WBEZ | Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Durbin leaving Congressional roommates behind http://www.wbez.org/news/durbin-leaving-congressional-roommates-behind-111261 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP602936696661.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For Senator Dick Durbin, the upcoming session of Congress marks the end of an era. And it&rsquo;s not because the Senate is turning from blue to red.</p><p>After more than 20 years, the number two Democrat will be forced to find a new place to live. Durbin has been sharing a Capitol Hill row house with two Democrats: New York Sen.Chuck Schumer, and Rep. George Miller of California, who is also the landlord. Other members of congress have stayed there through the years, including Marty Russo of Illinois, Leon Panetta of California, Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut, and Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts.</p><p>But in 2015, their landlord won&rsquo;t be returning to the Hill. Representative Miller announced at the beginning of this year that he wasn&rsquo;t going to seek a 21st term in the House of Representatives, and so he decided to sell the now somewhat famous frat house.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the end of an era,&rdquo; Durbin said. &ldquo;And as I said to one of the other <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/17/us/after-decades-lawmakers-are-roommates-no-more.html" target="_blank">interviewers</a>, it&rsquo;s the end of America as I have known it. It is a new nation. I don&rsquo;t know, it&rsquo;ll be fine.&rdquo;</p><p>Durbin says he went out and got himself a little apartment that he&rsquo;ll move into in a couple weeks when the new session starts.</p><p>But the Senator didn&rsquo;t seem too thrilled about the change of pace, as he says he&rsquo;ll miss his roommates.</p><p>&ldquo;Coming home at night, late at night, and just sitting around, on the couch, talking about what happens and how it&rsquo;s seen differently in the House than it is in the Senate. You know, I miss that. And plus, we became friends, family friends.&rdquo;</p><p>Durbin has told stories in the past about the lack of cleanliness in the apartment. He says Miller would chide Schumer for leaving his bed unmade for &ldquo;7,000 nights.&rdquo; Durbin says his new Washington digs will be much cleaner than his last.</p><p>&ldquo;I am just an average clean up guy, and I stood out in this house as way above the rest,&rdquo; Durbin said.</p><p>If the vision of three, not just grown men, but powerful lawmakers, living together in a DC apartment sounds to you like the makings of a sitcom, you&rsquo;re not alone.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t tell you how many times people say, &lsquo;that would make a wonderful TV show.&rsquo; That story, I can just see it now,&rdquo; Durbin said, in a previous interview. &ldquo;And I said, understand there&rsquo;s no sex and violence here, so this is not likely to be very popular.&rdquo;</p><p>A few attempts at that show were made early on, including one by a then young comedian named Al Franken, but none were successful until last year, when Amazon produced a web series called <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Pilot-HD/dp/B00CDBTQCW" target="_blank">Alpha House</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/durbin-leaving-congressional-roommates-behind-111261 Rules of the ramps: Surviving while homeless in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-ramps-surviving-while-homeless-chicago-111207 <p><p>The City of Chicago does a regular count of people who are homeless here. The most recent survey puts the count at more than 6,000 people at any given time&mdash;though advocates say that at some time over the course of a year more than 100,000 individual people are homeless. Many of them are visible as they sleep in parks or panhandle on the streets.&nbsp; But they&rsquo;re still mostly invisible and unknown.&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Photos: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-ramps-surviving-while-homeless-chicago-111207#norma" target="_self">A tour of the hut where Norma lives</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>That changed for me over the past year, as I went out to meet some of the people who ask for money along Chicago&rsquo;s expressway exit ramps. I learned about their lives, and the &ldquo;rules of the ramp&rdquo; they survive by. We&#39;ve included the audio of some of their stories here.</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/bud.jpeg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Bud at the expressway ramp where he asks those driving by for money. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" /></div><p>I met Bud about a year ago. He used to be a forklift operator in Bolingbrook and after he lost that job, he tried to hold his family&rsquo;s finances together through various remodeling and temp jobs. He struck me as a very unlikely person to be out here working the ramps in Chicago. He panhandled at the Kennedy exit ramp near Diversey and Keeler. He lived in a sort of mini-tent city under the Kennedy expressway.</p><p>Bud told me that &ldquo;rarely a day goes by&rdquo; when someone didn&#39;t give him two pennies for his efforts. He politely says &ldquo;thank you&rdquo; he tells me, laughing. Sort of his way of one-upping them.</p><p>Some of his fellow ramp workers report that if they get pennies, they throw that &ldquo;sh&mdash;&quot; back at the driver. But Bud said that&rsquo;s bad strategy.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to cause a scene,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Others will see that and they won&rsquo;t want to give either.&rdquo;</p><p>Plus, Bud didn&#39;t want other people in their cars to think he&rsquo;s ungrateful.</p><p>&ldquo;What am I going to say?&rdquo; Bud said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re not giving me enough money? I can&rsquo;t get mad at someone about their money.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 22.3999996185303px; line-height: 22px;">Rules of the ramps</span></p><p>I started hearing anecdotes like this about a year ago. That&rsquo;s when I noticed that there never seems to be more than one panhandler at a time at any given ramp&mdash;which seems to suggest a <em>system</em> of some sort. So I started asking if there are rules that govern what happens at the ramps.</p><p>There was no science behind my little investigation. But it turns out there is a system of sorts. If you listen to their stories, you&rsquo;ll hear the &ldquo;findings&rdquo; of my study within the context of their complex lives. The rules of the ramps are roughly the following:</p><ul><li>No one &ldquo;owns&rdquo; a spot, and it&rsquo;s basically &ldquo;first come, first served&rdquo; at the ramps. But if you&rsquo;ve worked there for weeks or months, you have earned &ldquo;dibs&rdquo; on that spot.</li><li>Even if you consider it to be &ldquo;your&rdquo; spot, if you&rsquo;ve earned some money and someone else is waiting &ndash; let them on the ramp. Because everyone needs to eat.</li><li>Don&rsquo;t walk right up to someone&rsquo;s car. Don&rsquo;t ever tap on someone&rsquo;s car window. Don&rsquo;t intimidate or harass people.</li><li>If someone gives you pennies, hold onto it. It all starts to add up.</li><li>Don&rsquo;t panhandle in the rain. Drivers don&rsquo;t want to roll down their windows and get wet. You won&rsquo;t earn much.</li><li>&nbsp;Give the ramp a &ldquo;rest.&rdquo; If drivers always see panhandlers at a given ramp, they become weary and won&rsquo;t donate. It&rsquo;s called &ldquo;burning up the spot.&rdquo;&nbsp; Note: This &ldquo;rule&rdquo; is contested. Many ramp workers think it&rsquo;s fine for a ramp to be &ldquo;staffed&rdquo; all the time.</li><li>Asking for money with a sign is not &quot;begging&quot;. When you walk up to someone and ask for money with words &ndash; that&rsquo;s &quot;begging&quot;. Note: This &ldquo;rule&rdquo; is contested too.</li><li>If you don&rsquo;t want to be judged&mdash;and even pre-judged &ndash; don&rsquo;t&nbsp;work the ramps.</li></ul><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 22.3999996185303px; line-height: 22px;">To give or not to give</span></p><p>Some experts on homelessness advise the public not to donate to panhandlers. Nonie Brennan is CEO at an organization called All Chicago, Making Homelessness History. She never gives to panhandlers.</p><p>&ldquo;And I strongly encourage people not to give money to panhandlers,&quot; Brennan said. &quot;If somebody is interested in helping with the issue of homelessness, there are a number of excellent organizations that could really benefit from a donation and you can get a tax receipt and then you know where your money is going. And you know that your money is actually helping something. If you&rsquo;re giving to panhandlers you don&rsquo;t know where your money&rsquo;s going and you don&rsquo;t know what it&rsquo;s doing.&rdquo;</p><p>Last winter I also talked to Jim LoBianco, former head of homeless services in the Daley administration and until recently, executive director at Streetwise, an organization probably best known for the newspaper it publishes and its ubiquitous newspaper vendors. Streetwise is also a full-scale social service agency.</p><p>LoBianco is also convinced that, in general, donating to panhandlers isn&rsquo;t a good idea. Though he says sometimes breaks his own rule and donates a sizable amount&mdash;$25 or more&mdash;if he thinks the person is in real crisis and needs to immediately get off the street.</p><p>LoBianco says at a shelter, someone who is homeless might get access to other services.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The difference between begging on an expressway ramp and getting enough money to go into a McDonalds and buy yourself a hamburger, versus picking yourself up and going to a local soup kitchen run by charity, is that when you walk into that soup kitchen you&rsquo;re not only going to get the meal&mdash;you&rsquo;re going to be engaged by someone who has some basic case management experience,&quot; LoBianco said. &quot;And you&rsquo;re going to be engaged by somebody who could actually say, &lsquo;What&rsquo;s the bigger picture going on in your life? Why are you forced to beg on the streets? Why are you in such crisis? How do we solve that problem?&rsquo; No one is walking into a soup kitchen in this city without being engaged at that level.&rdquo;</p><p>But a number of panhandlers told me this is not their experience.&nbsp;</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/tony.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="Tony has tried using resources from social service agencies but says he has never been offered access to job training. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Take Tony. He has an associate&rsquo;s degree in business hospitality and worked for eight years as a sous chef for Marriott Hotels in Detroit, he says.&nbsp;He regularly stays at an emergency shelter and I ask if he&rsquo;s ever tried to get help from an&nbsp;actual social service agency in Chicago?</div><div><p>&quot;Yeah, I have,&rdquo; Tony tells me. &quot;But actually, all they do is refer you to a shelter. That&rsquo;s the feedback I done got from &lsquo;em. &#39;Well, this shelter here&mdash;&nbsp;have you tried this shelter?&rsquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;Like far as trying to find low-income housing and stuff like that &ndash; they don&rsquo;t do that. If they do, they put you on a lottery waiting list. And for some reason, my name never got pulled..&rdquo;</p><p>Okay, social service agencies &nbsp;have not, thus far, found you permanent housing, I told him. But have they ever tried to hook you up with job training&nbsp;&mdash; or an actual job?</p><p>&ldquo;I ain&rsquo;t never heard social service say anything about job training. Never.&rdquo; Tony says.</p><p>&nbsp;And he asks if the people who told me this know I&rsquo;m a reporter?</p><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Basically they&#39;re probably telling you what you want to hear. When one of us go up there, it&rsquo;s something totally different,&rdquo; he advises me. &nbsp;</p></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/deedeecrop.jpg" style="float: right; height: 401px; width: 300px;" title="Dee-Dee panhandles in Chicago. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" />Dee-Dee panhandles on the expressway ramps too. She&#39;s gone to a social service agency and says she knows very nice people there.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;[But] for you to get a place to stay, or any kinda help, it could be two or three years down the road,&quot; she said. &quot;And that ain&rsquo;t gonna help me right now.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><br />She says social service agencies are well-meaning and they&rsquo;ll put you on a list for help.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;But in the meantime, what you gonna do? You gotta get out there and hustle&mdash;or fall by the wayside. I mean we can&rsquo;t live with no money in our pocket. I mean you get into emergency situations. I&rsquo;m a woman, like, I get my monthly like... what am I gonna do? Like try and run and find a service agency &ndash; &#39;Oh I need tampons right now!&#39; No. If I can&rsquo;t get no money out here, I&rsquo;m gonna go to Walgreens and steal me some tampons&hellip;. So I gotta do, what I gotta do. If I&rsquo;m hungry, I gotta eat.&rdquo;<p>Many of the ramp workers I talked to acknowledged that there are lots of panhandlers who are mentally ill, strung out on drugs or alcoholics. Or all of the above. And most of them also acknowledged they themselves had a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives. But several insisted that was no longer the case. Now they were simply down on their luck.</p><p>Were they lying? Probably some were&mdash;and some weren&rsquo;t.</p><p>But I know this for sure: I met some pretty high-functioning people on the ramps, many who had held jobs and hope to again.</p><p><em>Audio production of Norma, Ed, Bud and Steven&#39;s stories by Ken Davis</em></p></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Follow along this week as WBEZ digs deeper into the issue of homelessness in Chicago.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 22.3999996185303px; line-height: 22px;">A photo tour of Norma&#39;s hut<a name="norma"></a></span><iframe allowfullscreen="" height="380px" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://zeega.com/170427/embed" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-ramps-surviving-while-homeless-chicago-111207 Criminal probe after gas evacuates 'furries' event http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-probe-after-gas-evacuates-furries-event-111203 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ap369870749900-6cb6149372bd01c6980713a5a664451b31a557e3-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>ROSEMONT, Ill. &mdash; Authorities are investigating the release of a gas that sickened several hotel guests and forced thousands of people &mdash; many dressed as cartoon animals &mdash; to evacuate the building.</p><p>Although some participants at the Midwest FurFest convention thought the mass evacuation early Sunday was just part of the fun, investigators are treating it as a criminal matter.</p><p>Nineteen people who became nauseous or dizzy were treated at local hospitals. Within hours, emergency workers decontaminated the Hyatt Regency O&#39;Hare and allowed people back inside.</p><p>The Rosemont Public Safety Department said someone apparently intentionally left a powder that appeared to contain chlorine in a ninth-floor hotel stairway, causing the gas to spread. On Monday, the department would only say that the investigation was continuing and declined further comment.</p><p>Organizers tried to reassure the participants that the evacuation would not overshadow the FurFest event, in which attendees celebrate animals that are anthropomorphic &mdash; meaning they&#39;ve been given human characteristics &mdash; through art, literature and performance. Many of the costumed attendees refer to themselves as &quot;furries.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In walk all these people dressed like dogs and foxes,&quot; said Pieter Van Hiel, a 40-year-old technical writer from Hamilton, Canada, chuckling as he recalled the crowd being herded into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, where a dog show was taking place over the weekend.</p><p>Kit McCreedy, a 28-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, said he didn&#39;t think the incident would further disrupt Midwest FurFest, which was in its final day.</p><p>&quot;I think we&#39;ll recover from this,&quot; said McCreedy, his fox tail swinging behind him as he headed back inside. &quot;People are tired but they&#39;re still full of energy.&quot;</p><p>Others said they didn&#39;t know why anyone would try to upset the convention that includes dance contests and panel discussions on making the costumes. Some pointed out that the brightly colored outfits are made from fake fur and foam.</p><p>&quot;Nobody uses real fur,&quot; said Frederic Cesbron, a 35-year-old forklift operator who flew to Chicago from his home in France. He attended the convention dressed in a fox outfit that he said is worth about $3,000.</p><p>&quot;Everyone is from a different background,&quot; said Michael Lynch, a 25-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, who, like his buddy, McCreedy, dressed as a fox. &quot;Nobody judges anybody. It&#39;s nice to come to a place like that.&quot;</p><p>Or, as Van Hiel put it, &quot;It&#39;s kind of weird, but it&#39;s not weird here.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-probe-after-gas-evacuates-furries-event-111203 Chicago protestors focus on the future http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-protestors-focus-future-111201 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/friday protest.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of people demonstrated on Chicago&#39;s West Side over the weekend to bring more attention to the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.</p><p>Area pastors encouraged congregants to join a march shutting down the intersection of Madison and Pulaski. Demonstrators say this is only the beginning of a movement that&#39;ll go beyond holding signs in the streets.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/who-polices-police-chicago-its-increasingly-ex-cops-111194" target="_blank">Who polices the police in Chicago? Mostly ex-cops</a></strong></p></blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/180564592&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Thousands of church-goers also ditched their traditional services and flooded streets all throughout Chicago&#39;s South Side on Sunday. Their pastors urged them to march in solidarity with protesters who for weeks now have been bringing attention to cases of black men killed by police. Pastors say the marches should have taken place decades ago.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Listen to the Morning Shift conversation</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/180557897&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 11:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-protestors-focus-future-111201 Morning Shift: Impact of raising minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-12-04/morning-shift-impact-raising-minimum-wage-111189 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/B4A8Lx4IUAAeOG6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Looking at Chicago&#39;s new minimum wage hike from a number of angles, the happiness level of vegetarians, and music from A Christmas Carol</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-109/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-109.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-109" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Impact of raising minimum wage " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 08:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-12-04/morning-shift-impact-raising-minimum-wage-111189 Mayor Byrne remembered as feisty, trailblazer http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-byrne-remembered-feisty-trailblazer-111114 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/byrne funeral.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago said goodbye Monday to Jane Byrne, its first and only female mayor. Byrne was celebrated for her &ldquo;feisty&rdquo; personality and her &ldquo;trailblazing&rdquo; career in the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Her funeral was held at the St. Vincent de Paul Church in Lincoln Park - the same parish her parents attended in the late 1890s. Byrne&rsquo;s mother also attended grammar school there. A steady stream of friends, family members, politicos and regular Chicagoans attended her visitation and funeral Monday - including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>&ldquo;She led our city in a way that captures the true spirit of Chicago: dogged, determined and dignified,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;As the first woman to lead not just our city, but any major American city, Jane Byrne will always have a special place in the history books</p><p>The morning began with a traditional visitation at 9 am sharp. Jane Byrne lay peacefully inside an open casket with the Chicago flag laid delicately on top. The sun snuck in through the ornate stained glass windows of the church and made her blonde hair shine.</p><p>For the most part, the mood was more jovial than somber: Old friends and colleagues greeted each other in more of the manner of a holiday party. Many, like Angel Correa, sported Byrne&rsquo;s old campaign buttons.</p><p>Correa said he campaigned hard for Byrne back in the early 1980s -- even as he clocked hours as a circulation manager at the Chicago Tribune.</p><p>&ldquo;And I&rsquo;ll tell you one thing,&rdquo; he said, while clutching a collage of old pictures of Mayor Byrne. &ldquo;I used to take her literature and actually stuff it in the Tribune papers. If they would have found that out, I probably would [have] got canned!&rdquo;</p><p>Correa later went on to serve as the deputy commissioner of neighborhoods for Mayor Byrne.</p><p>&ldquo;Believe me when I tell you: A very feisty lady, very bossy, but a very, very good, warm person with a good heart.&rdquo;</p><p>That feistiness was a constant theme throughout the funeral mass -- especially in the homily from Monsignor Kenneth Velo.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember walking into her room one day. She was peering out her window to the east, looking toward the lake. She didn&rsquo;t know I was there. I said Jane! She looked back and said &ldquo;you scared the hell out of me! And I said, good!&rdquo;</p><p>Velo spoke both of Byrne&rsquo;s accomplishments and her trials: like her vision for the museum campus, or the death of her first husband soon after the birth of their only child Kathy.</p><p>&ldquo;Was she perfect? Are you? Am I? Did she have faults? Sure. Don&rsquo;t you? Don&rsquo;t I? But she loved the city of Chicago. And she was proud that she was mayor of the city of Chicago,&rdquo; Velo said.</p><p>According to Velo, Byrne also proudly planned this mass.</p><p>Her great-grand nieces read the petitions and prayers, and her only grandson, Willy, read one of her favorite quotes from Senator Robert Kennedy.</p><p>But some of deepest emotion and reflection came from Byrne&rsquo;s daughter, Kathy.</p><p>&ldquo;My mother was dragon slaying, problem solving, 24/7 guardian angel,&rdquo; Byrne said.</p><p>Byrne said she often thinks about how life would have been if her dad had survived - she says her mom would have likely lived as a socialite on the North shore. But instead, Byrne said her mom fought for her independence. Back then, women weren&rsquo;t allowed to have their own credit accounts. When her dad died, Byrne says her mom had to fight tooth and nail at Saks Fifth Avenue to get that credit back -- a hurtful and humiliating experience that came to back to Byrne when she lived in Chicago&rsquo;s housing projects.</p><p>&ldquo;When my mom spoke to the mothers in Cabrini. And she heard how some of the merchants in the area refused their food stamps and called them names, called them worthless [and] did this in front of their children. My mother could share what they felt,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>And Byrne says her mother loved every minute of her time as mayor.</p><p>&ldquo;She was a great lady. And I&rsquo;ll never know anyone like her.&rdquo;</p><p>As Byrne&rsquo;s family carried her casket into the brisk Chicago winds - another fitting - but unplanned - theme appeared: Snow.</p><p>It was a snowfall in 1979 that swept Mayor Byrne into office. So it only seemed fitting that snowflakes fell softly on the Chicago flag that covered her coffin.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 06:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-byrne-remembered-feisty-trailblazer-111114 SRO tenants gain protections http://www.wbez.org/news/sro-tenants-gain-protections-111093 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7102_IMG_2085 (outside 2)-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Low-income tenants of Chicago&rsquo;s disappearing single-room occupancy hotels have new protections under an ordinance city council approved Wednesday. The &ldquo;Chicago for All&rdquo; ordinance, as it has come to be known, passed 47-2, with only Aldermen Carrie Austin (34th) and Mary O&rsquo;Connor (41st) opposing. Supporters of the measure hope it will slow the trend of affordable SRO units falling into the hands of for-profit developers who displace low-income tenants.</p><p>&ldquo;This is all a piece of an overall fabric,&rdquo; said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose office helped broker the compromise between affordable housing advocates and SRO owners. &ldquo;The housing strategy particularly is part of a five-year plan: 41,000 units of affordable housing in the City of Chicago.&quot;</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s office worked closely with sponsors Alderman Walter Burnett (27th), Ameya Pawar (47th), and a coalition of organizations including ONE Northside, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and many more.</p><p>The ordinance regulates the sale of SRO buildings such that owners are encouraged to negotiate first with buyers who intend to preserve the building as affordable housing. If an owner opts not to do so, he may sell to for-profit developers and pay into a city SRO preservation fund at the rate of $20,000 per unit in the building. The preservation fund, in turn, could be used to provide forgivable loans to SRO owners who wish to make building improvements, to subsidize building purchases by preservation buyers, and to build new SRO buildings in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;In places like the Fourth Ward, we believe that we are doing our fair share when it comes to affordable housing and public housing,&rdquo; said Alderman William Burns (4th).&nbsp; &ldquo;And when we look at other places in the city, we ask what&rsquo;s being done to create affordable housing on the north lakefront? On the North Side of Chicago? So that there&rsquo;s equal opportunity for people to have affordable housing throughout the city&mdash;and particularly in communities where there&rsquo;s access to good schools, jobs, grocery stores, and an opportunity to break down racial segregation in this city?&rdquo;</p><p>Burns and other aldermen praised the ordinance for addressing, in part, the city&rsquo;s shortage of affordable housing. In particular, they cited it as a key way to combat the problem of homeless veterans. Housing advocates estimate about one-quarter of SRO residents are war veterans who might otherwise be homeless. Mayor Emanuel has declared one of his goals in the 2015 budget will be to end veteran homelessness in Chicago.</p><p>Additionally, the ordinance would provide additional financial assistance for SRO residents who are displaced. It would require building owners to pay between $2,000 and $10,600, depending on the circumstances. It would also forbid SRO owners from retaliating against residents who complain to the city or the news media about conditions in their buildings.</p><p>Negotiations between the city, advocates and SRO owners were challenging. Initially, many SRO owners hoped the city would shy away from regulations, and instead offer more financial incentives for them to keep their buildings affordable. But concerns early on that the regulations may be enough to prompt a lawsuit against the city have largely dissipated.</p><p>&ldquo;We were disappointed that the ordinance fell a bit short. We, and so many other stakeholders over about six months had been working very diligently,&rdquo; said Eric Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation. &ldquo;We will, as operators, do our very best to work with the plan, with the ordinance, as it was presented.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-6cd3f03c-a623-4dee-4055-9af79ec2a054"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 16:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sro-tenants-gain-protections-111093 StoryCorps: Interracial couple travels to Ferguson, Missouri http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-interracial-couple-travels-ferguson-missouri-111086 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 141107 Helene Lucas_bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Helene Matumona was born in Zambia, but grew up in Canada.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago is very different from Vancouver,&rdquo; she says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;When you&rsquo;re here, you really feel like you&rsquo;re black. I think that&rsquo;s how I would describe my stay in Chicago: I feel black.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not trying to divide myself,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You know, ideally I want to live in a society where there aren&rsquo;t tensions. Where we can all just be cool with each other.&rdquo;</p><p>Matumona came to the booth with her husband, Lucas Weisbecker, who is white. He asked her about their recent visit to St. Louis and the protests in nearby Ferguson.</p><p>&ldquo;It was just really tense at times,&quot; she says. &quot;Because you could feel the anger and you could feel just how fatigued the African-Americans in St. Louis were.&rdquo;</p><p>Weisbecker asks: &ldquo;Going to those protests, did that change your idea of what it means to be black?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah. Cause I&rsquo;m an African immigrant,&quot; she says. &quot;And I feel like there&rsquo;s a difference there. Versus being an African-American and going through these struggles, the Civil Rights movement and slavery and all that. There&rsquo;s definitely a different story there. There&rsquo;s a different fight.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I went down there to try to see what was happening,&rdquo; Weisbecker explains. &ldquo;To try to feel the vibe of what was going on. And try to get a story from people that are actually there and experiencing like&hellip;because obviously there&rsquo;s a lot of underlying issues beyond just one kid getting killed. People react that way because there&rsquo;s a systemic problem and it&rsquo;s not being addressed.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;And you go down there and you see kids being basically fed up with the way things are and trying to make a difference,&rdquo; Weisbecker continues. &ldquo;The one thing I kept thinking about though was how is this actually going to make a difference in the end.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There needs to be a direction. And there needs to be somebody or a group or an idea that puts everything into a direction, because if there&rsquo;s no direction it&rsquo;s just going to be unbridled anger, which is justified, but it is not necessarily going to change what it is that people are upset about.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It was so cool to see people out in the streets talking about politics and the issues. And I think that&rsquo;s the first step to developing a direction. And you really need to be so on point to make change. And it was like: We were marching, We were yelling. We were talking. And it was just like: Okay, what&rsquo;s the action? What are we going to do?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;d say, I left with a lot of questions.&quot;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="888px"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 16:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-interracial-couple-travels-ferguson-missouri-111086 Campus police: real deal or rent-a-cops? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/campus-police-real-deal-or-rent-cops-111071 <p><p>Say you are driving around Chicago and you happen to run a red light. There are no Chicago police officers around, but there is a university police car right behind you. Could you still get a ticket?</p><p>That&rsquo;s exactly what Jef Johnson was wondering when he started noticing University of Chicago Police Department cars all over his Bronzeville neighborhood.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the question Jef sent our way:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Are police forces at local universities real police or simply security companies? How much policing power do they have?</em></p><p>We found a straightforward legal answer about how this works in Illinois. There is a spectrum of authority that ranges from security guard to all-out cop. At the far end of that spectrum are Jef&rsquo;s own University of Chicago police. He didn&rsquo;t know it at the time but UCPD is almost unique, with a particularly strong hand when it comes to power and jurisdiction. Those officers don&rsquo;t just protect students, staff and campus &mdash; the UCPD serves as the primary police force for 65,000 Chicagoans, and most are not affiliated with the university.</p><p>That prompted a question that should interest anyone, even those who never encounter these officers: How can a private police force get jurisdiction over so much of the public?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Not your father&rsquo;s rent-a-cops</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with that legal distinction we found. If you&rsquo;re anything like Jef, you probably assume that campus police officers aren&rsquo;t real police, and they have little authority other than the power to break up rowdy parties.</p><p>&ldquo;I always thought somehow that they were rent-a-cops,&rdquo; Jef said.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not always the case, according Cora Beem, who manages mandated training for the<a href="http://www.ptb.state.il.us/aboutus.htm" target="_blank"> Illinois Law Enforcement Standards &amp; Training Board</a>. She said the big distinction to be made is between campus security guards and campus police. The latter undergo the same basic training and certification that state and municipal police officers do. With that certification, they have the same authority as any other police officer in the state, even if they are privately employed.</p><p>Illinois&rsquo; public universities employ campus police, but private universities can choose to hire plain old security guards. Those guards might be armed, but they don&rsquo;t have the power to give Jef Johnson a ticket, and they certainly cannot patrol off campus.</p><p>Like many private schools in Illinois, the University of Chicago voluntarily upgraded its security force to a police force 25 years ago. According to Beem, that means they are definitely not rent-a-cops.</p><p>&ldquo;They can write you a ticket. They can arrest you,&rdquo; Beem explained. &ldquo;They can counsel and release you, so yes, they&rsquo;re real cops.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The UCPD&rsquo;s jurisdiction</span></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/0/embed?mid=zD1cveoHRWh8.kfGTEakNbuXk" width="620"></iframe></p><p>With more than 100 full-time officers, the University of Chicago&rsquo;s police department is one of the largest private police forces anywhere. Not only that, UCPD also has a really big patrol area &mdash; they cover 6.5 square miles, most of which is beyond the core of the University of Chicago&#39;s South Side campus.</p><p>But why can UCPD officers patrol so far from campus in the mid-South Side? According to Craig Futterman, a clinical professor of law at University of Chicago Law School, the department&rsquo;s status is almost unique.</p><p>&ldquo;The deal is that there is a city ordinance in Chicago that grants the police superintendent the power to appoint special policemen for the city of Chicago,&rdquo; he explained.</p><p>This <a href="http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Illinois/chicago_il/title4businessesoccupationsandconsumerpr/chapter4-340specialpolicemenandsecurityg?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:chicago_il$anc=JD_Ch.4-340" target="_blank">ordinance allows private police forces to assume the powers and responsibilities of municipal police</a>, not just on campus but in surrounding neighborhoods. UCPD is only one of two private forces in Chicago with this &ldquo;special police&rdquo; designation. The other force is that of Northwestern University Law School, but its <a href="http://directives.chicagopolice.org/attachments/S12-01_Att2.jpg" target="_blank">patrol area extends just a few blocks beyond its Streeterville campus </a>north of Chicago&rsquo;s Loop.</p><p>Once the ordinance was passed in 1992, UCPD negotiated its extended jurisdiction with Chicago&rsquo;s police superintendent. To the north, University of Chicago&rsquo;s main campus stops at 55th Street. UCPD&rsquo;s jurisdiction, however, extends all the way to 37th Street, even farther than Jef Johnson&rsquo;s home in Bronzeville.</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/u%20of%20c%20charters.png" title="University of Chicago's Woodlawn Charter School, left, and Donoghue Charter School, right, are on the southern and northern ends of UCPD's extended jurisdiction. (Ellen Mayer/WBEZ) " /></div><p>Futterman says Chicago&#39;s police superintendent has granted UCPD more independence than it once had. In years&nbsp;past, university police needed administrative assistance to complete arrests.</p><p>&ldquo;The arrest, though, would be formalized and would be processed at a local chicago police department district station, usually whatever district the arrest was because UCPD operated in more than one Chicago police district,&rdquo; Futterman explained. Last year that changed. Now UCPD reports directly to the state and can process arrests independently. According to the university, this arrangement allows both departments to operate more efficiently.</p><p>Maintaining a large police force is expensive, but the university says its worth it. On this, an emailed statement from the UCPD reads: &ldquo;The extended patrol area enhances safety and security through the mid-South Side, which is home to a large number of University of Chicago faculty members, students and staff.&rdquo; The statement mentions the university&rsquo;s interest in protecting its charter schools and other properties within the extended patrol area.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The community speaks</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/meeting%20WEB.jpg" title="University of Chicago students and South Side residents held a forum October 29, 2014, at Hyde Park's Experimental Station to discuss UCPD's presence in their neighborhoods. (WBEZ/Ellen Mayer)" /></p><p>UCPD&rsquo;s jurisdiction doesn&rsquo;t just include university students and employees; again, the department protects approximately 65,000 residents. How do they feel about UCPD&rsquo;s presence in their neighborhoods?</p><p>On Wednesday, October 29, <a href="http://www.experimentalstation.org/" target="_blank">Hyde Park&rsquo;s Experimental Station</a> held a forum for students and South Side residents to discuss exactly that. Organizers also invited former UCPD chief Rudy Nimocks. He was at the helm when UCPD expanded its jurisdiction. As he recalls it, the university received community support as it broadened its jurisdiction.</p><p>&ldquo;We had public hearings,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We were asked to come in. At each one of the sessions I said, &lsquo;We&rsquo;ll stay here as long as you want us.&rsquo; That&rsquo;s how it&rsquo;s been ever since.&rdquo;</p><p>Nimocks has a point. Almost every speaker at the community forum expressed gratitude that UCPD has made their neighborhoods safer. That being said, almost every speaker also had a story to tell about UCPD racially profiling black residents who live within the extended jurisdiction.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/triggs%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 246px; width: 370px;" title="Jamel Triggs, who attended the recent forum on neighborhood UCPD presence, says he's been stopped by UCPD six times since returning from the Marine Corps in May. (Ellen Mayer/WBEZ)" />Jamel Triggs, a young black man who works at the Experimental Station&rsquo;s bike shop, said he had been stopped by UCPD six times since he returned from the Marine Corps in May. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re supposed to be protecting and serving us. That&rsquo;s supposed to be the goal,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Triggs, the neighborhood doesn&rsquo;t feel safer if he has to worry about being stopped by UCPD. He said he is also concerned about the safety of the younger kids he mentors at the bike shop. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want these kids walking around being scared of the police and being scared of the gangbangers out in the streets,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;because I was, and it hurts.&rdquo;</p><p>A student group called South Side Solidarity Network has launched a campaign to end perceived racial profiling by UCPD. The trouble is, all their evidence is anecdotal. To firm up accusations of wrongdoing, SSSN has asked UCPD to release records indicating the race of residents the department stops and searches. So far, the department has refused.</p><p>Another emailed statement responds to accusations of racial profiling. &ldquo;The University of Chicago Police Department does not deploy tactics that support racial profiling,&rdquo; it states. &ldquo;As a department, we often and openly discuss our policing strategies to ensure our officers are not engaging deliberately or inadvertently in bias-based policing.&rdquo;</p><p>Without releasing records and data, however, UCPD is asking the public to take them at their word.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Private police and public accountability</span></p><p>This is where Jef Johnson&rsquo;s curiosity about &nbsp;potential traffic stops in Bronzeville morphed into a much bigger question about the transparency and accountability of a private police force. The 1992 Chicago ordinance that allows for the creation of special police includes technical language about certificates and licensing fees, but it doesn&rsquo;t address the public&rsquo;s right to information when a private force takes on the responsibilities of municipal police. UCPD is not a governmental agency, therefore it is not required to release records under Illinois&rsquo; Freedom of Information Act.</p><p>The University of Chicago does have a <a href="http://safety-security.uchicago.edu/police/contact_the_ucpd/complaint_process/" target="_blank">process for investigating complaints against UCPD</a>, but that process will soon get an overhaul. Until now, all investigations were performed in-house, by a fellow UCPD officer. In response to <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140311/hyde-park/university-of-chicago-police-no-longer-accountable-petition-claims" target="_blank">criticism about UCPD&rsquo;s perceived lack of oversight</a>, the university recently announced the hiring of a new director of professional accountability. This new position will not be filled by a uniformed officer.</p><p>So what did Jef think about all this?</p><p>&ldquo;This is much bigger than I thought when I asked the question,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I worry about a private police force. It just sounds like maybe we&rsquo;re handing too much power to them.&rdquo; Jef said he is most concerned that the average Chicagoan might never know that UCPD had such a huge jurisdiction.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s scary in that sense,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m just finding this out, and I&rsquo;ve been living in this area ten years.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jef.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 5px;" title="Jef Johnson asked our question about university police after noticing UCPD officers far from campus. (Photo courtesy of Jef Johnson)" />Judging by the number of questions Jef Johnson has submitted to our <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">list of question-based story pitches</a>, he is one very curious guy. (For the record, that would be seven ... and counting!) If you haven&rsquo;t run across any of his questions we haven&rsquo;t answered yet, you might remember Jef as the truck enthusiast who launched <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-ban-pickups-lake-shore-drive-where-can-they-park-104631" target="_blank">our investigation about pickup truck laws in Chicago</a>.</p><p>It turns out this question about university police was also inspired by Jef&rsquo;s driving habits. He says he first began wondering about UCPD&rsquo;s authority on a day when President Barack Obama was visiting his home in the Kenwood neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;They blocked off a lot of my streets, so I was taking some back streets and I saw University of Chicago Police cars in areas that seem far away from the University of Chicago.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>When Jef isn&rsquo;t thinking up questions for Curious City, he&rsquo;s a wedding minister employed by the city of Chicago.</p><p><em>Ellen Mayer is the Curious City intern. Follow her on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"> @</a>ellenrebeccam.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/campus-police-real-deal-or-rent-cops-111071 Who cleans up crime scenes on Chicago streets? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/who-cleans-crime-scenes-chicago-streets-111055 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: The audio version of this story is contained in the podcast episode above. It begins just before minute seven. </em></p><p>Peter Normand&rsquo;s question for Curious City begins with an unusual email he received on July 13. The email was from his alderman, the 49th Ward&rsquo;s Joe Moore.</p><p>The message referenced William Lewis, a 28-year-old photographer who had just moved to Chicago. Just one day earlier, Lewis had been killed by stray gang gunfire on the 1300 block of W. Devon Ave.</p><p>&ldquo;I happened to be on Devon only a block from the shooting and heard the gunfire,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.ward49.com/site/epage/153765_322.htm" target="_blank">read Ald. Moore&rsquo;s email to constituents</a>. &ldquo;I looked up to see the assailant, who appeared to be a teenager, continue to fire his weapon at a group of fleeing youths. It is something I will never forget.&rdquo;</p><p>What Moore wrote next saddened our question-asker and piqued a morbid curiosity:</p><p>&ldquo;Later that evening on our way to a neighborhood block party, my wife and I drove past the scene of the shooting and noticed that bloodstains remained on the sidewalk. We went to a nearby store to purchase some water, bleach and a brush to clean the sidewalk. By the time we returned, Milton, a resident of the building adjacent to the sidewalk, had already undertaken the grim task. We helped him finish the job.&rdquo;</p><p>Peter Normand, a 36-year-old architect and resident of the 1900 block of W. Morse, was moved enough to ask Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Who cleans up the blood on sidewalks and playgrounds after shootings?</em></p><p>We pressed Ald. Moore&rsquo;s 49th Ward office to explain the events he described in that email, <a href="http://chicago.everyblock.com/crime-posts/jul13-man-killed-devon-avenue-shooting-6253739/" target="_blank">which he also posted to the neighborhood web forum EveryBlock</a>. The office declined repeated attempts for any more information than what Moore provided in his online account.</p><p>Regardless, the story raises some interesting questions. For one, whose responsibility is it to clean up blood in the public way? And, if it&rsquo;s not done quickly (or, if it&rsquo;s left behind), what kind of risk does that pose for legal liability and for public health?</p><p>Through conversations with city agencies and private contractors, we parsed out the city&rsquo;s process for cleaning up after homicides and other traumatic events. And we found not everyone agrees the city is doing it the right way.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;Washdown&rsquo;</span></p><p>After the police department&rsquo;s detectives, forensic investigators and evidence technicians have finished investigating the scene of a homicide, they&rsquo;re directed to call for a &ldquo;washdown,&rdquo; according to <a href="http://www.chicagopolice.org/2013MayDirectives/data/a7a57be2-12946bda-6b312-9483-7cdab14bcdee3789.pdf?ownapi=1" target="_blank">Special Order S04-02</a> from the Chicago Police Department&#39;s procedure for crime scene protection or processing. The Illinois State Police follow the same procedure, a spokeswoman said.</p><p>A washdown is when the Chicago Fire Department sends an engine crew to blast the area with &ldquo;copious amounts of water [until] there is no longer any residue left behind,&rdquo; according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford. While a very old crime scene might require the addition of disinfecting chemicals, he said, almost all crime scenes on public property are cleaned with plain water &mdash; albeit water blasted from a high-pressure firehose.</p><p>&ldquo;Even dried blood is a hard match for an engine putting out water at that pressure,&rdquo; Langford said. Police and other city agencies also call CFD for a washdown to clean other messes. &ldquo;It could be an accident scene, a drop of material on the street,&rdquo; Langford said. &ldquo;A truck could have spilled honey, and that would be a washdown too.&rdquo;</p><p>If the call for a washdown is considered urgent, Langford said, crews are supposed to show up within three and a half minutes.</p><p>If the crime scene is on private property &mdash; that can include Chicago Housing Authority or Chicago Park District holdings &mdash; it&rsquo;s up to the owner of the property to clean up. They usually hire private contractors, such as Aftermath Services LLC, a crime scene cleanup and biohazard removal company based in Aurora, Illinois.</p><p>The work often involves managing emotional burdens, as well as any physical legacy.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;What we try to do is take as much away from them so they don&#39;t have to worry about the physical clean up,&rdquo; said Kevin Reifsteck, Aftermath Services&rsquo; vice president. Sometimes the jobs include consoling bereaved friends and family members. &ldquo;When you really start getting down to specifically what we&rsquo;re going to be doing, I think that&rsquo;s sometimes when it really becomes a reality for the family.&rdquo;</p><p>Aftermath&rsquo;s work varies by job, which can range from a few hours of disinfection and carpet removal to weeks of biohazard cleanup. (<a href="http://www.abc2news.com/news/local-news/investigations/grief-stricken-customers-complain-about-high-bills-for-crime-scene-clean-up" target="_blank">After a series of complaints about pricing</a> between 2010 and 2013, Aftermath changed its policy to always give upfront estimates of a cleanup job&rsquo;s price, which can be thousands of dollars.)</p><p>But one common element among those privately-contracted jobs is that they use more than just water. Reifsteck did not want to comment on the Chicago Fire Department&rsquo;s practices without witnessing them firsthand, but another private contractor was blunt about the matter.</p><p>&ldquo;Calling in for a washdown is antiquated,&rdquo; said Andrew Yurchuck, board president of the American Bio Recovery Association, an industry trade group. &ldquo;It&#39;s not proper. If a private person did that they would be fined.&rdquo;</p><p>Yurchuck said many cities follow protocol similar to Chicago&rsquo;s, but he favors San Diego&rsquo;s approach, which is to hire private contractors like his for crime scene and accident cleanup. Private contractors often use absorbent booms and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect blood and other liquids, cleaning on site instead of washing blood into the sewer system. &ldquo;Rather than spraying and sending it out down into the river,&rdquo; Yurchuck said, &ldquo;we try to absorb it right there.&rdquo;</p><p>He thinks Chicago officials could be skirting laws governing the disposal of medical waste. We found legal and scientific reasons why that may not be the case.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityCopBlood-1 shawn allee.jpg" title="A stain on the sidewalk from a crime scene on the 1600 block of W. Morse Ave. in Rogers Park. While Chicago police have a washdown protocol for cleaning up crime scenes, our question was inspired by two apparent cases where the public took on the task. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div></div></div></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Clean enough?</span></p><p>Langford said the Chicago Fire Department is under no legal obligation to sanitize city streets and sidewalks, which he points out are not sterile places to begin with. &ldquo;It doesn&#39;t make sense to disinfect a panel of the sidewalk,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If something is to the point that it&#39;s dangerous it would be a level one hazmat situation. We would send the hazmat crew.&rdquo;</p><p>But even blood, which typically merits a simple washdown from CFD, can convey diseases if not properly handled. The <a href="https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&amp;p_id=10051" target="_blank">Occupational Safety &amp; Health Administration</a>&rsquo;s Blood Borne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) recommends training and protective gear for handling substances like blood that could convey HIV, hepatitis B and other serious illnesses. Langford said firemen don&rsquo;t need special gear because they never come into contact with biomatter on crime scenes &mdash; they just blast it with water from afar.</p><p>Illinois&rsquo;<a href="http://www.ipcb.state.il.us/documents/dsweb/Get/Document-12277" target="_blank"> code for potentially infectious medical waste (35 Illinois Administrative Code 1420.102)</a>, which includes blood, instructs &ldquo;all persons who generate, transport, treat, store or dispose of&rdquo; such waste to use detergent and low-level disinfection techniques like bleach. But the code only requires those measures if the blood results from medical procedures.</p><p>&ldquo;Anything that&rsquo;s done in a crime scene cleanup is not diagnosing or treating humans or animals,&rdquo; says Beverly Albarracin, who oversees the potentially infectious medical waste program for Illinois&rsquo; Environmental Protection Agency. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not regulated as medical waste.&rdquo;</p><p>She says the public health risk is vanishingly small.</p><p>&ldquo;The odds of a disease lasting, for one thing, outside of a human body and remaining virulent or able to cause disease,&rdquo; Albarracin says, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s a very very minute possibility.&rdquo;</p><p>But what about legal risk? Scott Burris, a professor with Temple University&rsquo;s Center for Health Law, Policy and Practice, said while he hasn&rsquo;t investigated the issue in depth, it&rsquo;s &ldquo;hard to imagine a transmission happening accidentally or that someone could be consider negligent under the circumstances.&rdquo; The risks of infection are low, he said, although new fears of Ebola might change the equation.</p><p>Both federal and state representatives from OSHA and the Department of Public Health were unaware of any complaints against the Chicago police and fire departments related to crime scene cleanup.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not surprising to Dr. Carl Bell, a medical expert on youth violence and a psychiatrist at Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center.</p><p>&ldquo;Having lived in Chicago my entire life, it&rsquo;s very clear to me that Chicago is characterized by cosmetics,&rdquo; Bell said. &ldquo;And having blood or bullet casings on the street is not good. So they&rsquo;ve done a very good job of cleaning up after homicides. &hellip; I think it&rsquo;s always been the case.&rdquo;</p><p>As for taking steps to disinfect crime scenes before a washdown that could flush biological material into the city&rsquo;s sewers, Bell said &ldquo;it&rsquo;s probably not that risky,&rdquo; because most blood-borne pathogens are short-lived outside the human body.</p><p>But let&rsquo;s say the city doesn&rsquo;t clean blood quickly and community members pass by the scene. Is there potential to traumatize them? Dr. Bell says yes, but memory is complicated. Consider the<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-06-18/news/ct-chicago-murder-memorials-met-20140618_1_memorials-shrines-human-toll" target="_blank"> makeshift memorials that mark the sites of homicides</a> and car accidents across the city. These are odes to lost loved ones, but also a daily reminder of violence in neighborhoods where they are all too common.</p><p>&ldquo;Those spots are traumatic reminders for some people,&rdquo; Bell said, &ldquo;whether the city cleans up after it or not.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?&nbsp;</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker.jpg" style="float: right; height: 375px; width: 300px; margin: 5px;" title="(Photo courtesy Peter Normand)" />Architect Peter Normand lives in the same area, Chicago&rsquo;s far North Side, that sparked his question about crime-scene blood and who&rsquo;s responsible for cleaning it when it&rsquo;s on the public way.</p><p>Notably, he had two occasions to consider the question, not just one. There&rsquo;s the email from Ald. Joe Moore mentioned above, but he had also seen blood on the sidewalk for himself, just a few months earlier. &nbsp;</p><p>On the night of April 10, he was on the 1600 block of W. Morse Ave. and came across blood left from a shooting earlier that evening. He was surprised to see it the next morning, as he walked to work.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s where a lot of kids have to walk to go to school,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s less than half a block from New Field [elementary school].&rdquo;</p><p>Maybe the kids noticed the blood, or maybe they didn&rsquo;t, he said. He hopes few did.</p><p>&ldquo;Eventually it doesn&rsquo;t look any different than salsa spilled on the sidewalk, but it&rsquo;s not salsa,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Peter&rsquo;s accounts greatly informed our reporting. Among other things, his story about the April shooting suggested at least one example of where citizens, not the city, had disposed of blood on the sidewalk. (Officials have no record of clean up at this spot). His recollection of the location led us to the Hadima (she would only give her first name), who owns SK Food Mart. The shooting victim had bled in front of the store.</p><p>She remembers seeing the blood, too. She said she had a janitor in the building clean it.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to see blood in front of my store so I had to wash it out,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance reporter</a> and regular contributor to WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at cabentley.com and on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"> @Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/who-cleans-crime-scenes-chicago-streets-111055