with this century-old data. One hawk in particular stands out in Fidino&rsquo;s studies: the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk, which he describes as the &ldquo;most abundant,&rdquo; frequently seen bird of prey in Lincoln Park. This is quite a change from the historic study, where the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk &ldquo;was not seen whatsoever.&rdquo;</p><p>These birds were once widely viewed as a menace and even hunted in the past. Nicknamed &ldquo;chicken hawks,&rdquo; they were despised as chicken thieves.</p><p>Fidino points me to the historical record, where we can find sentiments from people like Alfred O. Gross, a man who eventually became a respected ornithologist. In 1906 Gross conducted a bird census in Illinois. He described the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk as a &ldquo;handsome robber&rdquo; with a &ldquo;perverted taste for chicken.&rdquo;<a href="http://www.thinglink.com/scene/502929837053181952" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Cooper's Hawk inline image.jpg" style="height: 443px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Rendering of a Cooper's Hawk, otherwise known as a Chicken Hawk, by Chicago artist Diana Sudyka." /></a></p><p>Later, the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/ddt-brief-history-status.htm" target="_blank">pesticide DDT </a>also damaged their population. Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks mostly eat other birds, so they would have ingested all of the DDT concentrated in their prey animals. The pesticide caused eggshells to thin, and they would crack under the weight of the large birds. The Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk was even on Illinois&rsquo; endangered species list from 1977 through 1997.</p><p>Eventually, human interference loosened: We stopped shooting &ldquo;chicken hawks,&rdquo; we banned DDT, and, according to Fidino, the hawks came back.</p><p><strong>How easy is it to see one?</strong></p><p>Mason Fidino says you can find hawks in the city if you look for them &mdash;especially Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks. &ldquo;Often enough you&rsquo;ll see hawks circling around,&rdquo; he says, adding you can also spot them perched on tree branches. Fidino advises curious residents to &ldquo;spend some time on a weekend, take a walk out in a park. You should be able to see a bird of prey or two.&rdquo;</p><p>Fidino says he sometimes even sees hawks hunting in Chicago&rsquo;s Lincoln Park. If you see something quickly zooming towards the ground, it could be a hawk looking for lunch. For his part, Fidino will see the hunting bird just out of the corner of his eye. It will be &ldquo;this really quick movement going from the top of the tree downwards to whatever it&rsquo;s trying to catch. Then its talons go out, and it grabs what it&rsquo;s going after and then it&rsquo;ll swing back up or land with it,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks have nests that are smaller than squirrels&rsquo; bulky, leafy nests. Another way to catch a glimpse of a hawk is to keep an eye on their nest &ldquo;and see who shows up,&rdquo; Fidino says.</p><p><strong>A possible hawk menace?</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s reassuring to see a previously struggling species thrive, but perhaps you&rsquo;re wondering about a downside. Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks survive mostly by hunting smaller birds. Will we be hearing about a &ldquo;save the chickadees&rdquo; campaign in a few years?<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Flickr_%20Mike%20Ormsby_Copper%27s%20Hawk.jpg" style="height: 346px; width: 275px; float: left;" title="Cooper's Hawks look very similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, but differences can be detected with key details like tail feather shape. Our field guide gives more clues for distinguishing the species. (Flickr/Mike Ormsby)" /></p><p>Fidino is not worried. Populations of top predators like hawks tend to be much smaller than their prey species. The relatively few chickadees or pigeons who end up being a hawk&rsquo;s lunch shouldn&rsquo;t significantly damage their population. The various bird populations, Fidino says, &ldquo;should be able to work themselves out into what you&rsquo;d kind of consider an equilibrium.&rdquo;</p><p>Hawks mostly hunt birds, although they&rsquo;ll also dine on small mammals. It&rsquo;s very rare for pets to come under attack by raptors. However, when pressed, Fidino will advise that owners of small pets might want to &ldquo;be mindful of the species that they&rsquo;re adding to the ecosystem,&rdquo; and perhaps not leave especially tiny dogs unattended in the back yard.</p><p><strong>The adaptation game</strong></p><p>Carole wondered if we&rsquo;re seeing more hawks in Chicago because they&rsquo;ve developed adaptive behaviors to live in cities. Dr. Seth Magle, the Urban Wildlife Institute&rsquo;s director, says that&rsquo;s not the case. He described the concept of &ldquo;habitat analogs,&rdquo; where parts of our built environment function to animals the way their natural habitat does.</p><p>Magle provides the example of pigeons. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re cliff-dwelling species, but in cities we build these big tall buildings, so to pigeons they may kind of look like cliffs,&rdquo; and thus look like home, he says.</p><p>Hawk behavior is similar. Red-tailed hawks like to perch on something tall, and power lines along the highway function perfectly for that task. Other species, including the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk, feel perfectly at home in trees near humans. And why not, now that we city-dwellers and suburbanites are more interested in watching hawks than shooting them.</p><p><em>Special thanks to the <a href="http://www.birds.cornell.edu" target="_blank">Cornell Lab of Ornithology</a> for permission to use images, bird listings and sound for this story.</em></p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent producer. Follow her on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/katieklocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.<a name="hawkscreensavers"></a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hawks-rise-109889 Chicago garbage collectors: Will they really take that? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-garbage-collectors-will-they-really-take-109881 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/140433257&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>WBEZ listener Ken Coulman has been having dirty thoughts, specifically regarding the garbage in his alleyway. He&rsquo;s seen all kinds of dumping habits, from random contractors offloading items behind his house to neighbors sneakily leaving oversized items in alleyways not their own. In their stealthy haste, they make a mess.</p><p>As a homeowner in Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood, these behaviors troubled Ken. Recently, when he spotted a stack of old tires piled by the garbage, he called Curious City with this question:<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ken_curiouscity.jpg" style="width: 150px; height: 200px; float: right;" title="Ken Coulman asked Curious City about the limits of garbage removal. (Photo courtesy Ken Coulman)" /></p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&rsquo;s the city&rsquo;s official policy on garbage pick up? Do they take anything that you put out?</em></p><p>While taking on Ken&rsquo;s question, we learned that a pretty straightforward pickup policy provides some city workers with a unique &mdash; and sometimes unflattering &mdash; view of life in Chicago.</p><p><strong>Size doesn&rsquo;t matter</strong></p><p>For our answer, we turned to Gloria Pittman, a supervisor at Chicago&rsquo;s Bureau of Sanitation, which serves 600,000 households in Chicago. These households are limited to single-family homes or buildings with four units or less. Pittman oversees garbage collection for seven wards from Pilsen to Jackson Park. She&rsquo;s previously worked on the front lines as a garbage collector herself.</p><p>We met Pittman at her office on the Southwest Side and asked Ken&rsquo;s question: Is there a limit to what you&rsquo;ll take?</p><p>&ldquo;We will pick up almost anything,&rdquo; Pittman said. &ldquo;It is our objective to pick up everything that&rsquo;s in front of the truck, be it trash, sofas, on occasion electronics such as refrigerators, stoves.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, size doesn&rsquo;t matter. There&rsquo;s no size limit to what residents are allowed to throw out, as long as it&rsquo;s regular household garbage.</p><p>The department accommodates big items with what&rsquo;s called &ldquo;a special pick up.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s simply a heads-up to garbage collectors to carve out more time. While picking up a few regular canisters outside one house takes about 30 seconds, disposing of something more sizable, like a sectional couch, may take a few minutes. That heads-up can help make the process more efficient.</p><p>Pittman said collectors are usually notified by supervisors who monitor the alleys. But preferably, the notification originates from residents who call Chicago&rsquo;s 311 service line. Pittman says you can <a href="https://servicerequest.cityofchicago.org/web_intake_chic/Controller?op=locform&amp;invSRType=SCC&amp;invSRDesc=Garbage%20Pickup&amp;locreq=Y">request additional garbage bins</a> online, if need be.</p><p>&ldquo;Notification from the resident really helps us out a great deal,&rdquo; said Pittman.</p><p>Chicagoans in the tattling mood can also help by <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/streets/provdrs/streets_san/svcs/sanitation_ordinance.html">reporting persistent sanitation code violations</a>.</p><p><strong>Down in&nbsp;the dumps &hellip; at a special collection</strong></p><p><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/Garbage+gifs/USE+2.gif" style="width: 320px; height: 180px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 0px; float: right;" /><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/Garbage+gifs/USE+1.gif" style="width: 320px; height: 180px; margin: 0px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; float: right;" /></p><p>To see how a regular pick-up differs from a special pick-up, we ventured into the back alleys in Chicago&#39;s Gage Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/Garbage+gifs/USE+3.gif" style="width: 320px; height: 180px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 0px; float: right;" />A blue sanitation truck rolled through a snow-covered alley. Two workers hooked trash bins onto something called &ldquo;the flip,&rdquo; which, as its name implies, flips bins upside down into the truck. A heavy blade crushed and scooped the trash into the inner chamber.</p><p>Hook. Flip. Crush. Repeat.</p><div>The workers had a nice rhythm &mdash; until they ran across what looked like the remnants of an extreme home makeover. Pittman was on site and surveyed the heap of furniture.</div><p>&ldquo;This is a loveseat, a desk, parts of a table, an end table, a couple mattresses, some chairs and an ottoman,&rdquo; she said, laughing.</p><p>The garbage collectors declined an interview. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s kind of dangerous when I talk and work,&rdquo; said one as he reached for a piece of furniture.</p><p>And he was right. There was heavy lifting to do. A crushing blade tore through wood and nails. Sharp debris spit out the back. I watched a mattress flop into the back of the truck. It splintered into pieces.</p><p>&ldquo;And as you see, the blade is breaking that up and taking it on in,&rdquo; Pittman observed. &ldquo;It basically makes room as it goes along.&rdquo;</p><p>Eight minutes later, it&rsquo;s all been gobbled up.</p><p>&ldquo;As you can see, everything is gone. Hopefully the residents are happy,&rdquo; said Pittman.</p><p><strong>Some limits do apply</strong></p><p>Even though there&rsquo;s no size limit, Pittman noted that there are other kinds of limits. Most Chicago residents think, &ldquo;If it&rsquo;s garbage to you, it should be garbage to us,&rdquo; but that&rsquo;s simply not the case, she said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pittman%20mug%20shot.png" style="float: left; height: 162px; width: 240px;" title="Gloria Pittman supervises trash collection for the city's Department of Streets and Sanitation, and was a previous garbage collector. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />For example, say you rehab a room by yourself. You can throw the debris in the garbage. It&rsquo;s no problem, at least when it comes to city policy. But if a contractor does it for you, that contractor is required to take away the refuse. But not all residents abide by that rule; Pittman has seen plenty of instances where an entire gut renovation has been dumped in an alley. In those cases, the department has a conversation with the resident.</p><p>&ldquo;We try not to fine,&rdquo; said Pittman, noting that the department focuses on communicating expectations with residents. &ldquo;We want compliance.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s also a hassle when residents don&rsquo;t bag their trash properly. &ldquo;When they have to clean up things that people have just thrown out willy nilly &mdash; that kind of breaks up their rhythm,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Another problem is fly dumping. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where a large truck or car has dumped a large amount of garbage &mdash; usually in desolate areas,&rdquo; explained Pittman.</p><p>The Bureau of Sanitation will not collect hazardous materials and certain electronics such as computers and cell phones. Residents can dispose of these items, such as household cleaners and oil-based paints, at the city&rsquo;s Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility. The city provides information about <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdph/supp_info/hccrf/household_chemicalscomputerrecyclingfacilityoverview.html">that facility and what it accepts</a>.</p><p>The worst thing Pittman&rsquo;s ever run across? Dead animals and human waste. Pittman said residents with dead pets should call 311; a refrigerated truck will do the pick up. And as for human waste, well, come on now.</p><p>Pittman let us in on one of the classic jokes among garbage collectors. &ldquo;You can find out a lot about people with the trash that they throw out.&rdquo;<a name="pittmanguide"></a></p><p><strong>A reason for hope</strong></p><p>I followed up with our question-asker, Ken Coulman, to get his reaction to all of this. The dead animal and human waste details certainly grossed him out.</p><p>&ldquo;Eeh &hellip; that&rsquo;s not cool,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But when I explained the no-size limit policy, he was surprised.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not at all what I was expecting to find out,&rdquo; he said after a long pause.</p><p>He was also relieved.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s very interesting because I&rsquo;ve always kind of felt like you&rsquo;re probably doing something illegal by putting those big items out there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s helpful to know that you don&rsquo;t need to be sneaky about it. You can call 311 and give them a heads up and be civil about it.&rdquo;</p><p>To Ken, this is good news. He hopes that now that people know they don&rsquo;t have to be sneaky, they&rsquo;ll stop being so sloppy.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s hoping, Ken.</p><p><em>Deborah Jian Lee is a freelance journalist and author. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/deborahjianlee">@deborahjianlee</a>.</em></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.298379093615614" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="2078" id="doc_31924" scrolling="no" src="//www.scribd.com/embeds/213213263/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-18roq0sks1i1w0u8ngou&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 17:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-garbage-collectors-will-they-really-take-109881 Compare: Illinois governor candidates' views on concealed carry http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/compare-illinois-governor-candidates-views-concealed-carry-109845 <p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: This episode of the Curious City podcast includes a story about what the candidates for Illinois governor think about the state&rsquo;s new concealed-carry law. It starts 6 minutes, 30 seconds into the program. (Subscribe via <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161">iTunes </a>or <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast">Feedburner</a>!) This topic was also <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/curious-city-gay-marriage-and" target="_blank">discussed on WBEZ&#39;s The Afternoon Shift</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford of Elgin, Ill., had a perception about guns and violence that made her curious about the crop of primary candidates vying to be the state&rsquo;s governor. Her suspicion? The more that people carry guns in public, the higher the likelihood of gun violence.</p><p>With this highly-debated viewpoint in hand, she sent Curious City this question, just in time for the March 18 primary:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What would the candidates for Illinois governor do to prevent gun violence once thousands of residents are granted concealed carry permits?</em></p><p>There&rsquo;s a lot to unpack here, including some basic information about the state&rsquo;s concealed carry law.</p><p>First, Illinois was the last state in the country to adopt concealed carry and, even then, the lawmakers didn&rsquo;t act on their own; they were forced to pass a bill &mdash; any bill &mdash; by a federal judge who had ruled it&rsquo;s unconstitutional to not allow people to carry concealed guns in public. The legislature approved such a bill in May 2013.</p><p>The timing&rsquo;s not lost on Cheryl, who tells us she once appreciated that Illinois had not allowed concealed carry, and she feels the policy was foisted on the state.</p><p>But now, she said, &ldquo;The way our elected officials respond is going to be crucial.&rdquo;</p><p>Cheryl&rsquo;s onto something here. The first few thousand applicants have just begun receiving their concealed carry permits from the Illinois State Police. That means that &mdash; between the primary and November&rsquo;s general election &mdash; state residents will have a better idea of what living in a state with concealed carry really feels like.</p><p>And there may be pressure, one way or another, to rework the policy.</p><p>So how would the candidates respond?</p><p>To the best of our ability, we let the<a href="#views"> candidates themselves speak to this</a>. But since several of them cite studies about the relationship between violence, crime and concealed carry policy, we also compared their statements to what&rsquo;s being said about concealed carry by academics. While answering Cheryl&#39;s question, we found the bottom line is that the lack of consensus among the candidates is pretty much reflected by a lack of consensus in the research.</p><p><strong>Good guy gun ownership, bad guy gun ownership</strong></p><p>So what effect do concealed carry laws have on violence? It&rsquo;s important to tease out because politicians often cite research to back their positions. And &mdash; as you&rsquo;ll read and hear below &mdash; the academic findings run the gamut..</p><p>(A clarification: Cheryl asked about positions related to concealed carry and violence. Researchers we reached out to look at violent crime, but other types of crime, as well.)</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Tio%20H%20from%20campaign.jpg" style="margin: 5px; height: 190px; width: 285px; float: right;" title="Tio Hardiman is challenging Governor Quinn in the Democratic Primary. (Photo courtesy of the Tio Hardiman campaign)" /><a href="http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html" target="_blank">John Lott</a> has studied the effects of concealed carry laws on crime rates. He wrote a book called More Guns, Less Crime, which pretty much sums up where he stands.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that a would-be victim might be able to defend themselves also deters crime,&rdquo; Lott said in a phone interview with WBEZ.</p><p>Lott&rsquo;s research of municipal crime data from across the country suggests crime drops after concealed carry laws take effect, and the more concealed carry permits that are issued, the more it drops.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, all sorts of claims about &lsquo;Bad things are gonna happen, you know, blood in the streets?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;A year from now, everybody&rsquo;s gonna say, &lsquo;What was this debate all about?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s particularly true for Illinois, Lott said, because strict requirements on obtaining a concealed carry permit may limit the number of people who get them.</p><p>But here&rsquo;s where things get a little complex, if not outright confusing.</p><p><a href="http://www.law.stanford.edu/profile/john-j-donohue-iii" target="_blank">John Donohue</a>, a professor at Stanford, has also studied the effects of concealed carry laws on crime rates, and his research suggests the exact opposite of what Lott found.</p><p>&ldquo;If I had to bet my house, I&rsquo;d say more likely that they have adverse impacts than that they have a beneficial impact,&rdquo; Donohue said, adding the caveat that the current available research models aren&rsquo;t perfect.</p><p>Still, Donohue said he&rsquo;s doing preliminary work with a new research model that suggests right-to-carry laws lead to more aggravated assaults.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4655925819_1f5bc72c99_o.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 183px; width: 275px;" title="Incumbent Pat Quinn advocates for firmer restrictions on concealed carry. (Flickr/Chris Eaves)" /></p><p>And then there&rsquo;s a third position held by other researchers about what happens to crime rates in right-to-carry states, as expressed by Prof. <a href="http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/p/faculty-gary-kleck.php" target="_blank">Gary Kleck</a> from Florida State University.</p><p>&ldquo;Other things being equal, nothing happens,&rdquo; Kleck said. &ldquo;Good guy gun ownership has crime-reducing effects and bad guy gun ownership has crime-elevating effects.&rdquo;</p><p>The reason there are so many contradictory opinions is that none of these folks can agree on what data they should be looking at or how they should be looking at it. Kleck said this gets into differences over the minutiae of crime research models.</p><p>&ldquo;There may be only one right way to do it, but there&rsquo;s like a million different wrong ways to do it. And yeah, if you&rsquo;re a layperson, you&rsquo;re just &lsquo;Joe Regular Guy&rsquo; trying to figure it out, you&rsquo;re doomed,&rdquo; Kleck said. &ldquo;I mean, there&rsquo;s nothing I can say to help you out because you&rsquo;re not gonna be qualified to see those ... flaws in the research.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP463233027879.jpg" style="margin: 5px; height: 303px; width: 450px;" title="The GOP candidates, from left to right, state Sen. Bill Brady, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, and businessman Bruce Rauner prepare to debate. (AP Photo/Chicago Tribune, Terrence Antonio James, Pool)" /></div><p><strong>Where the candidates stand</strong></p><p>All this is to show that concealed carry is a complicated, controversial issue. But we wanted to illustrate that even among the experts &mdash; the folks whom politicians are citing &mdash; there&rsquo;s not a consensus.</p><p>We posed Cheryl&rsquo;s question to all six major party campaigns, but we had to track down responses in very different ways. In three cases we were able to ask candidates directly, either at press conferences or via phone calls. For the others, we had to search for answers through other avenues. In some cases, we extrapolated a position based on the candidate&rsquo;s previous statements on concealed carry, crime, violence and guns.</p><p><strong>Democrat Tio Hardiman</strong></p><p>He is the only candidate who acknowledged the conflicting research that we encountered.</p><p>&ldquo;I cannot penalize, not with a good conscience, penalize legal gun owners for the violence problem in Illinois. There&rsquo;s no data to back it up. So if people would like to exercise their right to the Second Amendment, they should be able to do so.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Republican State Sen. Bill Brady</strong></p><p>&ldquo;We also have to understand that this is about public safety and driving down crime. We know that in every state where concealed carry took place, crime went down. And we need to give our citizens the opportunity to protect themselves and watch crime go down.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Republican State Sen. Kirk Dillard</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Illinois is the last state in America to allow people to protect themselves. It took the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to force the state of Illinois to allow people to have the same right they had in all 49 other states, let alone keep the criminals guessing. I take a wait and see approach. I think we ought to wait and see how this law unfurls for a while before we make any changes, pro or con, to it.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Republican businessman Bruce Rauner</strong></p><p>We didn&rsquo;t get a direct response from Bruce Rauner, but he addressed themes in Cheryl&rsquo;s question during a debate.</p><p>&ldquo;I think concealed carry was long overdue. Gun ownership is an important constitutional right. We should end the approach that many politicians take in Illinois and that is to blame our crime problems on gun ownership. Our crime problems are one of, crimes about inadequate police staffing, high unemployment and horrible schools, not about gun ownership.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Republican State Treasurer Dan Rutherford</strong></p><p>In previous statements, including this one from a debate in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates, he&rsquo;s said he wants the Illinois State Police to oversee gun licenses efficiently.</p><p>&ldquo;If I was king of the forest or if I was the governor and I was able to help influence it, it would be a different bill than what it was. I think what we need to be very, very sensitive to, though, is the evolution of this. The evolution could be, as you suggested, perhaps making it better and more enhancing. But as well an evolution could also put us backwards if we don&rsquo;t have the right people in the governor&rsquo;s office, we don&rsquo;t have the right people in the General Assembly. One of the performance reviews that I will be doing is with regards to State Police. Why does it take so long to process a FOID card? Why does it take so long to process the application for your concealed carry? Those are unacceptable.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn</strong></p><p>The governor didn&rsquo;t seem to like any part of the process of negotiating the concealed carry bill last year, and he <a href="http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=2&amp;RecNum=11323" target="_blank">vetoed parts of it </a>in the name of safety. Those changes were overridden by the General Assembly.</p><p>&ldquo;This is about public safety. I think that public safety should never be compromised, never be negotiated away. The governor, that&rsquo;s me, my job is to protect public safety and I think that&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;m doing here with these common sense changes. I think we need to repeat that over and over again. The things I&rsquo;ve outlined today that have changed this bill are all about common sense and public safety and I think the General Assembly and the members should put aside politics and focus on people and their safety.&rdquo;<a name="views"></a></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/26501739&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p><p><em>This report received additional support through <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center">Front &amp; Center</a>, an occasional WBEZ series funded by The Joyce Foundation.</em></p></p> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 19:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/compare-illinois-governor-candidates-views-concealed-carry-109845 Could Illinois' next governor undo same-sex marriage? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-illinois-next-governor-undo-same-sex-marriage-109844 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/thumb_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicagoan Christie Pettitt-Schieber has spent a lot of time thinking about the future of same-sex marriage in Illinois. Apparently, so has her girlfriend of two years.</p><p>As Pettitt-Scheiber tells it: &ldquo;She goes on Etsy all the time, and she will, pull up, like, hundreds and hundreds of engagement rings, and then force me to look at the website and go, &lsquo;Do you like this one? Do you like this one? What do you think about this one?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>But before they take the plunge, Pettitt-Schieber, 26, asked Curious City a more fundamental question about Illinois&rsquo; gay marriage law, which was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-says-he-will-sign-marriage-equality-bill-month-109084" target="_blank">approved by the legislature</a> late last year and is set to take effect statewide on June 1st.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Could the next governor reverse the same-sex marriage legislation that just passed?</em></p><p>Gay marriage has been a hot-button political issue in Illinois for a few years, and the allegiances and beliefs involved don&rsquo;t always break along party lines. After months of furious lobbying and nose-counting by both backers and opponents, the bill to legalize same-sex marriages passed by a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-says-he-will-sign-marriage-equality-bill-month-109084" target="_blank">narrow margin</a> in the state House in early November.</p><p>But the foundation of Christie&rsquo;s question gets to an apolitical issue: the relationship between the branches of Illinois government.</p><p><strong>Illinois Civics: 101</strong></p><p>To find out whether an Illinois governor could unilaterally undo the state&rsquo;s same-sex marriage law &mdash; or any law, for that matter &mdash; we called up Charles Wheeler, director of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois at Springfield and an expert on the state constitution.</p><p>Wheeler&rsquo;s answer is pretty straightforward: &ldquo;No.&rdquo;</p><p>But there&rsquo;s a civics lesson behind that &ldquo;no.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The Illinois governor has no ability to unilaterally rewrite the statutes,&rdquo; Wheeler said. The only way a governor could undo a state law was by the same way it was done in the first place: with the approval of a majority of state Senators and Representatives.</p><p>The closest an Illinois governor can get to ruling by fiat is an executive order, Wheeler said. But the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con5.htm" target="_blank">Illinois Constitution</a> only lets governors use that power to reorganize parts of state government, not to magic away laws they dislike. And even then, the legislature can overturn an order.</p><p>But that doesn&rsquo;t mean governors haven&rsquo;t tried.</p><p>When former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois House in 2009, the charges against him weren&rsquo;t limited to the corruption that would later send him to prison. Buried in the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/95/HR/09500HR1671.htm" target="_blank">laundry list</a> of Blagojevich&rsquo;s misdeeds was Article 9, which accused him of &ldquo;utter disregard of the doctrine of separation of powers&rdquo; when he unilaterally expanded a state healthcare program that the legislature rejected.</p><p>Complicating matters more recently is a ruling <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/judge-allows-same-sex-couples-marry-cook-county-starting-now-109751" target="_blank">last month</a> by Chicago Federal Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, ordering that gay couples in Cook County must be issued marriage licenses immediately, rather than waiting for the new law&rsquo;s original June 1 start date. Coleman <a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/140221%20Federal%20gay%20marriage%20ruling%20Cook%20County.pdf" target="_blank">wrote</a> that the state&rsquo;s current prohibition of same-sex marriages (which is still in effect until June) violates the U.S. Constitution. That ruling <a href="http://www.senatormccarter.com/index.cfm?sectionid=22&amp;parentid=21&amp;sectiontree=21,22&amp;itemid=532" target="_blank">put an end</a> to one downstate Illinois Senator&rsquo;s move to repeal the gay marriage law.</p><p>For Wheeler, all of this adds up to one conclusion: &ldquo;I would be willing to bet any amount of money that Illinois will not repeal same-sex marriage.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Answers from the candidates</strong></p><p>Given that any repeal of the gay marriage law would take an act of political will (versus executive decree), Curious City asked the two Democrats and six Republicans running in the March 18th gubernatorial primary whether they would work to overturn same-sex marriage.</p><p>Some answers required some tooth-pulling (as you&rsquo;ll hear in the <a href="#playlist">audio excerpts</a>&nbsp;below), but here&rsquo;s what they had to say.</p><p><strong>Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn:</strong> &ldquo;The Governor led the charge to make Illinois the 16th state to embrace full marriage equality, and he is proud to have gotten the job done,&rdquo; spokeswoman Brooke Anderson wrote in an email. &ldquo;This was a major step forward for Illinois. As long as he&rsquo;s Governor, he will defend this law and make sure all couples have equal rights in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Democrat Tio Hardiman, anti-violence advocate:</strong> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s the law. If somebody was to bring some legislation to my desk, we would look at it. But ... I plan to enforce that law. People need to be happy in their lives. I&rsquo;m not here to, you know, try to play God with people&rsquo;s lives.&rdquo;</p><p>The four candidates running for the Republican Party&rsquo;s nomination <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/videogallery/79102861/Live-Republican-candidates-for-Illinois-governor" target="_blank">were asked a similar question recently</a> by the Chicago Tribune editorial board.</p><p><strong>Republican Illinois State Sen. Bill Brady:</strong> &ldquo;I&rsquo;d be consistent with my position,&rdquo; Brady said. He clarified that he would sign a repeal &ldquo;if it came to me,&rdquo; but added &ldquo;it&rsquo;s unrealistic to even address the issue.&rdquo; Brady <a href="http://ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory/98/senate/09800SB0010_11052013_001000C.pdf" target="_blank">voted against the bill</a> in the legislature.</p><p><strong>Republican businessman Bruce Rauner: </strong>&ldquo;I would not sign it if there hasn&rsquo;t been a referendum on it. I wanna see what the voters want on that issue. I won&rsquo;t take any action on that issue unless I see what the voters want.&rdquo; Rauner has repeatedly refused to reveal how he feels about gay marriage.</p><p><strong>Republican Illinois State Sen. Kirk Dillard:</strong> &ldquo;If [a repeal] got to my desk [I would sign it], but that&rsquo;s not gonna happen. Let&rsquo;s focus on things like the economy and how we&rsquo;re gonna fix the state&rsquo;s finances.&rdquo; Dillard <a href="http://ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory/98/senate/09800SB0010_11052013_001000C.pdf" target="_blank">voted against the bill</a> in the legislature.</p><p><strong>Republican Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford: </strong>&nbsp;&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not gonna get to the desk. It&rsquo;s not gonna pass. It&rsquo;s not gonna get there. It is the law. ... I did not support the bill from the religious standpoint of it.&rdquo; Rutherford was out of the legislature when the same-sex marriage bill was passed, though he previously <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory/96/senate/09600SB1716_12012010_006000C.pdf" target="_blank">voted in favor</a> of same-sex civil unions when he was a state senator.<a name="playlist"></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/26498163&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>It&rsquo;s all politics</strong></p><p>If the unilateral repeal of gay marriage by an Illinois governor is legally impossible, it&rsquo;s also politically improbable, said Gregg Durham, an Illinois pollster who has worked with many Republican candidates (though he said he is not currently working for any gubernatorial campaign.)</p><p>Durham said the Republican candidates&rsquo; hesitation to talk about repealing gay marriage &mdash; even if they believe it should be repealed &mdash; is because it&rsquo;s a losing issue for the Illinois GOP.</p><p>&ldquo;I would tell them to run away as fast as they could from the question,&rdquo; Durham said.</p><p>Why?</p><p>Public opinion, for one: Durham&rsquo;s polling reflects growing approval of same-sex marriage in Illinois, and more resignation from people who are still opposed to it.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re starting to hear less and less about changing it, and more about, &lsquo;Fine, can we get onto more important issues now?&rsquo;&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Durham also cites the political math in Springfield. Democrats enjoy large majorities in both houses of the General Assembly, and the party has two powerful leaders &mdash; House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. Both exercise broad control over which bills are actually called up for a vote.</p><p>And even with those hefty majorities, and the support of some heavy-hitting Democratic pols, the gay marriage vote was still a tough one for rank-and-file lawmakers. And the difficulty wasn&rsquo;t just for Republicans, whose party platform defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.</p><p>Durham&rsquo;s own polling also showed opposition from some Democrats in Chicago and southern Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;No one likes to pay for real estate twice,&rdquo; Durham said. &ldquo;The passage of that bill took a long time and a lot of effort by a lot of people. Now they don&rsquo;t wanna go back and have a second vote on it &mdash; anybody, probably on either side of the issue.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p><p><em>Note: This report received additional support through <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center">Front &amp; Center</a>, an occasional WBEZ series funded by The Joyce Foundation. </em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-illinois-next-governor-undo-same-sex-marriage-109844 How much road salt ends up in Lake Michigan? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curiuos City podcast includes an audio story about road salt. It begins 5 minutes, 50 seconds into the program. (Subscribe via <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes </a>or <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)</em></p><p>Aaron Stigger is a graphic and web designer born and raised in Oak Park. He caught Curious City&rsquo;s attention with <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1522" target="_blank">this question</a>:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><font><font>How does all the winter salt runoff affect Lake Michigan&#39;s water?</font></font></em></p><p><font><font>But he </font></font><em><font><font>really </font></font></em><font><font>piqued our interest after telling us the backstory.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;On my way to work everyday I pass by this gi-normous salt pile, which is kind of plopped down on some dirt and some broken-up cement,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That kind of got me thinking: Well, if it&rsquo;s seeping into the ground under this big, uncovered pile, what is it doing, all the salt we distribute all around the city?&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><a href="https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=41.954739%2C-87.79664800000002&amp;cbp=%2C65.45%2C%2C0%2C9.139999&amp;layer=c&amp;panoid=S-PkH0iF7NxMblex4A7Wog&amp;spn=0.18000000000000152%2C0.30000000000001953&amp;output=classic&amp;cbll=41.954739%2C-87.796648" target="_blank"><font><font>The particular mound of salt</font></font></a><font><font> that Aaron saw is in Dunning, a neighborhood on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side. That mound&#39;s got company: Chicago stores 19 piles of salt across the city. And that&rsquo;s not counting many more spread across the suburbs and Northwest Indiana.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But is there really a wall of brine heading to the lake and, if so, should we be worried? We found out that, at least according to a few environmental standards, Lake Michigan is actually in much better shape than Stigger expected. But another waterway may have earned his concern.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Just how much salt are we talking about, anyway?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before we get to specifics on any effects on Lake Michigan, let&rsquo;s put the amounts of road salt we use into perspective, at least when it comes to Chicago.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Since November 2009, the city has spread an average of 215,456</font></font>&nbsp;tons of salt to melt snow and ice each year, according to figures provided by The Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation:<a name="chart"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="300" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/CbhQh/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="350"></iframe></div><p><font><font>That&rsquo;s counting this winter,&nbsp;</font></font><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637" target="_blank"><font><font>which has been particularly brutal</font></font></a><font><font>. As of February 28, the city already dumped more than 370,000 tons of salt on city streets &mdash; a solid 42 percent more than the next heaviest use in the previous five years.</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aaron%20stigger%27s%20salt%20pile.jpg" style="height: 304px; width: 525px; margin: 5px;" title="The Chicago salt pile that Oak Parker Aaron Stigger sees on his way to work. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" /></div><p><font><font>It&rsquo;s not just a problem in Chicago. Humans move a lot of salt. A 2004 study estimated that we mobilize more than 140 teragrams &mdash; that&rsquo;s 140 billion kilograms &mdash; of chlorides every year.</font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><font><font><strong>Video: </strong><a href="#video">Just how big are these salt piles</a>?</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Salt&rsquo;s destination: our streams and rivers</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So, with some of these figures in mind, let&rsquo;s consider the effects.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s &ldquo;aha moment&rdquo; came about when he saw one of the city&rsquo;s salt piles while it was uncovered. It&rsquo;s a reasonable concern, given that researchers from the University of Rhode Island </font></font><a href="http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/ww/Publications/Chlorides.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font>estimate uncovered salt piles lost about 20 percent</font></font></a><font><font> of their salt each year. Much of it ends up in nearby waterways.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most piles are covered during the off-season, however, so salt used for deicing is the main source of urban chloride pollution. Chemists know salt as NaCl, or sodium chloride, which breaks down in water. Hence there are pollution measurements and standards for &ldquo;chlorides,&rdquo; not &ldquo;salt.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But where&rsquo;s this runoff headed? The hydrological lay of the land is such that most salt-laden runoff in Chicago ends up in the Chicago River and other inland waterways &mdash; not Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>The principal reason is that </font></font><a href="http://chicagopublicradio.org/story/should-we-reverse-chicago-river-again-95661" target="_blank"><font><font>the city reversed the flow of the river more than 100 years ago</font></font></a><font><font>, so most of our runoff ends up in the waterways that feed into the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.</font></font><a href="http://www.isws.illinois.edu/pubdoc/B/ISWSB-74.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font> A 2010 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found</font></font></a><font><font> road salt runoff and treated wastewater from the Chicago region are the dominant sources of chlorides in the navigable sections of the Illinois River, and two major tributaries in the Chicago region. The study says that number has risen steadily since about 1960.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;The lake doesn&rsquo;t receive very much input from stormwater from the city of Chicago,&rdquo; says Scott Twait, who works in IEPA&rsquo;s Water Quality Standards division. &ldquo;However with all the salting, all the road salt enters into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and the Cal-Sag channel, and flows downstream to the Des Plaines River. And collecting all the runoff, the chloride levels can spike in those areas and get quite high.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>In high concentrations, chlorides can be toxic to aquatic life. But it&rsquo;s hard to tell how many times salt runoff from Chicago has caused toxic levels of chlorides in inland waterways, because the Illinois Pollution Control Board doesn&rsquo;t classify those waters as &ldquo;General Use&rdquo; waterways. Those waters are subject to Illinois&rsquo; 500 mg/L water quality standard. Instead, IEPA regulates &ldquo;total dissolved solids&rdquo; in Chicago-area waterways, lumping together chlorides, sulfates and other chemicals for a single reading. Chloride levels have spiked above 1000 mg/L in some inland waterways &mdash; twice IEPA&rsquo;s standard for most of the state.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Chicago-area waterways are the only ones in the state that aren&rsquo;t regulated by General Use standards. As Twait explained, that&rsquo;s because they were so polluted when the standards were set that they earned their own benchmarks. (You can see IEPA&rsquo;s </font></font><a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/tmdl/303d-list.html" target="_blank"><font><font>full list of impaired Illinois waterways here</font></font></a><font><font>.)</font></font></p><p><font><font><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Aaron%20Stigger%20by%20Kurt%20Gerber.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 220px; width: 220px;" title="Aaron Stigger asked Curious City about road salt runoff. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" />&ldquo;Back in the 70s these were the only waters that were kind of beyond repair, as to their thinking back in the 70s, so they got kind of special standards&rdquo; Twait says. &ldquo;They really had no hope for them in the future.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But those waters are much cleaner now. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which handles and treats the region&rsquo;s combined runoff and sewer water, has improved its filtration methods. MWRD Spokeswoman Allison Fore &nbsp;says they&rsquo;ve adopted best practices suggested by the DuPage/Salt Creek Work Group for managing their roadways and facilities.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Twait says EPA is looking to bring Chicago-area waterways in line with the rest of the state&rsquo;s rivers and streams. If they update the water quality standards, he says, &ldquo;one of the things we know is that we&rsquo;ll have chloride issues in the winter time.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Regulators would come up with some kind of limit for chloride in Chicago-area rivers. That could make cities think twice before spreading so much road salt. It&rsquo;s much tougher for the EPA to regulate salt from so many spread-out sources (storm drains spread out across the city and suburbs) than from, say, a factory with a fallout pipe dumping salt into the river.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So our question asker Aaron Stigger is right to worry about salt runoff, but not so much in Lake Michigan. In Chicago&rsquo;s case, it&rsquo;s our inland waterways that are in trouble.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Corrosive chlorides and city infrastructure</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before it even gets into area waterways, salt works its way through the city&rsquo;s subterranean network of pipes. That can cause problems for the city&rsquo;s Department of Water Management, which provides drinking water to Chicago and 125 suburbs. They also deliver stormwater to MWRD for treatment.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Tom Powers, the city&rsquo;s commissioner of water management, says chlorides are at such a low concentration in Lake Michigan that his department barely takes note.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;It would require an incredible amount of road salt to affect Lake Michigan &mdash; that&rsquo;s a very robust system,&rdquo; Powers says. &ldquo;When we test [the water], it doesn&rsquo;t even appear on what we&rsquo;re testing for.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>The EPA&rsquo;s national drinking water standard for chloride is 250 mg/L, some 20 times higher than Lake Michigan&rsquo;s current concentration. Chicago&rsquo;s Dept. of Water Management, like many such agencies, adds water softeners that can include salt. But it&rsquo;s not enough to even approach the EPA limits.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But road salt can corrode the pipes that carry that water, exacerbating the stress that the winter freeze-and-thaw cycle puts on an aging network of water pipes that would stretch 4,500 miles if laid end to end. About 1,000 miles of those water pipes are 100 years old or older, Powers says. In 2009 the department had to repair 8,873 catch basins &mdash; more than twice last year&rsquo;s 3,647.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Development in urban areas makes the salt corrosion problem worse, by funneling more runoff into the system. Studies have correlated growth in chloride levels with the rate of urbanization, and even with miles of road in the vicinity of the waterway in question.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;While we are right to be cautious in applying &lsquo;common sense&rsquo; to such things,&rdquo; says Stephen McCracken, who coordinates the Conservation Foundation&rsquo;s DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, &ldquo;in this case the relationship seems quite straightforward with salt being applied to road surfaces, increased road density means a larger salt total applied, even at a constant application rate.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>So more development, more impervious surfaces, more runoff.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>A saltier lake?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So not much of that salt ends up in Lake Michigan. But there is enough runoff to register an increase in Lake Michigan&rsquo;s chloride levels since Chicago first started spreading road salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, says the current chloride levels in Lake Michigan are around 12 milligrams per liter.</font></font></p><p><font><font>That number has risen since widespread use of road salt began around 1960, according to</font></font><a href="http://www.saltinstitute.org/" target="_blank"><font><font> the Salt Institute</font></font></a><font><font>. Chloride levels in Lake Michigan rise about 0.1 mg/L each year, but they&rsquo;re still well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s 500 mg/L standard for &ldquo;General Use waters&rdquo;. Nationally, EPA&rsquo;s criteria for chloride toxicity</font></font><a href="http://www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/water/standards/ws_review.pdf?amp;tabid=1302" target="_blank"><font><font> are 230 mg/L over a four day average, or an hourly average of 860 mg/L</font></font></a><font><font>. (EPA is currently reevaluating that standard, which was first set in 1988.)</font></font></p><p><font><font>If you measure chlorides in Lake Michigan in the spring, however, you pick up all that winter road ice and runoff. Since 1980, springtime average chloride levels have risen almost 50 percent:</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/epa data salt.png" title="" /></div><p><br /><font><font>High chloride levels choke aquatic species that depend on a certain salinity to keep their bodies in equilibrium. Amphibians, like salamanders and frogs, are especially susceptible to chloride pollution. Many of them breed in temporary </font></font><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/93733769@N03/9396817314/" target="_blank"><font><font>vernal pools</font></font></a><font><font> that are cut off from other bodies water, and thus have no way to flush out excess salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>IEPA&rsquo;s Biggs says chlorides in Lake Michigan aren&rsquo;t threatening aquatic life. &ldquo;There are not significant concerns or actions being taken to reduce chlorides in Lake Michigan as they are still reading below the water quality standard,&rdquo; she wrote in an email. &ldquo;We do not feel that salt runoff from the Chicago area is a major contributor to the chloride levels in Lake Michigan.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Winter deicing is the major driver of high chloride levels in Chicago&rsquo;s waterways, but wastewater treatment also contributes. In the outfall of waste water treatment plants in DuPage County, for example, chloride levels are more than ten times higher than they are in Lake Michigan. Studies by the Illinois State Water Survey and MWRD sampled the water flowing out from MWRD&rsquo;s Stickney wastewater treatment (the largest such plant in the U.S.), and found median chloride levels of 145 mg/L, compared to 8-12 mg/L in Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most of MWRD&rsquo;s contribution comes from human waste itself, which contains chlorides. They also use ferric chloride to help filter wastewater &mdash; the chemical is useful for, among other eyebrow-raising processes, &ldquo;sludge thickening&rdquo; &mdash; but are moving away from that in favor of biologically-based techniques that would replace ferric chloride.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>If you can&rsquo;t beet &rsquo;em ...</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So what&rsquo;s the city doing to cut back on its salt use?</font></font></p><p><font><font>Dept. of Streets &amp; Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe says they train salt truck drivers to spread salt judiciously &mdash; that means waiting until plows have cleared most standing snow, since salt sprinkled on top of several inches of the white stuff won&rsquo;t do much. When the forecast calls for mild temperatures, salt trucks take it easy and let the weather do some of the work.<a name="video"></a></font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="323" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WphGL9fjbbo" width="575"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>City workers move salt at the depot at Grand and Rockwell (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)</em></p><p><font><font>The city even enlists an unusual fruit cocktail of sorts to get more out of its salt: beet juice. It&rsquo;s full of sugar, and helps lowers the freezing point of ice. Mixing salt with molasses or another sugary substance can do the same thing. Salt solutions are good too, because they spread out easier than rock salt so they&rsquo;re more efficient. Wisconsin has started spraying cheese brine for similar reasons.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Typical salt (sodium chloride) is not effective in subzero temperatures, but other salt compounds can break ice crystals at lower temperatures &mdash; calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are common substitutes, but they eat into concrete and metal faster than table salt. Right now the city uses sodium chloride.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s salt pile is probably going to exist as long as severe winter weather visits Chicago. But if IEPA ups the standard for the metropolitan area&rsquo;s inland waterways, he might start to see the salt disappear a little bit more gradually.</font></font></p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/"><font><font>Chris Bentley</font></font></a><font><font> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at</font></font><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"><font><font> @Cementley</font></font></a><font><font>.</font></font></em></p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 Fish and risks: Eating Lake Michigan catch http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has an addendum that addresses a follow-up question we received via a comment. The current article addresses chemicals that are of concern to environmental agencies and that affect issuance of fish consumption advisories. The <a href="#addendum">addendum </a>addresses additional chemicals of concern.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Steve Ediger says he&rsquo;s not an avid fisherman, but he has cast a few lines. When he was growing up, his grandfather would take him fishing in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.</p><p>About six years ago, he moved to Chicago&rsquo;s northernmost neighborhood of Rogers Park, where he sees people<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/fishing"> fishing</a> off Farwell Pier. It got him wondering about the fish those anglers catch, so he asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;What would it take for Lake Michigan fish to be safe to eat?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Ediger suspects Lake Michigan fish aren&rsquo;t entirely safe to eat, and he&rsquo;s not alone. With major cities and industrial centers like Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay along its shores &mdash; as well as the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">refineries of Northwestern Indiana</a> &mdash; Lake Michigan is no stranger to pollution. To find out just how much of the stuff ends up in the fish we pluck out of the lake, I asked a few people with different angles on the situation. Turns out a lot of work goes into monitoring and disseminating information about contaminants in Lake Michigan fish. We find out which are most worrisome to fishermen and toxicologists, but also why you shouldn&rsquo;t let that scare you off eating fish entirely.</p><p><strong>A pro&rsquo;s perspective</strong></p><p>I put the question to someone who handles Lake Michigan fish every day: Joel Reiser, captain of the Chicago charter boat company<a href="http://www.bnrcharters.com/"> Brush And Roll</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Pretty much everything is edible in Lake Michigan with moderation,&rdquo; he says. Reiser brings up to six people on chartered fishing trips in Lake Michigan, leaving from<a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-unveils-new-south-side-boat-harbor-99912"> 31st Street Harbor</a>. They catch chinook salmon, coho salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout. His crew cleans and bags up to five fish per customer (only two lake trout), which they can take home to eat.</p><p>He&rsquo;s been eating fish from Lake Michigan and elsewhere since he was a child. That might worry some people who have heard unsettling things about Lake Michigan fish. One fish market I called looking for Lake Michigan fish told me to &ldquo;try to the cancer ward.&rdquo;</p><p>With <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/news/ct-met-great-lakes-plastic-pollution-20130807_1_lorena-rios-mendoza-lake-michigan-toxic-chemicals">stories of polluted waters</a> swirling, Reiser watches out for government-issued fish advisories and eats seafood in moderation. But he says fish from any waters can contain contaminants.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve never heard of anyone growing a third eye, you know, some of the jokes that are out there,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So I believe that it&rsquo;s safer. I believe the government does put higher standards on it, just as a safety precaution just to cover &mdash; no pun intended &mdash; their own tail.&rdquo;</p><p>It turns out, Reiser&rsquo;s basically right. In casting about for an answer to Ediger&#39;s question, we found out Lake Michigan&rsquo;s pollution problems aren&rsquo;t the whole story. The horror stories are overblown, but they&rsquo;re rooted in truth.</p><p><strong>(Fish) food for thought</strong><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/210637870/Lake-Michigan-fish-How-many-should-you-eat" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big fish graphic 2.png" style="float: right; height: 882px; width: 320px;" title="Click to download a printable version. (Graphic by Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></a></p><p>Tom Hornshaw, a toxicologist with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/surface-water/fish-contaminant-mon.html">fish contaminant monitoring program</a>,&rdquo; helps gather data that goes into those government advisories. Since 1974, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and IEPA have nabbed fish (mainly bass, channel catfish and carp)<a href="http://mercnet.briloon.org/projects/IL_EPA_-_llinois_Fish_Contaminant_Monitoring_Program/144/"> from 500 locations</a> in Illinois for contaminant testing. I asked Hornshaw point-blank: Is it safe to eat fish from Lake Michigan?</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;as long as you follow the various advisories that have been issued for Lake Michigan fish.&rdquo;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re wondering what Captain Reiser meant by &ldquo;moderation,&rdquo; you might start with the<a href="http://www.ifishillinois.org/regulations/consumption.html"> general fish consumption advisory</a> from the Illinois Department of Public Health.</p><p>State agencies keep<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/index.htm"> a running list of current fish advisories statewide</a>, which vary by species and body of water. They also change over time. On a <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/lakemichigan.htm">page that&#39;s specific to Lake Michigan catch</a>, the agency provides warnings for&nbsp;10 fish species. The DNR doesn&rsquo;t recommend you eat any of them more than once a week, and some come with the unequivocal advice: &ldquo;<strong>Do Not Eat.</strong>&rdquo; This applies to lake-caught carp and channel catfish.</p><p>The advisories vary based on the fish&rsquo;s size, in some cases. Take the yellow perch,<em> Perca flavescens</em>. Fish less than 11 inches long, the Illinois DNR says, should be eaten at most once per week. But you should only eat perch larger than 11 inches once per month. Likewise lake trout, a popular sport fish can that grow up to three feet long, carries three tiers of advisories: less than 25 inches? One meal per month; 25-29 inches? Six meals per year; larger than 29 inches? Do not eat.</p><p>If you fish in Wisconsin, use that state&rsquo;s<a href="http://dnr.wi.gov/FCSExternalAdvQry/FishAdvisorySrch.aspx"> online query tool</a> to check on the water you&rsquo;ll be fishing. Indiana, too,<a href="http://www.in.gov/isdh/23650.htm"> updates its fish consumption advisories online</a>.</p><p><strong>PCBs: What&rsquo;s all the fuss about?</strong></p><p>One of the major culprits are a group of chemicals known as PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyls<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> are a group of man-made chemicals useful in a variety of industrial processes</a>, including the insulation and cooling of electrical equipment. EPA banned their use in 1979, after it was widely recognized PCB pollution had caused skin conditions and immune system disorders. Studies have also linked the chemicals to cancer. We produced more than one billion pounds of the stuff in the U.S., about half of which made its way into the environment.</p><p>They take a long time to break down, so PCBs are still prevalent in the environment.<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/waukegannorthharbor.htm"> There is a specific advisory for Waukegan North Harbor</a>, where Outboard Marine Corp.<a href="http://newssun.suntimes.com/news/14980816-418/waukegan-harbor-pcb-mess-finally-getting-scrubbed.html"> dumped PCBs</a> as a byproduct of their manufacturing process. That cleanup is ongoing.<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-07/news/ct-met-waukegan-harbor-cleanup-20120907_1_susie-schreiber-cleanup-sites-epa-remedial-project-manager"> EPA is dredging the harbor</a>, a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/" target="_blank">Superfund site</a> once called the &ldquo;world&rsquo;s worst PCB mess.&rdquo;</p><p>But PCB pollution continues long after its source is cut off. PCBs still find their way into the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> through a process called<a href="http://www.epa.gov/glindicators/air/airb.html"> atmospheric deposition</a>. They travel around the world through the atmosphere, falling out of the sky at high latitudes. That&rsquo;s why scientists have found high levels of the stuff in the Arctic, thousands of miles from the factories that pumped out PCBs in the 1970s.</p><p>At this point Hornshaw, the EPA toxicologist, says atmospheric deposition is probably the primary source of PCBs in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a>. He says there&rsquo;s a simple, one-word answer for what it will take for Lake Michigan fish to become safer for consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Time,&rdquo; he says. Not 10 years, but less than 100. These chemicals take a long time to break down, but they&rsquo;re not invincible. Beth Murphy, who manages EPA&rsquo;s Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance program, passed along this graphic showing PCB declines against a 1994-95 baseline (the red line):</p><p><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/trout%20chart.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="" /></p><p>The graph suggests that by 2035, assuming progress continues, you should be able to eat all the Great Lakes lake trout filets that you want without fear of PCBs.</p><p>Lake and river sediments are especially good at holding onto PCBs, so bottom-dwelling fish tend to have higher levels (hence the &ldquo;Do Not Eat&rdquo; advisory on carp and channel catfish in Lake Michigan). PCBs also accumulate in fatty tissues, so it&rsquo;s important to filet wild-caught fish properly before eating them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20cutting.gif" style="float: left;" title="" /></p><p>PCBs aren&rsquo;t very soluble in water, so swimming isn&rsquo;t going to result in dangerous exposure.</p><p><strong>Getting the good stuff</strong></p><p>It turns out Captain Reiser&rsquo;s suspicion that government agencies were covering &ldquo;their own tail&rdquo; is correct.</p><p>&ldquo;The advisories may be overprotective for women beyond childbearing age and for adult men,&rdquo; reads<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> an FAQ from the Illinois Department of Public Health</a>. That&rsquo;s especially true for<a href="http://www.epa.gov/hg/exposure.htm"> mercury &mdash; a potent pollutant found in fish from Lake Michigan and around the world</a>.</p><p>Fetuses, nursing babies and young children are especially vulnerable, so the advisories are drafted with a low tolerance for risk. Mercury can severely hinder development of the fetal nervous system. EPA found<a href="http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/fishadvisories/technical.cfm#tabs-4"> mercury levels in women of childbearing age dropped 34 percent from a survey conducted in 1999-2000</a>, but it&rsquo;s still a concern.</p><p>But eating fish has a lot of health benefits, too, so long as you don&rsquo;t exceed the advisories. Eight Great Lakes states are two years into a study funded by the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> Restoration Initiative, weighing the benefits of eating fish against the risks. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to come up with ways of incorporating the benefits of eating fish along with the deleterious effects,&rdquo; Hornshaw says, &ldquo;so we can have a more focused advisory.&rdquo;</p><p>Pat McCann, a fish advisory specialist with Minnesota&rsquo;s Department of Public Health says it&rsquo;s important to keep in mind the big picture.</p><p>&ldquo;The benefits do outweigh the risks if you eat fish that are low in contaminants,&rdquo; McCann says. &ldquo;So the challenge is to get people information about which fish are low in contaminants, and get it to them in a way that&rsquo;s understandable and that they can adopt in their normal life.&rdquo;</p><p>A lot of people swear off fish altogether, but McCann says that&rsquo;s actually counterproductive. Take the group of people most sensitive to mercury contamination: pregnant women. Mercury impairs neurological development in fetuses. But the McCann says that doesn&rsquo;t mean women should avoid all fish entirely.</p><p>&ldquo;Women of childbearing age and pregnant women need to eat fish, because fish have Omega-3 fatty acids, and other good nutrients, and it&rsquo;s a good source of protein,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And so those things are good for the baby. So if they stop eating fish that&rsquo;s a negative thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Concentrations of mercury and PCBs are above guidelines for walleye and lake trout in all of the Great Lakes. Mercury levels were getting worse in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie when <a href="http://binational.net/solec/sogl2011/sogl-2011-technical-report-en.pdf">EPA and Environment Canada released their 2011 &quot;State of the Great Lakes&quot; report</a>.</p><p><strong>Reeling it in</strong></p><p>One place you&rsquo;ll find Great Lakes fish on sale in Chicago is Market Fisheries at 7129 S. State St., in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/greater-grand-crossing"> Greater Grand Crossing</a> neighborhood. They&rsquo;ve been owned and operated by the Brody Family since 1957.</p><p>Curtis Alexander, the market&rsquo;s manager, shows me around. The market&rsquo;s busy. People pull numbers and step up to order catfish or perch, while an employee behind the counter scales and hacks up fish.</p><p>Alexander says their suppliers are mostly based in Canada, so they don&rsquo;t sell Lake Michigan fish. But they&rsquo;ll gladly clean your catch.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of time I clean fish that people go and catch from Lake Michigan,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You got the yellow lake perch over there, you got the little bluegills, walleye pike, you know bigmouth bass &mdash; there&rsquo;s a lot of fish that they catch from Lake Michigan. People go fishing, they bring them in here, sometimes we clean it up for them.&rdquo;</p><p>No one brings in fresh-caught fish from Lake Michigan while I&rsquo;m there. But trout fishing season in Illinois starts April 5, and Alexander may have new customers soon. IDNR added four new areas for rainbow trout fishing this year, including Chicago&rsquo;s Wolf Lake&mdash;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-can-you-hunt-chicago-108954">one of two hunter-friendly oases in the city proper</a>.</p><p>Our question-asker, Steve Ediger, knows a few people who might take advantage of that new fishery. In an informal survey of his fishing friends, Ediger found that concerns over PCBs and mercury aren&rsquo;t deal-breakers for avid anglers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll tell you the one thing everybody says,&rdquo; Ediger says. &ldquo;They were less suspect of the fish they catch than the fish they get in the supermarket.&rdquo;</p><p>Mercury and PCB pollution are problems for fisheries all over the world &mdash; not just Lake Michigan. Clean-up efforts here have come a long way, but new pollutants could set us back. A BP refinery in Northwest Indiana <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">came under fire last year</a> when it missed a federal deadline to put in place new pollution controls for mercury (state regulators gave them an exemption).</p><p>And if <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/asian-carp">the threat of invasive species like Asian carp</a> proves as devastating as some studies predict, Great Lakes fisheries could collapse whether or not we continue to clean up the water.</p><p>So, a corollary to Tom Hornshaw&rsquo;s one-word answer to our question: What will it take to make Lake Michigan fish safe to eat? Time, and our attention.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a name="addendum"></a>Addendum: other chemicals</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Mercury and PCBs are the major chemicals that Illinois&rsquo; state EPA tests for and regulates, but <a href="http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/monitoring/fish/">there are other contaminants worth considering</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Many other chemicals meet the two main criteria for raising fish contaminant concerns: <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-54783_54784_54785_54800-256866--,00.html">they&#39;re bioaccumulative and persistent</a>. That means they build up in the tissues of aquatic organisms, and they stick around. They can broadly be categorized by the term the EPA uses, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/international/toxics/pop.html">persistent organic pollutants</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Besides mercury and PCBs, a few other common contaminants fit the bill: pesticides such as DDT, chlordane, and dieldrin; and dioxins, a carcinogenic group of chemicals created in the course of many industrial processes. (Dioxins are chemically similar to PCBs, which could themselves be counted under that blanket term.)</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, Great Lakes environmental agencies <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">have tracked the dilution of another potentially harmful contaminant</a>. A group of flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) were phased out starting in 2004. Measurements by Environment Canada <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">show</a> declines in PBDE concentrations across the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, but Illinois EPA doesn&rsquo;t track PBDEs in fish. As toxicologist Tom Hornshaw explains, the reason isn&rsquo;t lack of concern &mdash; it&rsquo;s lack of funding.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Currently PBDEs are not addressed in our fish advisory program&mdash;our lab is not set up to do PBDEs and it would require purchase of an expensive piece of equipment to analyze for them,&rdquo; Hornshaw writes in an email.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s important to note in this addendum that the chemicals we&rsquo;re phasing out now don&rsquo;t disappear immediately. That&rsquo;s why they call them persistent pollutants. PCBs, DDT and other chemicals in the Great Lakes are contaminants largely inherited from a time roughly 50 years ago. We have to wonder what legacy today&rsquo;s garbage will have on future Great Lakes residents.</p><p dir="ltr">Already <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/31/us-usa-pollution-greatlakes-idUSBRE96U03120130731">tiny plastic beads pose a threat</a> to fish health and environmental quality in the region.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City, and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 A fresh look at Freedom Wall http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fresh-look-freedom-wall-109771 <p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/136868066&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>(Editor&#39;s note: The current episode of Curious City&#39;s podcast includes the interview portion of this story about Freedom Wall. That interview begins at 4 minutes, 55 seconds. Also, we&#39;re <a href="#form">taking your suggestions</a> about who should be included in a contemporary, digital Freedom Wall.)</em></p><p>If you ride the Brown Line or the Purple Line through Chicago&rsquo;s River North neighborhood, you&rsquo;ve probably seen this <a href="#list">list of names</a>. It&rsquo;s on the side of a brick building on Huron Street, where the Nacional 27 restaurant is located. The black banner stretches 72 feet high. Martin Luther King is at the top. Farther down, you&rsquo;ll see Harriet Tubman, the Dalai Lama, Frank Zappa, Ayn Rand and more.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker%20and%20artist%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 180px; width: 250px; float: right;" title="Dominique Lewis asked about the large banner of names on the city's Near North Side. Artist Adam Brooks, right, explained what's behind the piece called Freedom Wall. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" />Dominique Lewis caught glimpses of those 69 names in white letters &mdash; as well as one mysterious blank line &mdash; as she rode the Purple Line to work every day. &ldquo;I thought, &lsquo;That&rsquo;s weird. Why is Rush Limbaugh on a list with Martin Luther King Jr.?&rsquo;&rdquo; she says. So <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1189" target="_blank">she asked Curious City to investigate</a> the list&#39;s history and whether there&#39;s a common theme that connects those names.</p><p>Well, it&rsquo;s called <em>Freedom Wall</em>, and all of the names represent freedom ... or someone&rsquo;s idea of freedom, anyway. The artist who created it &nbsp;&mdash; Adam Brooks, a <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Art_and_Design/Faculty_Staff/FT_Faculty/Adam_Brook.php">Columbia College professor</a> who grew up in London &mdash; says he didn&rsquo;t have a partisan political agenda when he put up the list 20 years ago this August. In fact, he went out of his way to include conservative as well as liberal opinions about who represents freedom. And he avoided spelling out the word &ldquo;freedom&rdquo; on the banner because he wanted to make people think. He certainly got Lewis thinking.</p><p>Brooks acknowledges that <em>Freedom Wall</em> prompts some people to ask, &ldquo;Wait, that&rsquo;s supposed to be art?&rdquo; But he appears to have very little ego about his artwork, not even bothering to sign it. Brooks is trying to engage the public with his public art, not to dazzle people with his artistic prowess.</p><p>We invited Brooks to the WBEZ studios to discuss <em>Freedom Wall</em>. Lewis joined us for the conversation and added some questions of her own. Here&rsquo;s an edited transcript of our discussion.</p><p><strong>Why did you create <em>Freedom Wall</em>?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks:</strong> In 1992 and the lead-up to the presidential election that year, I heard the candidates really ramping up the idea of freedom. Of course, who&rsquo;s going to be against freedom? America is the land of the free. I was interested in exploring that word a little bit further.</p><p><strong>Why did you seek other people&rsquo;s opinions?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>It would&rsquo;ve been very easy for me to sit down and draw up a list of names of people that I felt embodied the idea of freedom, but that would&rsquo;ve been rather boring. And so what I did was essentially ask the question, &ldquo;Give me the names of up to three people that you feel embody the concept of freedom, whatever that means to you.&rdquo;</p><p>The Internet was really in its infancy then as a communicative medium. I posted this question on America Online, and in relatively short order, people started responding &mdash; particularly teachers, who were early adopters of the technology in their classrooms. The rank of the names on the list is essentially reflective of the frequency of nomination of those names. So Martin Luther King received the most votes.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>Did you have favorite names on the list, people who stood out for you for exemplifying freedom?</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/freedom%20wall%20vertical%20for%20WEB%20cred%20robert%20loerzel.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 330px; width: 220px;" title="The names listed on Freedom Wall were hand-lettered by a single craftsman from northern Indiana. (WBEZ/Robert Loerzel)" /><strong>Brooks:</strong> As far as I&rsquo;m concerned, that question is not pertinent to the project. Undoubtedly, personally I do, but because of the way that I work I don&rsquo;t take an ideological or other particular stance. I&rsquo;m interested in asking questions, and not posing answers. That, to me, is what art making is about &mdash; is to ask questions. And so, while certainly there are some people that I feel affinity with on the list more than others, I don&rsquo;t feel that it&rsquo;s really important for me to give you a specific answer.</p><p>I consciously did a search for conservatives and sent out hundreds of email requests to those people that themselves identified as conservatives. Because one of the things that I didn&rsquo;t want to end up happening was for someone like Rush Limbaugh to look at a project like this, and say, &ldquo;Oh, it&rsquo;s just another piece of liberal claptrap.&rdquo;</p><p>It was very important to me that there was no alteration, omission or any other kind of tampering with the results on my part. The only thing that I had to make decisions about was when specific names got the same number of nominations &mdash; how to rank them next to each other. So putting Anita Hill and Rush Limbaugh together, because they did get the same number of nominations, was quite delicious to me. Other than that, it&rsquo;s completely straight.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>Did any of the names you received shape or change your ideas of freedom?</p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>There was one set of answers from a German artist who was living in Chicago at that point in time, who was always a bit of a jokester. His three names were Stalin, Louis XIV and Hitler. And his rationale was that those three individuals created worlds in which they had absolute freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. And while that&rsquo;s an extreme response, I think that it&rsquo;s just as valid as any of the other responses that I received.<a name="list"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/VaCQr/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="200"></iframe><br /><a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdF9xNXo4RlNZbFZuV3JTbDNWWUNkX1E&amp;usp=drive_web#gid=0" target="_blank">(view / download list)</a></p><p><strong>Why is there a blank line under Frank Zappa?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>I think six people responded saying that they really didn&rsquo;t feel that one name could sufficiently embody the idea of freedom. And in fact, one respondent actually said she didn&rsquo;t know what freedom was and seriously doubted that it existed. And so it was important to me to recognize the fact that actually some people refuse to participate. In hindsight, it also functioned as a space into which passersby could potentially, mentally, insert their own choice.</p><p><strong>How did <em>Freedom Wall</em> end up at this location on Huron Street?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wide%20shot%20FOR%20WEB%20cred%20mickey%20capper.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Adam Brooks' Freedom Wall is set against a building that's the home of the Nacional 27 restaurant. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" /><strong>Brooks:</strong> The building at that time was owned by Buzz Ruttenberg, who has been a longtime supporter of the arts in Chicago. And the gallery that I was affiliated with at that time, the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, was actually in that building. Rhona and Buzz and I sat down and talked about the project, and without any hesitation, Buzz said, &ldquo;Yeah, it&rsquo;s fine, just make sure that it doesn&rsquo;t deteriorate.&rdquo; And I assured him that the technology had reached a point where it would not be peeling off &mdash; and indeed, it still looks pristine 20 years later, which is kind of amazing to me.</p><p>This was the second mooted location for the project. The original location, not too far away, was all set to go. The landlord of the building took a look at the long list, and saw Hitler on it, and said, &ldquo;There&rsquo;s gonna be crowds of people throwing bricks through my window if Hitler makes it onto the list. So unfortunately, I can&rsquo;t work with you on this project.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Lewis: Did the train [The CTA Brown Line] pass by the original site?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>No. So in the end, it worked out very well for everyone concerned. Because being able to see it from the train is a huge advantage in its visibility, and I&rsquo;ve always liked the idea that it&rsquo;s a fleeting experience.</p><p><strong>How did you choose the font?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>The font is Helvetica, which is one of the most common sans-serif fonts. Helvetica is probably the most ordinary font there is. I want people to look at the information and not think about the font at all.</p><p><strong>Why did you put this list of names up without any explanation on the wall? You don&rsquo;t have the word &ldquo;freedom&rdquo; anywhere to explain what this is all about.</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>I believe that art should not be a spoon-feeding process &mdash; that people should do some work, at least, to gain access to the kind of work that I make. Neither do I want it to be purposefully opaque or obscure, but asking passersby and viewers to do a bit of work to make connections between all of the names on that list is one of the essential components of the project for me.</p><p><strong>Lewis:</strong> I think it stood out more because it didn&rsquo;t have a title on it. I couldn&rsquo;t just Google what it was. I&rsquo;m on the train every morning, kind of staring out the window, so I have the time to think about it. There are some names I wasn&rsquo;t familiar with, so I went and looked some people up. There were some names that I thought, you know, &ldquo;These are kind of incongruent. I don&rsquo;t know what they have to do with each other.&rdquo; I&rsquo;ve talked to people about it, too. I&rsquo;ve talked to my friends, like: &ldquo;Hey, you&rsquo;ve seen that sign, right? What&rsquo;s the deal with that? What&rsquo;s going on?&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>And that&rsquo;s all I can really ask for. And if in some small way, I can lodge a question in people&rsquo;s heads and make them think a little bit, that&rsquo;s quite sufficient for me.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>I don&rsquo;t see your name anywhere on there. Was that on purpose &mdash; is it somewhere hidden?</p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>It&rsquo;s not hidden. It&rsquo;s not there. The idea of signing one&rsquo;s work is a modernist conceit, and I&rsquo;ve never signed my work &mdash; except maybe when I was in college 30-plus years ago, because that&rsquo;s what I was told I needed to do. But in pretty short order, I realized that that wasn&rsquo;t important, that the work itself was the signature. And if people are interested enough, they will find out who made the work.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>That&rsquo;s what I did.</p><p><strong>Brooks:</strong> For me, one of the most fascinating things about this whole project was going to northern Indiana, into a huge sign-painting warehouse and spending a day watching the one late-middle-aged man hand-letter each one of these names with a 3-inch-wide brush. Because he had been making these letters on billboards for 30 years, it was amazing watching him do it &mdash; absolutely precise and really fast. He did six names an hour. This painter&rsquo;s name was Bob Morales.</p><p><strong>How does <em>Freedom Wall</em> relate to the art you&rsquo;ve done recently with <a href="http://www.industryoftheordinary.com">Industry of the Ordinary</a>, your collaboration with Mathew Wilson?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks:</strong><em> Freedom Wall</em> was the first open acknowledgement that I&rsquo;m interested in reaching as wide an audience as possible &mdash; and presenting work that often does not even appear to be art. Asking questions about what art is &mdash; and whether it can function outside of the confines of the white-walled gallery.</p><p><em>Who represents freedom to you? Which names would you put on a new version of Freedom Wall? Suggest names here.<a name="form"></a>&nbsp;</em></p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><div id="wufoo-rhfbmej1nd9yf0">Fill out my <a href="https://thecuriouscity.wufoo.com/forms/rhfbmej1nd9yf0">online form</a>.</div><script type="text/javascript">var rhfbmej1nd9yf0;(function(d, t) { var s = d.createElement(t), options = { 'userName':'thecuriouscity', 'formHash':'rhfbmej1nd9yf0', 'autoResize':true, 'height':'617', 'async':true, 'host':'wufoo.com', 'header':'show', 'ssl':true}; s.src = ('https:' == d.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + 'wufoo.com/scripts/embed/form.js'; s.onload = s.onreadystatechange = function() { var rs = this.readyState; if (rs) if (rs != 'complete') if (rs != 'loaded') return; try { rhfbmej1nd9yf0 = new WufooForm();rhfbmej1nd9yf0.initialize(options);rhfbmej1nd9yf0.display(); } catch (e) {}}; var scr = d.getElementsByTagName(t)[0], par = scr.parentNode; par.insertBefore(s, scr); })(document, 'script');</script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><br /><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/209578749/Freedom-Wall-A-project-by-Chicago-artist-Adam-Brooks" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Freedom Wall: A project by Chicago artist Adam Brooks on Scribd">Freedom Wall: A project by Chicago artist Adam Brooks</a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><a name="pdf"></a><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_53845" scrolling="no" src="//www.scribd.com/embeds/209578749/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Robert Loerzel is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/robertloerzel">@robertloerzel</a></em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Adam Brooks&#39; collaborator. The correct spelling is Mathew Wilson.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Additional editor&#39;s note: After reporting this story, Curious City was informed that the current owner of the building that Freedom wall is installed upon is the Conant family. That family is the backer of the&nbsp;Doris and Howard Conant Fund for Journalism, which supports Curious City through contributions to WBEZ.</em>&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 19:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fresh-look-freedom-wall-109771 How Blue Island fought off Chicago's annexation attempt http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-blue-island-fought-chicagos-annexation-attempt-109763 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/136868066&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>If Blue Island, a Southwestern suburb of just four square miles, once beat back Chicago&rsquo;s attempt to annex it, we shouldn&rsquo;t be surprised that they trounced other suburbs in a Curious City face-off.</p><p>Recall that curious citizen Jim Padden asked Curious City how Chicago grew over time by annexing its neighbors. (The answer? It&rsquo;s in an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">animated map</a>).</p><p>But then, we asked you: Which Chicago suburb&rsquo;s story of resisting annexation do you want to hear more about?</p><p>Blue Island prevailed against Oak Park, which is on the city&#39;s western border, and Evanston to the north. I want to thank the&nbsp;<a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1hZ7pRixGl5BicB0a6JZQ7Iz94ZRrx9cTcgxD3Wn8GQQ/viewanalytics#start=publishanalytics" target="_blank">thousands of you who voted</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re not familiar with the place, Blue Island is a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883" target="_blank">diverse, proudly working class suburb</a> of about 24,000 people. It&rsquo;s about 16 miles southwest of Chicago&rsquo;s loop, as the crow flies.</p><p>To get to the heart of why this suburb said &lsquo;No thanks&rsquo; when Chicago came knocking, we need to go back in time.</p><p><strong>Which is the city, which is the suburb?</strong></p><p>In the 1830s, Blue Island and Chicago were just whispers of their future selves among Illinois wilderness.</p><p>&ldquo;Blue Island is just two years younger than Chicago,&rdquo; said chair of the Blue Island Historical Society Mike Kaliski. &ldquo;So Blue Island was a stopping point for travelers going on to Chicago. It was still a day&rsquo;s travel from here to Chicago. So between Chicago and Joliet, Blue Island was it. There was nothing else and this was a big town. So Blue Islanders always felt maybe Chicago should be the suburb, not Blue Island. &rdquo;</p><p>But Blue Island remained a modest four square miles while Chicago grew, annexing its neighbors one at a time. By 1914, Chicago had sidled up to Blue Island&rsquo;s doorstep.</p><p>&ldquo;Morgan Park had voted for [annexation by Chicago in 1914],&rdquo; Kaliski said. &ldquo;So now, oh boy, it&rsquo;s getting closer. Now what are we going to do? So there was probably a little more urgency to the Blue Islanders&rsquo; frame of mind at that time.&rdquo;</p><p>Blue Islanders got to see what happened to their neighbors in Morgan Park after Chicago gobbled them up in 1914. For one thing, Morgan Park lost half its street names in the transition; its east-west streets took on numbers (e.g., West 111th Street), following Chicago&rsquo;s convention.</p><p>We dug out some old newspapers to give a sense of how the arguments for and against annexation played out. Here&rsquo;s an excerpt from the Blue Island Standard on February 2, 1915.</p><p>&ldquo;Who is Annexation Society? The writer afraid or ashamed to disclose his identity...The first gun in the annexation campaign was fired last Saturday when hundreds of circulars called Volume 1 Annexation filled the mails and found their way into nearly every home in the city.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>The anonymous &lsquo;Annexation Society&rsquo; flyers touted Chicago&rsquo;s public schools and other city services. But they didn&rsquo;t convince many Blue Islanders. In 1915, residents rebuffed Chicago in a landslide, with about 77 percent voting not to join Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/blue%20island%20historic%20western.PNG" style="height: 207px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Archival image of Western Avenue in Blue Island. (Courtesy of Rock Island Public House)" /><strong>Blue Island roots</strong></div><p>The outcome doesn&rsquo;t surprise Richard Bauer. The 83-year-old comes from a family whose roots in Blue Island run deep. He&rsquo;s a direct descendent of Henry Bauer, who <a href="http://www.blueisland.org/landmarks/33-bauer/" target="_blank">opened a brewery in Blue Island in 1858</a>. Richard Bauer was born 15 years after the annexation vote, but remembers plenty of stories about why it failed.</p><p>&ldquo;There were certain businesses and politicians that were very prominent and it wouldn&rsquo;t be any advantage to them at all,&rdquo; Richard said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;d be out. Naturally they&rsquo;d want to stay the way it was.&rdquo;</p><p>Richard said he never heard anyone in Blue Island consider joining Chicago again.</p><p>&ldquo;If there had been any talk it wasn&rsquo;t serious talk,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Jason Berry is a city planner and history buff who loves Blue Island so much he braved a blizzard to come out and talk about it.</p><p>&ldquo;We have our own identity,&rdquo; Berry said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a shock to me that in 1915 Blue Islanders also felt the same way &mdash; growing up in the shadow of Chicago doesn&rsquo;t mean you have to give up who you were. The pride that Blue Islanders have today you see echoed in these old papers. Blue Islanders always felt strongly about their place in history and I&rsquo;m glad that they were able to hold onto it.&rdquo;</p><p>Identity. That word keeps popping up. Sure, taxes, politics and plenty of other things factored into Blue Island&rsquo;s fear of annexation. But it seems that &mdash; for most folks I talked to &mdash; it&rsquo;s about identity.</p><p><strong>Identity and infrastructure</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s one thing to have a strong community identity. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-are-chicago-neighborhoods-formed-103831" target="_blank">Plenty of Chicago neighborhoods do.</a></p><p>Shoot, Hyde Park was annexed into the city way back in 1899, but if you ask someone at 55th and Woodlawn where they live, odds are good the first words out of their mouth aren&rsquo;t &ldquo;Chicago,&rdquo; but &ldquo;Hyde Park.&rdquo;</p><p>So the warm fuzzy feeling of a Blue Island identity wasn&rsquo;t enough to fight off annexation. It had to have city services good enough to make Chicago&rsquo;s offers of infrastructure unconvincing.</p><p>A big part of it was that Blue Island had already secured a way of getting fresh water from Lake Michigan without Chicago&rsquo;s infrastructure.</p><p>&ldquo;They didn&rsquo;t need Chicago to come in and say, &lsquo;Hey, you&rsquo;re going to get water, you&rsquo;re going to get this and this &mdash; we&rsquo;ve already got it,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kaliski said. &ldquo;We got a contract and they already secured the water. So you gotta understand their attitude was we don&rsquo;t need you. We don&rsquo;t want to be part of Chicago. There&rsquo;s nothing Chicago could offer except higher taxes.&rdquo;</p><p>Blue Island was also bolstered by its connection to the railways and had diverse industry. It made everything from bricks to beer.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rockislandpublichouse_elliott.PNG" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 350px;" title="Blue Island’s Bauer brewery opened in 1858 but didn’t survive until today. The the beer-loving tradition continues with a new business: Rock Island Public House. (WBEZ/file)" /><strong>Depending on diversity for future growth</strong></div><p>The only thing more diverse than the industry in Blue Island&rsquo;s past is its people. The <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1706704.html" target="_blank">latest U.S. Census numbers</a> show residents are:</p><ul dir="ltr"><li>41.3% white</li><li>47% Latino (can include other categories)</li><li>30.8% African-American</li></ul><p>The city just elected its first Latino mayor: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBsnlL7YcVc" target="_blank">Domingo Vargas</a>. He says Blue Island&rsquo;s diversity still keeps it distinct from Chicago and newer suburban sprawl to its west.</p><p>Blue Island businesses struggled in the 20th century to compete against suburban malls.</p><p>But Vargas &mdash; whose own family has lived in Blue Island since 1914 &mdash; says the suburb is poised to grow again. They&rsquo;re not making bricks anymore, but they are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883" target="_blank">brewing again</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Blue Island&rsquo;s basically been a community of churches. As well as the breweries. So from one extreme to the other,&rdquo; Vargas said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re coming back. The churches are coming back, the breweries are coming back, and eventually hopefully more of the small businesses will be the unique niches here again.&rdquo;</p><p>There&rsquo;s even talk now in Blue Island of making room for newcomers by snapping up a few bits of available land in the surrounding area.</p><p>Because, as just about everyone we met there said: Who wouldn&rsquo;t want to live in Blue Island?</p><p><em>Tricia Bobeda is a WBEZ web producer. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> @triciabobeda</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-blue-island-fought-chicagos-annexation-attempt-109763