WBEZ | Politics http://www.wbez.org/news/politics Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en So, when is it Jane Byrne's turn? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-when-it-jane-byrnes-turn-110556 <p><p>Former Mayor Jane Byrne&rsquo;s name has been thrown around a lot lately, mostly as a debate about how to honor her &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s first female mayor&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;is gaining momentum.</p><p>But for Curious City question-asker <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-when-it-jane-byrnes-turn-110556#qa">Shana Jackson</a>, it was a name she&rsquo;d never heard before. That is, until her father gave her a quick quiz one day.</p><p>&ldquo;My parents are former teachers, and so my dad is always quizzing me about things,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Out of the blue, he asked me about the first woman mayor of Chicago. And I said, &lsquo;What woman mayor of Chicago?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Shana says her father, and later her Facebook friends, told her she should be ashamed that she didn&rsquo;t know about Jane Byrne. So then she hit the Internet.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a <em>lot</em> to be learned about Jane Byrne: There&rsquo;s her <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-byrne-story,0,7583194.story" target="_blank">landslide victory </a>in 1979 over incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic (and thus the so-called Democratic machine) in an election held shortly after his administration <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/February-2011/Snowpocalypse-Then-How-the-Blizzard-of-1979-Cost-the-Election-for-Michael-Bilandic/" target="_blank">botched handling a massive blizzard</a>.</p><p>Byrne served only one term, but many credit her as the brainchild behind some of the most recognizably &ldquo;Chicago&rdquo; events: the Taste of Chicago, Jazz Fest, and numerous neighborhood summer festivals. Ditto for the physical transformation of the city: O&rsquo;Hare&rsquo;s International Terminal, the redevelopment of Navy Pier and the museum campus, public transportation options to the airport and much more.</p><p>There&rsquo;s also her controversial decision (or PR stunt, depending upon your interpretation) to move into the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1981/04/02/us/chicago-s-mayor-spends-lovely-night-at-project.html?module=Search&amp;mabReward=relbias%3Ar" target="_blank">Cabrini-Green</a>&nbsp;public housing development,&nbsp;as well as the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DCLCX1cqAc" target="_blank">protest </a>that erupted when she held a public Easter celebration there.<a name="timeline"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1gLzQq7ISqUuKt5ufNFfQOVXPTrjL_BBaImlnDBuSTc0/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>But what Shana <em>didn&rsquo;t</em> find is any structure or building or street around Chicago named for Mayor Byrne. That&#39;s despite the fact that you <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-when-it-jane-byrnes-turn-110556#mayors">can find plenty named in honor of <em>other</em> Chicago mayors</a> &mdash; even some recent ones.</p><p>That led her to ask:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why is there rare mention and no memorials, buildings or streets named after the only woman mayor of Chicago &mdash; Jane Byrne?</em></p><p>Shana&rsquo;s question arrives as Chicago newspapers, local bloggers and columnists, city officials &mdash; you name it &mdash; are debating whether Jane Byrne deserves to have her name affixed on something, and whether or not she&rsquo;s been ignored.</p><p><em>Chicago Sun-Times </em>columnist Neil Steinberg wrote what he called an <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/steinberg/27312474-452/an-open-letter-to-jane-byrne.html#.U8VW35RdV8E" target="_blank">&ldquo;open letter&rdquo;</a> to Byrne ahead of her 80th birthday, where he talked about her legacy, and how she may think she&rsquo;s been &ldquo;forgotten, erased from history.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Sun-Times</em> columnist Michael Sneed, press secretary for Byrne for a short time in 1979, has led the charge. She&rsquo;s written extensive <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/sneed/27773585-452/sneed-jane-byrnes-daughter-tells-of-fearless-mom-with-incredible-instincts.html" target="_blank">columns </a>about Byrne, listing her accomplishments and pushing for the city to honor its first woman mayor. Sneed wrote that Byrne&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://www.suntimes.com/27761148-761/ex-mayor-jane-byrnes-trailblazing-legacy-unfairly-ignored-sneed.html#.U8VW4ZRdV8E" target="_blank">legacy has been ignored</a> by subsequent mayoral administrations, basically erased during Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s tenure in office, and long overdue for recognition.&rdquo;</p><p>Sneed&rsquo;s columns opened the floodgates for other <a href="http://abc7chicago.com/news/movement-pushes-for-recognition-of-former-mayor-jane-byrne/94032/" target="_blank">media outlets</a> to chase down the story, and for city <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/sneed-proposals-introduced-honor-ex-mayor-byrne/wed-06252014-1053am" target="_blank">officials</a> to weigh in. Ald. Edward Burke (14th) has even pitched a few potential <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-06-25/news/chi-alderman-pitches-renaming-buckingham-fountain-navy-pier-ballroom-after-jane-byrne-20140625_1_alderman-pitches-navy-pier-buckingham-fountain" target="_blank">options</a>. But more on that later.</p><p>To answer why Byrne&rsquo;s name hasn&rsquo;t graced public assets, it helps to understand how something &mdash; anything &mdash; gets named by the city in the first place. And then, of course, there&rsquo;s the core of Jackson&rsquo;s concern: <em>Why</em> doesn&rsquo;t Byrne have anything named after her?</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">The process: Naming something after a Chicago mayor</span></strong></p><p>The city of big shoulders has a penchant for slapping peoples&rsquo; names on things. (Just ask <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/4rc83p/signfeud" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a>). But regardless of who the honored may be (<a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/the-scene/food-drink/Charlie-Trotter-Honored-on-Eve-or-Retirement-168088876.html" target="_blank">Charlie Trotter</a>, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-03-08/news/0003080158_1_honor-sinatra-statue-city-of-big-shoulders" target="_blank">Frank Sinatra</a>, or a Chicago mayor), the process eventually involves Chicago&rsquo;s City Council.</p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with city streets. Up until 1984, official street names and the green signs that depict their directions were up for grabs. For example Cermak Road, formerly 22nd Street, was named after Mayor Anton Cermak, who was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/anton-cermak-chicagos-first-boss-105346" target="_blank">assassinated </a>while in office. Same goes for Hoyne Avenue, named after Mayor Thomas Hoyne. (Interestingly, Hoyne has a street named after him, despite the fact that he was <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/795.html" target="_blank">never allowed to take office</a>.)</p><p>But as one former alderman explained to the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> in <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-02-20/news/0002200122_1_street-signs-street-names-renaming" target="_blank">2000,</a> this street-naming process became onerous. It requires permanent changes to maps, surveys and other records. The Honorary Street Ordinance changed the game in 1984. After that, brown honorary street signs began popping up, directly underneath the green signs that identify Chicago&rsquo;s official street names.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><span style="font-size:22px;"><span style="font-size:18px;">What is named after Chicago&#39;s mayors?</span><a name="mayors"></a></span></strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="700" src="http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ag9RbLc9jJ4QdG1fcnlrSUlWNlExc3dDR0lIdDVSX0E&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza says, currently, the process begins with one of the city&rsquo;s 50 aldermen. Any of them can write a resolution or ordinance to name a stretch of street. It then goes before the full council.</p><p>These resolutions pass unless they&rsquo;re controversial. Mendoza says some aldermen in 2006 wanted to create Fred Hampton Way, after a <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/142.html" target="_blank">leader in the Black Panther Party</a>. Another time, an alderman wanted to name a portion of Michigan Avenue after Hugh Hefner, the <em>Playboy Magazine</em> magnate.</p><p>If an honorary street name ordinance passes City Council, the Chicago Department of Transportation creates the requisite brown sign and affixes it to the appropriate post.</p><p>The process works the same way for other structures, too: The council votes on a proposal to name a fountain, building or other public asset after someone. Mendoza says it&rsquo;s most common to wait until after a mayor (or anyone else) dies. For example: Richard J. Daley Center was rededicated and named after him just days after he passed away.</p><p>There are a few ways to name something for a former mayor without the council&rsquo;s purview. Private buildings, naturally, can be named without council approval. DePaul University&#39;s Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley Building is one notable example.</p><p>As for public school buildings, the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education has a written policy that a school can only be named after someone who has been deceased for at least six months. A sitting mayor and the district&rsquo;s CEO can seek special exemptions, however. A CPS spokesman says this was the case for the naming of Barack Obama College Prep.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">So, why nothing for Jane Byrne?</span></strong></p><p>When it comes to political history, no single person (or opinion) can tell &quot;the whole story.&quot; That&#39;s especially the case when it comes to why a controversial, so-called &ldquo;machine-fighting,&rdquo; tough cookie such as Jane Byrne has yet to be memorialized.&nbsp;</p><p>As for asking the lady herself, she&rsquo;s now 80 years old and is not in great health, after reportedly suffering from a stroke last year. Her only daughter, Kathy Byrne, a lawyer at local personal injury and mesothelioma firm Cooney and Conway, says her mom is &ldquo;doing okay. She&rsquo;s holding her own, she&rsquo;s stable.&rdquo;</p><p>Kathy Byrne was along for the roller coaster ride of her mom&rsquo;s campaign and then election to the 5th floor office in 1979. Even though she may be the next-best source for what Jane Byrne&rsquo;s wishes are, she says she&rsquo;s not sure how to answer Shana Jackson&rsquo;s &ldquo;why&rdquo; question.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I think sometimes &mdash; what do they say? Politics isn&rsquo;t a beanbag?&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And people take their politics very seriously in Chicago, and I think whether or not anything was intentional, it may just be sort of an effect where if someone perceived that if someone doesn&rsquo;t like someone, they&rsquo;re not going to do anything for the person they don&rsquo;t like. ... I don&rsquo;t know that anything was intentional, I think it may have been a misperception.&rdquo;</p><p>Kathy Byrne&rsquo;s obliquely referring to Chicago lore &mdash; printed in the papers and spoken in bars &mdash; that Mayor Richard M. Daley is behind Jane Byrne&rsquo;s absence from Chicago streets and buildings.</p><p>Several people I spoke with for this story are quick to blame him.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s an old adage, young lady,&rdquo; says Paul Green, Director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s called Irish Alzheimer&#39;s: You forget everything but your grudges, and the Daley family and the Byrne family have been grudging themselves for a long time.&rdquo;</p><p>Green says he believes the battle between Jane Byrne and Daley was &ldquo;personal&rdquo; and that Daley didn&rsquo;t want her recognized for anything. But he says it&rsquo;s also true that there was never any true grassroots support for Byrne. And there still isn&rsquo;t.</p><p>&ldquo;She left not exactly in the blaze of glory,&rdquo; Green says. &ldquo;She needed to be calm about what she was about, because not only was she the first woman, but it was the first time in approximately 70 years that the Democratic organization lost the mayoral primary, so she had to go slow, and she didn&rsquo;t.</p><p>&ldquo;To her credit, she had an amazing number of ideas, but it was more subject with no predicate.&rdquo;</p><p>But others, like Byrne&rsquo;s first campaign manager, Don Rose, blame it all on Daley.</p><p>&ldquo;Richie Daley did everything possible to make the world forget she ever existed,&rdquo; Rose says. &ldquo;They were mortal enemies. He conceived it that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Rose says he and Byrne didn&rsquo;t part on the best of terms, but he stresses that doesn&rsquo;t influence his appraisal of her. He says Daley&rsquo;s should have been the administration that took on the task of honoring her. Since <a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/04/15/1983-mayoral-debate" target="_blank">Byrne had run against Harold Washington</a> in 1983, Washington was likely not in the mood to honor her in anyway during his time in office, according to Rose. By his recollection, a mayor will be honored posthumously, and perhaps one or two mayors down the road. Following this logic, Byrne would have been honored after Richard M. Daley took office in 1989.</p><p>&ldquo;[Daley] was, I have to say, very mean-spirited about Jane Byrne. Of course, I would say, she was mean-spirited about him too,&rdquo; Rose says. &ldquo;If the positions had been reversed, she might have tried to forget about naming anything after him.&rdquo;</p><p>But Ald. Burke &mdash; who served on the Council during Byrne&rsquo;s administration &mdash; says she originally eschewed recognition, and Daley isn&rsquo;t to blame.</p><p>&ldquo;He never, in my presence, expressed any reluctance to have Mayor Byrne honored in any way,&rdquo; he says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Listen: Jane Byrne on her legacy</strong></span><a name="byrne"></a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160299515&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>Kathy Byrne says she&rsquo;s not certain Daley is to blame, either.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t explain anyone&rsquo;s motivation or even if they have motivation,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I would imagine if somebody&rsquo;s running Chicago, they ought to have bigger things on their minds than erasing or not erasing someone else&rsquo;s legacy.&rdquo;</p><p>But one thing is for sure: Kathy says she and her mom have been bothered by the whole thing. She recalls school girls would interview her mother during Women&rsquo;s History Month projects. Jane, she says, couldn&rsquo;t point the girls to anything named after her.</p><p>&ldquo;She could tell them things, like the [CTA] Orange Line, museum campus, but there was nothing that backed up her assertion, and I think that was kind of frustrating,&rdquo; Byrne says.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it was kind of disillusioning, or the worry that it would be disillusioning to little girls that they could do all this work, and have all these achievements and then it might be ignored, and other people would take credit for them.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Jane Byrne International Terminal?</span></strong></p><p>But now, just over 30 years since she left office, Byrne may soon have something to point to. Ald. Burke pitched a few ideas to the City Council in early July, and also asked members of the public, or any other officials, to suggest ideas as well.</p><p>The gesture is a far cry from one of the more infamous moments of Byrne and Burke&rsquo;s relationship. Byrne, while on the campaign trail, called out <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Why-Rahm-Cant-Get-Rid-Of-Ed-Burke-120609814.html" target="_blank">Ald. Burke as part of a &ldquo;cabal of evil men&rdquo;</a> who ran the City Council.</p><p>&ldquo;It was the legendary British statesman Edmund Burke who once said that, in politics, there are no permanent enemies, no permanent friends &mdash; only permanent interests,&rdquo; Burke says, referring to a quotation he often uses. &ldquo;I think it is in the municipal interest that a person who achieved what Jane Byrne achieved in our history should be accorded an appropriate honor.&rdquo;</p><p>Burke officially proposed renaming four structures to become Jane Byrne memorials: the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Grant Park; Navy Pier&rsquo;s grand ballroom; the plaza surrounding the Old Chicago Water Tower; and the O&rsquo;Hare International Terminal. He says aldermen will also vote on any other ideas submitted to the committee.</p><p>Kathy Byrne says her mother is happy something is finally happening, and that she would be particularly excited about the Water Tower idea. It&rsquo;s right across the street from the Gold Coast apartment where she lived while mayor.</p><p>Byrne says a Water Tower memorial would be even better if the city could move her mom&rsquo;s beloved <a href="http://chicago-outdoor-sculptures.blogspot.com/2009/07/childrens-fountain.html" target="_blank">Children&rsquo;s Fountain</a> to that site. Jane Byrne, while mayor, originally dedicated the Children&rsquo;s Fountain on Wacker Drive. The fountain was later moved to Lincoln Park, where it sits today.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that would entail, but the plumbing is all there,&rdquo; Byrne says. &ldquo;If they could do that, that would be ideal, &nbsp;if they could name that park Jane Byrne Plaza. It&rsquo;s her neighborhood, it&rsquo;s the Chicago historical landmark of the Water Tower, and it would be a really nice tribute.&rdquo;</p><p>The<a href="https://chicago.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank"> finance committee</a> meets in the last week of July. The measures would have to be approved first by committee, as well as the full council. As this story is published, more than 30 alderman had signed on to Burke&rsquo;s proposals.</p><p>As for our question-asker Shana Jackson, she says she has been keeping up with the news about the latest proposals, and believes it&rsquo;s time that Jane Byrne gets some recognition.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that is a travesty,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;How do we as Chicago &mdash; we put our names on everything &mdash; how did we let her down like this?&rdquo;</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Shana Jackson<a name="qa"></a></span></strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shanaJacksonMed.jpg" style="height: 322px; width: 230px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Shana Jackson asked our question about former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne. (Photo courtesy of Shana Jackson)" />Shana Jackson calls herself a total South Side girl. She&rsquo;s been living in or around Chicago for her entire life, except when she pursued a degree from Hampton University in Virginia. She currently resides in the Ashburn/Wrightwood neighborhood.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s why she says she&rsquo;s embarrassed to admit the story behind her Curious City question. &nbsp;</p><p>Her parents are former teachers, and so her dad is always quizzing her on things. During a recent family night, Shana&rsquo;s dad shot her his latest pop quiz question:</p><p>&ldquo;So, what do you think about our only woman mayor in Chicago?&rdquo;</p><p>Shana&rsquo;s response?</p><p>&ldquo;&lsquo;What woman mayor?&rdquo; Shana recalls. &ldquo;And he gave me the weirdest stare ever, because I&rsquo;m super womanist, like &lsquo;yay woman power!&rsquo; And for me to not know there was a woman mayor in Chicago? I was so embarrassed.&rdquo;</p><p>She took to Facebook to see if any of her friends had heard of Jane Byrne, but that didn&rsquo;t go very well either. Tons of her friends made fun of her, and one even asked if she knew who Harold Washington was.</p><p>So she deleted her Facebook post, and opened up a Google browser window, where she began discovering more and more about Chicago&rsquo;s first woman mayor. But Jackson says she couldn&rsquo;t find any streets or buildings named after Byrne, and so she came to Curious City to find out why.</p><p>Jackson is currently pursuing a dual degree in social work and law at Loyola University Chicago.</p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">Lauren Chooljian</a> is a WBEZ reporter. Digital producer <a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda">Tricia Bobeda</a> contributed to this story.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-when-it-jane-byrnes-turn-110556 Questions raised about Daley's health http://www.wbez.org/news/questions-raised-about-daleys-health-110548 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Daley_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The health of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley could be keeping him from testifying in a lawsuit over a contract from when he was in office.</p><p>Daley was subpoenaed by attorneys for a restaurant in Millenium Park to testify in their lawsuit against the City of Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration sued the restaurant in 2011 over its original contract.</p><p>Through court filings, Daley&rsquo;s lawyers argued he wasn&rsquo;t healthy enough to take the stand, and he didn&rsquo;t want his medical situation made public. The former mayor suffered symptoms similar to a stroke earlier this year, but last month, Cook County Commissioner John Daley told reporters at an unrelated press event that his brother was in &ldquo;excellent health&rdquo; and was &ldquo;enjoying life.&rdquo;</p><p>Judge Moshe Jacobius ruled Wednesday that Daley&rsquo;s medical records could be kept private, but that any other hearings regarding whether or not Daley could testify would be open, though his medical information would always be omitted. Jacobius said as a former mayor, Daley affords no greater rights than an average citizen, but no lesser rights either, and thus his medical history can remain out of the public viewing. Jacobius ruled that only those involved in the case would be allowed to attend a hearing Wednesday where the medical records were revealed.</p><p>But after that group met behind closed doors, the Park Grill lawyers were convinced they should withdraw their subpoena of Daley.</p><p>&ldquo;We saw the medical information which I cannot disclose, and it was such that it was the right thing to do to withdraw the subpoena,&rdquo; said Stephen Novack, one of the Park Grill attorneys. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t say anything at all about what was in there - you heard what the judge said.&rdquo;</p><p>The judge said the case would continue without Daley, unless his situation changes. Attorneys are now able to use a discovery deposition the former mayor gave last summer, though that document has been called into criticism for the lack of answers the mayor gave to general questions.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her</em> <em><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/questions-raised-about-daleys-health-110548 After Water: Science, art and journalism around climate change http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/After-Water_crop.png" style="height: 269px; width: 620px;" title="" />Join us as we focus on the future of the Great Lakes, in a way that is a little different for us. WBEZ&#39;s brought fiction writers and scientists together, then asked the writers to jump off from there, creating stories set decades from now&mdash;when clean, fresh water could be a rare resource.</p><p>We want to contemplate the future from a dual lens of <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">science</a> and <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/sets/after-water-fiction">art.</a> We&#39;ll be sharing our writers&rsquo; stories and the science behind them here. It&rsquo;s <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater"><em>After Water</em></a>. We invite your thoughts.</p><p><strong>The stories</strong></p><p>Local author Nnedi Okorafor starts out the series on Chicago&#39;s South Side. In her story,<a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky"> </a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92734891798/after-water-fiction-poison-fish-by-nnedi-okorafor">&quot;Poison Fish&quot;</a> (or, &quot;Poison Poisson&quot;), Okorafor brings us to a dystopian backdrop of memories and chaos, set along the waterfront on Chicago&#39;s Rainbow Beach.<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-nnedi-okorafor/s-KJdW3">&nbsp;Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Nnedi Okorafor. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear some of the science behind her story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159874918&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><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">In his story</a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">,</a> &ldquo;Thirst&rdquo; Los Angeles-based author Max Andrew Dubinsky brings us to a California that&rsquo;s dry and dying, its inhabitants looking to the Great Lakes as their last salvation. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-max-andrew-dubinsky/s-mxJX9">Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Max Andrew Dubinsky. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">&nbsp;hear some of the science behind his story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159999662&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>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92743040588/after-water-fiction-world-after-water">&quot;World After Water,&quot;</a> Abby Geni brings us to a city drowned in dirty, toxic water. Four young brothers are forced to steal filtered water from their wealthy neighbors in order to survive. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-abby-geni">Listen to an interview</a> with Abby Geni about her story. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear about some of science</a> behind her story.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160123800&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>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p><p><strong>The science behind the stories</strong></p><p>The short&nbsp;stories you&#39;ve been listening to are solidly in the science fiction category.&nbsp;But some of&nbsp;the&nbsp;issues the&nbsp;writers touch on aren&#39;t as far out as you might think. Before they jumped 100 years into the future, we paired writers&nbsp;with scientists and policy experts to talk about the threats facing the Great Lakes right now. You can hear our conversations about the science behind the stories below.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/44458855&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><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 In Dayton, Ohio an economic comeback is in the water http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520 <p><p>Dayton&rsquo;s Mad River wellfield is on a grassy island in the middle of one of the city&rsquo;s three major rivers. Phil Van Atta, head of Dayton&rsquo;s water treatment operation, says the wellfield, where Dayton pumps up groundwater from the <a href="https://www.miamiconservancy.org/water/aquifer_what.asp">Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer,</a> is one of his favorite places. The shallow sand and gravel aquifer in some places lies just feet below the ground, and its 1.5 trillion gallons of freshwater is constantly recharging from the rivers and rainfall.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got loads of capacity now,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We would love to see more demand, more industry come in. Not just to increase their demand for water, but also so there are more jobs available to people in this area.&rdquo;</p><p>Dayton is Ohio&rsquo;s sixth-largest city, but its population has stagnated in recent years due to the foreclosure crisis and loss of industry. In Dayton, both crises hit years before they tore apart the national economy. But now the city may be on the cutting edge again. As states like California face major water shortages, city officials in Dayton sense a business opportunity.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Almost all local jurisdictions draw from the Great Miami Aquifer, and Dayton&rsquo;s water treatment system serves 400,000 in the city and surrounding Montgomery and Greene Counties. It&rsquo;s no Lake Michigan, but the self-filtering, self-recharging freshwater supply, along with the rivers, once made Dayton attractive to water-intensive industries in the 19th century.</p><p>Mills, factories, and countless little breweries lined the river before Prohibition, and Dayton was a hub of innovation and wealth. The airplane, the cash register, the self-start automobile ignition, and the pop-top soda can were all invented here. But now that&rsquo;s just a distant memory.</p><p>&ldquo;We lost all the GM plants and the Delphi plants and the parts plants associated with those plants,&rdquo; says Van Atta, turning the truck onto the gravel road that makes a loop around the island.</p><p>Tens of thousands of jobs evaporated &mdash; the final blow was when GM left in 2008. &ldquo;That was a big hit on our water demand,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Now Dozens of out-of-use wells dot this island; Van Atta says they rotate them in and out of use following a reduction in demand of over 25 percent since 2008.</p><p>And yet, Dayton is betting that in the future, water will be the key to turning things around.</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/Dayton%20Water%201843.jpg" title="Water sits in softening ponds at the Dayton water treatment plant. The system's two wellfields supply water for 400,000 people in the area from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;We&#39;re running into limits&#39;</span></p><p>U.S. census numbers reveal that in recent years the population has been <a href="http://www.census.gov/dataviz/visualizations/043/">virtually flat or shrinking in places like Ohio, Illinois and Michigan</a>, where there&rsquo;s tons of water. The biggest areas of growth are in the west and <a href="https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb13-94.html">southwest</a>, where water scarcity is a growing emergency. Parts of Texas have seen the worst droughts on record for four years and counting, and California&rsquo;s facing much the same.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re running into limits,&rdquo; says Peter Gleick, the head of the <a href="http://pacinst.org/">Pacific Institute</a>, a nonprofit research organization in Oakland, California. &ldquo;The Colorado River no longer reaches the sea in an average year because humans use all of the flow. We&rsquo;re over-pumping groundwater aquifers in the western U.S...In the past we&rsquo;ve sort of assumed enough water would always be available, and I think we can no longer assume that&rsquo;s going to be the case.&rdquo;</p><p>The parched conditions are affecting everything from food prices to energy spending and the intensity of wildfires. Climate change means this is probably just the beginning.</p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;Some of these south-western cities that not only have water scarcity problems but are gonna start to see more and more costs for energy, for cooling, more and more uncomfortable extreme heat days,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;In that kind of situation I think it&rsquo;s possible that we may see a change in the kind of migration we&rsquo;ve seen over the latter part of the 20th century, maybe back to some of these population centers in the midwest and in the east.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Dayton calling</span></p><p>&ldquo;Back to the midwest&rdquo; &mdash; that phrase is music to Karen Thomas&rsquo;s ears. Thomas is the head of water marketing for Dayton (yes, that&rsquo;s actually a job).</p><p>&ldquo;We have an abundant water source,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t believe that we would have to worry about water.&rdquo;</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/Dayton%20Water%201750.jpg" title="The Mad River wellfield in Dayton sits on a wooded island between heavily industrial areas in northeast Dayton. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p>The water in the vast underground aquifer is usually out of sight, but it&rsquo;s up to Thomas to make it visible, and sell it. Efforts in the last few years have included a <a href="http://www.daytonwater.org/uploads/docs/SWPA%20Brochure.pdf">&ldquo;Take Back the Tap&rdquo;</a> campaign to encourage citizens to use Dayton tap water rather than bottled water. Officials have also reached out to companies in water-stressed areas, pushing Dayton as a cheap alternative.</p><p>Thomas thinks this is what could put Dayton back on the map.</p><p>&ldquo;Water is a public good, but it&rsquo;s also a commodity,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>An economic development team in Dayton has conducted talks with several food processors, manufacturers, and beverage makers that could use an inexpensive and abundant supply of water. Companies that choose Dayton would face little of the regulation placed on water diversions in the Great Lakes basin; here, if you can drill a well, you can drain it.</p><p>&ldquo;If they&rsquo;re looking for water, this would be a great place to relocate to,&rdquo; says Thomas.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">You can&#39;t make beer without water</span></p><p>Dayton&rsquo;s water pitch may sound like something out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, but it&rsquo;s not all that far-fetched.</p><p>&ldquo;You know people turn on the tap and they think water&rsquo;s free, they just assume it&rsquo;s gonna be there,&rdquo; says Peter Kruger, master brewer at <a href="http://bearrepublic.com/news/using-space-technology-to-conserve-water/#.U8fOR41dWKI">Bear Republic brewery</a> in California, north of San Francisco.</p><p>&ldquo;There was a period in early February where the governor listed 17 cities in California that were within a hundred days of running out of water,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;and our brewpub in Healdsburg was one of those towns, and our production brewery in Cloverdale was another.&rdquo;</p><p>In the brewing industry, water isn&rsquo;t negotiable &mdash; most of it is used for cleaning equipment and of course for the beer itself, which is why Kruger is nervous. I called him to hear about the work they&rsquo;re doing to conserve, but he says they are actually considering a move.</p><p>&ldquo;We have talked about other locations for a brewery that are not as water-stressed as California is.&rdquo;</p><p>They&rsquo;ve looked at Pennsylvania, Wisconsin &mdash; and yes, even Ohio.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497" target="_blank">Will California drought prompt more Midwest agriculture?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>But Karen Hobbs, a <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/khobbs/">senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council</a> is not on board with this idea.</p><p>&ldquo;These are difficult economic times. But the troubling part about marketing water resources I think is that it tends to devalue that asset,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Hobbs thinks clean water in the Great Lakes region comes too cheap. In Chicago, almost 2 billion gallons of water a day leave Lake Michigan for use in homes and industry, and drain into the Chicago River, never to be returned or recycled.</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/Dayton%20Water%201848.JPG" title="Karen Thomas, the city of Dayton's full-time water marketer, holds up a brochure advertising Dayton's water supply. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p>Plus, the midwest is not immune to the effects of climate change, like drought or huge storms and floods, which can affect water quality as well as quantity. She says before companies just move to where the water is, they should work harder to reduce, reuse and recycle.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s lots, lots of low-hanging fruit in terms of improving water efficiency and increasing conservation that companies and individuals can take,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>But Peter Kruger says Bear Republic Brewery is doing a lot of that already (Hobbs actually referred me to its conservation efforts.)</p><p>&ldquo;Traditionally breweries have used anywhere from 10 to 15 gallons of water to make one gallon of beer,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Our ratio now is down to 3.5 gallons of water to make a gallon of beer.&rdquo; They get their water from the Russian River, which has been dramatically low; the company is now putting its own money into sinking a well to access groundwater at the edge of town.</p><p>Still, their water use may not be sustainable in the long run. Kruger says he&rsquo;d hate to leave beautiful sunny California, but this year has been a reality check.</p><p>&ldquo;Water is really gonna be the challenge our kids and grandkids deal with,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;As there are more people there&rsquo;s not gonna be more and more water, there&rsquo;s gonna be less and less clean water. That&rsquo;s anywhere. That includes Ohio or, you know, the wettest place in the world.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Betting on a future where water is king</span></p><p>Some people in Dayton believe they&rsquo;re walking on a liquid gold mine: people may have lost jobs, people, and whole industries, but the Great Miami aquifer is still here.</p><p>Though not entirely unthreatened: In the 1980s, the drinking water in Dayton was found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of industrial chemicals. A 1987 fire at a Sherwin Williams paint warehouse had to be allowed to burn for days on end to avoid dousing the plant&rsquo;s chemicals directly into the aquifer near the wellfield.</p><p>Following the fire, Dayton and the surrounding municipalities that use the water system passed stringent drinking water protections that incentivize industry to keep chemical contaminants away from the wellfields. Still, today the city sometimes cleans up industrial chemicals including trichloroethylene (TCE) from the water before it&rsquo;s sent to the tap.</p><p>Now a handful of local manufacturers are pushing to reduce some of those protections, saying the chemical limits treat smaller businesses unfairly. The city says reduced demand on the wellfields has shrunk the area in need of active protection, and has <a href="http://wyso.org/post/dayton-discuss-proposed-changes-drinking-water-protections">put forth a controversial proposal</a> to reduce that area by 40 percent.</p><p>Even as <a href="http://wyso.org/post/residents-speak-out-against-proposed-water-protection-changes-video">a public debate over water gets underway</a>, Dayton leaders aren&rsquo;t concerned about the future water supply. Karen Thomas&rsquo;s message for master brewer Peter Kruger? Come and get it.</p><p>&ldquo;To be able to turn the faucet on, to get a cup of coffee, to flush your toilet, to take a shower, and the water&rsquo;s there and it&rsquo;s clean, why not love water?&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Especially Dayton water!&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is an economics reporter and host for WYSO, the public radio station for Ohio&rsquo;s Miami Valley region. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.</em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520 Illinois approves rules for medical marijuana http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-approves-rules-medical-marijuana-110501 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/marijuanahearing.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Qualifying patients are a step closer to getting medical marijuana in Illinois.</p><p>Without discussion, Illinois&rsquo; Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Tuesday approved regulations for the medical marijuana pilot program.</p><p>Still, Representative Lou Lang, a Democrat from Skokie, said it could be 2015 before patients can legally use marijuana for treatment.</p><p>&ldquo;While the patients are the most important part of this, their licenses and their permits to purchase the product aren&rsquo;t quite necessary yet. And so it&rsquo;s important that these other parts be rolled out as quickly as possible,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>A point system of judging potential applicants to start a dispensary or cultivation center still needs JCAR approval. Lang said once that happens, state agencies running the medical marijuana program can then post applications. That could happen in the next 30 days.</p><p>Some items on the point system include whether a business is women or minority owned. Lang also said the state will be paying close attention to an applicant&rsquo;s plan for security.</p><p>&ldquo;Not only security of the product, but security of the people working there, security for customers and patients, security for the cash, security for the IT systems,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The first round of patients are expected to begin registering for certification in September.</p><p>The law authorizing the four-year medical marijuana pilot program was approved last year. The program is due to expire in 2017.</p><p><em>Susie An is a business reporter for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon" target="_blank">@soosieon.</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 08:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-approves-rules-medical-marijuana-110501 Panel to debate gun laws, how to reduce Illinois prison population http://www.wbez.org/news/panel-debate-gun-laws-how-reduce-illinois-prison-population-110496 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/clothes rack.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A small panel of Illinois lawmakers meets this week with a lofty goal. It wants to find a way to reduce the prison population, cut down on recidivism, but still enforce strict laws.A small panel of Illinois lawmakers meets this week with a lofty goal. It wants to find a way to reduce the prison population, cut down on recidivism, but still enforce strict laws.</p><p>Illinois State Rep. Mike Zalewski is gathering the committee to look at the big picture on prisons. They&rsquo;ll discuss overcrowding in Illinois&rsquo; prisons and the billion dollars they cost taxpayers each year. Zalewski said he&rsquo;s tired of not doing anything about it.</p><p>&ldquo;I heard statistics somewhere that the average stay sometimes for a first-time marijuana user in the Department of Corrections is like 12 days if they don&rsquo;t get an I-bond. 12 days. That&rsquo;s insane,&rdquo; he said in an interview at his downtown Chicago law office.</p><p>But low level drug offenses isn&rsquo;t all Zalewski is looking at. He&rsquo;ll also be bringing back one proposal that&rsquo;s been debated for years, but never got enough support. A previous version of the proposal would&rsquo;ve send people convicted of certain gun crimes to prison for three years, end of story. No early release.</p><p>But even though it hasn&rsquo;t gotten enough &lsquo;yes&rsquo; votes, it hasn&rsquo;t gone away because Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy talks about it constantly.</p><p>&ldquo;Possession of a loaded firearm is not even considered a violent felony in the State of Illinois for sentencing purposes,&rdquo; McCarthy told reporters last week. &ldquo;Which is why you see the revolving door. Which is why you see people getting arrested with guns over and over again.&rdquo;</p><p>Zalewski has carried bills for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel before. But with this gun bill, he&rsquo;s up against some strong opponents.</p><p>The National Rifle Association is one. They say lawful gun owners who improperly carry a gun and get caught would have to go away for three years.</p><p>Many black lawmakers are also fighting it, saying just locking people up doesn&rsquo;t truly address gun violence issues in their communities.</p><p>Zalewski says a negotiated version might send someone to prison for less than three years, or punish someone more on their first gun offense.</p><p>&ldquo;I think people are so worn out by my bill and by the budget problems we have,&rdquo; Zalewski said. &ldquo;And they&rsquo;re sick of seeing the Department of Corrections have these budget issues and having guys sleep in gymnasiums, there&rsquo;s just a real appetite to, &lsquo;Let&rsquo;s do something.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Art Lurigio says it&rsquo;s good to recognize that Illinois&rsquo; criminal justice system need to change. It&rsquo;s just a matter of what that change is.</p><p>&ldquo;Research suggests that it&rsquo;s not the severity of the punishment that has a deterrent effect, but the certainty of punishment,&rdquo; said Lurigio, a psychology professor and criminologist at Loyola University.</p><p>Lurigio&rsquo;s point is that research shows people with guns don&rsquo;t necessarily worry about how long they&rsquo;ll spend behind bars, it&rsquo;s whether they&rsquo;ll get caught. He said alternatives to prison can actually have more of a positive effect than locking up low-level criminals.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re keeping a lot of money to keep people locked up in prison,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The time that they spend in prison is time away from them ever having an opportunity to change their life trajectory unless they&rsquo;re fully engaged in services.</p><p>That&rsquo;s where Father David Kelly comes in.</p><p>Because while Rep. Zalewski and lawmakers are dealing with end of the criminal justice process - prisons - Father Kelly deals with the beginning of that process: kids who are getting in trouble.</p><p>&ldquo;These drums are used in the juvenile detention center. We do drumming circles at juvenile detention center. So I&rsquo;m the chaplain at Cook County Juvenile, as well,&rdquo; said Kelly, who runs Precious Blood Ministries in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago.</p><p>As he gives me a tour of the center, which is a former school, he shows me a clothes rack with dress clothes for the teenagers who have upcoming court appearances. Precious Blood deals mostly with teens who have already been arrested and done time.</p><p>Kelly said whatever the laws are that do pass, he wants to see more neighborhood programs.</p><p>&ldquo;Rather than harsher laws, harsher gun penalties, let&rsquo;s punish our way out of this, I just don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s an end to that,&rdquo; Kelly said. &ldquo; I don&rsquo;t think that will get us anywhere but fill our jails and prisons and then take the minimum resources we do have here in the community away.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelly said the young people he interacts with now are the ones statistics show are going to end up testing out the laws Rep. Zalewski is thinking of changing. And the best way to make sure they don&rsquo;t end up testing those laws and getting arrested doesn&rsquo;t come from legislators, but from getting more people in the community involved.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/panel-debate-gun-laws-how-reduce-illinois-prison-population-110496 NEIU expansion invokes eminent domain http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/neiu-expansion-invokes-eminent-domain-110461 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 6.17.23 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Northeastern Illinois University is taking a big gamble: that if it finally builds on-campus housing, it can reverse declining student enrollment. But the way the university&rsquo;s going about this has upset some neighbors. The university plans to acquire the properties through eminent domain, leaving owners on one block of W Bryn Mawr Ave. with little say in the matter.</p><p>Depending on who&rsquo;s speaking, the 3400 block of W Bryn Mawr Ave. could be described as &ldquo;sleepy,&rdquo; &ldquo;stagnant,&rdquo; or &ldquo;depressed.&rdquo; But nearly every storefront is occupied. On the south side sit a Chinese restaurant, dental clinic, hair salon, and hookah cafe. On the north side, a travel agency, real estate agency, bank, and 7-11.</p><p>On a recent morning, two surveyors were casing the street. They said they were there for &ldquo;the university,&rdquo; measuring the dimensions of the buildings and their properties. The information could go into an appraisal of the properties&rsquo; values.</p><p>&ldquo;My grandfather developed this building in 1954 and built it from the ground up,&rdquo; Dolly Tong said, about her family&rsquo;s property at 3411 W Bryn Mawr, which now houses a Chinese restaurant called Hunan Wok. Tong and her siblings were raised in the apartment above the restaurant space, and she still lives there with her elderly mother, whom she describes as severely disabled.</p><p>Tong said she and her siblings are only able to care for their mother with the rent they receive from leasing out the restaurant. So last winter, when they received a letter from NEIU stating that it intended to acquire the property for some compensation, she was devastated.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re already feeling now this impending doom that they&rsquo;re going to take away our family&rsquo;s legacy,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really hard.&rdquo;</p><p>Five other property owners are facing the same prospect, including the parents of John Boudouvas. His family owns the parcels just east of Tong&rsquo;s. Boudouvas said when his family received their letter from NEIU, he accompanied his parents to speak with a university lawyer about it. They told the lawyer they didn&rsquo;t want to sell.</p><p>&ldquo;And he goes, &lsquo;well, the university wants it, and they&rsquo;re going to eventually end up getting it,&rsquo;&rdquo; Boudouvas recalled. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s when I paused and I looked at him and I said, &lsquo;well, how can you guys use eminent domain?&rsquo; And as I said that I realized the university is owned by the state.&rdquo;</p><p>Eminent domain is the right of a government to take private property for its own use. It has to offer those property owners compensation. But Boudouvas, Tong, and other property owners say NEIU&rsquo;s offer was pitiful. And they all want to know the same thing: Why won&rsquo;t the university build on property it already owns?<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it is a really good question,&rdquo; said Dr. Sharon Hahs, President of NEIU. Hahs said a 2008 student housing feasibility study identified a second site for student housing, in addition to the block on Bryn Mawr Ave. It sits on Foster Ave., on the south end of the campus, by the athletic fields.</p><p>&ldquo;The answer lies somewhat in what is the most help to the community sooner,&rdquo; said Hahs.</p><p>The university is planning two large multi- use buildings -- one on each side of Bryn Mawr.&nbsp; The ground floor would feature new retail and restaurants.&nbsp; Above those, enough dorm rooms would be built to fit 500 beds. Hahs hopes the project will set off a domino effect of revitalization, extending east down Bryn Mawr.</p><p>&ldquo;We need to change the character of the neighborhood,&rdquo; Hahs said. &ldquo;It is economically depressed. And something will have to change for that to occur.&rdquo;</p><p>While the university frames its decision as a desire to inject some economic pep into the slumbering Hollywood-North Park neighborhood, it&rsquo;s also about the school&rsquo;s survival. Last fall, NEIU enrollment dipped below 11,000 for the first time since 2001. Hahs is focused on reversing that by recruiting a greater number of students from more than fifty miles away. But she said that won&rsquo;t work if the university does not offer housing for them to live in, or the amenities of a lively, young neighborhood.</p><p>The plan threatens to split the community into two camps. For Janita Tucker, who owns a home several blocks west of NEIU, this has been a long time coming.</p><p>&ldquo;My husband and I purchased the property here in part because it was so close to Northeastern and North Park University,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;and we wanted that university town vibe.&rdquo;</p><p>But many other residents, who live in closer proximity to the proposed development, fear student dorms could change the character of their neighborhood for the worse.</p><p>Both sides have hired lawyers, and Tong is spearheading a coalition of business and property owners against the property takeover. Litigation could mean it will be years before anything really happens. But quietly, many property owners concede that unless NEIU voluntarily backs off the plan, they suspect this will be a losing fight.</p><p><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, 09 Jul 2014 06:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/neiu-expansion-invokes-eminent-domain-110461 Ruling backs Illinois retirees on health benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/ruling-backs-illinois-retirees-health-benefits-110445 <p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday sided with retired state employees who argue that health insurance premiums are a protected retirement benefit, in a case that could have implications for how justices might rule on several high-profile challenges to recent overhauls of state worker pensions.</p><p>The court&#39;s 6-to-1 ruling reverses a lower court decision allowing the state government to force retirees to pay for a portion of their own health care.</p><p>The justices sent the case back to the lower court, where retirees can proceed with their challenge.</p><p>At issue is a law passed in 2012 that allows the state to collect premiums from retirees for their state-subsidized health care. Prior to that, state workers who retired with 20 or more years of service were entitled to premium-free health insurance. Under the new law, retirees had to cover part of the cost.</p><p>Writing for the majority, Justice Charles Freeman said the plain language of the constitution supports the conclusion that health insurance premium subsidies are part of a contractual relationship with retirees that can&#39;t be diminished.</p><p>&quot;Giving the language ... its plain and ordinary meaning, all of these benefits, including subsidized health care, must be considered to be benefits of membership in a pension or retirement system of the State and, therefore, within that provision&#39;s protections,&quot; Freeman wrote.&nbsp;</p><p>Retirees filed several lawsuits after the 2012 law was passed. A Sangamon County judge dismissed the cases, saying health insurance benefits aren&#39;t protected by the constitution. Retirees and the state then agreed to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.</p><p>The case is seen as a possible indicator of how the court will rule on a wider challenge to a statewide pension overhaul approved last year. That law aims to shore up the state&#39;s under-funded pensions by cutting annual automatic benefit increases received by retirees. A coalition of powerful state workers&#39; unions argued those cuts violate a clause in the Illinois Constitution that says pension benefits can not be &quot;diminished or impaired.&quot; Backers of the bill say it passes constitutional muster because cutting the amount by which benefits increase each year is different than cutting the benefits themselves.</p><p>While the court&#39;s Thursday ruling did not directly address the pension bill, Freeman did write that the clause &quot;must be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pensioner.&quot;</p><p>That bodes well for retirees who are suing to overturn the state&#39;s new pension law, said Gino DiVito, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the retiree health care case.</p><p>&quot;Without question, that implicitly signals that [cost-of-living adjustments] are certainly a protected benefit,&quot; DiVito said. &quot;It may signal a favorable decision in the ongoing litigation concerning pension benefits.&quot;</p><p>The ruling prompted quick praise from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a state worker union that has been fighting against the health care and pension changes.</p><p>&quot;The Supreme Court ruled today that men and women who work to provide essential public services -- protecting children from abuse, keeping criminals locked up, caring for the most vulnerable and more -- can count on the Illinois Constitution to mean what it says,&quot; AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer was quoted as saying in an emailed statement. &quot;Retirement security, including affordable health care and a modest pension, cannot be revoked by politicians.&quot;</p><p>Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat who pushed an alternative pension overhaul bill on the grounds that it would survive a legal challenge, quickly released his own statement suggesting Illinois lawmakers may have to return to the drawing board to solve the state&#39;s massive pension problem, which had been estimated to be at least $100 billion deep.</p><p>&quot;If the Court&rsquo;s decision is predictive, the challenge of reforming our pension systems will remain,&quot; Cullerton was quoted as saying. &quot;As I have said from the beginning, I am committed to identifying solutions that adhere to the plain language of the constitution.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ruling-backs-illinois-retirees-health-benefits-110445 Chicago’s top chefs join Ald. Ed Burke to urge limits on antibiotic use http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-top-chefs-join-ald-ed-burke-urge-limits-antibiotic-use-110406 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BURKE-photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When you see a gathering of white coated chefs around Chicago it&rsquo;s usually as part of a food festival or some gala dinner. But Tuesday morning some of the city&rsquo;s top cooks and restaurateurs gathered at City Hall to voice their concerns about public health and the way animals are raised in this country.</p><p>They were there to support a non-binding City Council resolution to support long-stalled Congressional bills on antibiotics. Known as <a href="http://www.louise.house.gov/the-preservation-of-antibiotics-for-medical-treatment-act">PAMPTA </a>and PARA, they would stop American farmers from using certain classes of antibiotics on healthy animals. The practice is meant to promote growth and prevent disease.</p><p>The world&rsquo;s leading health authorities believe that overuse of antibiotics in hospital and farm settings is leading to the rise of &ldquo;superbugs&rdquo;, or bacterial infections that can no longer be cured with antibiotics.</p><p>Long-time Chicago restaurateur and co-founder of the <a href="http://buygreenchicago.org/">Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition</a> Ina Pinkney introduced the long list of scientists and doctors who would speak at the finance committee hearing on the resolution later that day.</p><p>But she also shared a personal story of a friend who recently gave birth to twins.</p><p>&ldquo;One baby went home and the other one was sick and they found MRSA in her nose as a nine-day-old,&rdquo; Pinkney said. &ldquo;Then you have to say that things are not OK.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports</a> that over 2 million Americans are infected by so-called superbugs each year and and more than 23,000 die.</p><p>&ldquo;The antibiotic issue is just out of control,&rdquo; said Dan <a href="https://www.sopraffina.com/dolce/homepage.htm">Rosenthal, whose restaurant group </a>owns seven Chicago eateries including Sopraffina and Ciccheti.</p><p>&ldquo;We are creating, in our industrial meat complex, the perfect environment to create antibiotic resistant bacteria...They are found in our meat and water supply and system and what happens is we get to a situation where antibiotics are no longer effective.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Rosenthal is so concerned over the issue that since 2012, he&#39;s sourced all 800,000 pounds of meat he serves in his restaurants each year from farms who don&rsquo;t use antibiotics on their healthy animals.</p><p>It was also Rosenthal who, last April, urged Alderman Ed Burke to introduce the proposed resolution to the City Council.</p><p>If passed tomorrow, the resolution can&rsquo;t force Congress to do anything, but Burke says it can &ldquo;call the attention of the Illinois delegation to what we believe is an important public health initiative.&rdquo;</p><p>But the measures face considerable opposition. The biggest players in the livestock industry have long resisted any mandatory restrictions.</p><p>&quot;We are opposed to those bills because we really believe they are out of date with the current Food and Drug Administration regulatory activities,&rdquo; said Illinois Pork Producer Association spokesman Tim Maier, who is based in Springfield.</p><p>He&#39;s referring to recent voluntary guidelines that prohibit using antibiotics to make animals grow faster. But preventative uses are still in a gray area and critics say the situation is much too grave to solve with voluntary guidelines. They further argue that the government doesn&rsquo;t collect enough data to know if any farmers are choosing to comply. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>But while health activists cite the rise of antibiotic resistant infections and antibiotic resistant bacteria on supermarket meat as as threat to public health, Maier says it&#39;s the restrictions proposed in the legislation that would cause a threat.</p><p>&ldquo;We think they would actually harm animal health and by extension food safety by limiting the antibiotics that are available for farmers to use when they want to treat their animals,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Denmark, which is one of the largest pork producers in the world, banned the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock in 2000. The move required some adjustments and saw some outbreaks of disease, but within a decade the World Health Organization &ldquo;found that the ban reduced human health risk without significantly harming animal health or farmers&#39; incomes,&rdquo; according to the<a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2010/11/01/avoiding-antibiotic-resistance-denmarks-ban-on-growth-promoting-antibiotics-in-food-animals"> Pew Charitable Trust</a>.</p><p>So why are chefs and restaurateurs involved in this legislative discussion?</p><p>&ldquo;Because they understand that a meat supply that produces killer bacteria along with the meat is an unsustainable system and it has to be changed,&rdquo; said Rosenthal. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why these chefs are standing up for meat raised in a sustainable fashion without antibiotics to provide a better source of supply of meat both at the restaurant level and in the grocery store.&quot;</p><p>At grocery stores like <a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/animal-welfare-standards">Whole Foods Market, </a>meat raised without antibiotics has served the baseline standards for a few years. Jared Donisvitch oversees the butcher counter at the store&rsquo;s Lincoln Park location, where, he says, the antibiotic issue on shoppers minds.</p><p>&ldquo;It comes up fairly often with our interactions with customers,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and so we are a well-trained group here and try to help customers with any questions they have on that.&rdquo;</p><p>Representative Louise Slaughter of New York State is Congress&rsquo; only microbiologist and the sponsor of PAMPTA. Last week, she sent a letter to the Chicago City Council, saying &ldquo;It is only through local, grassroots efforts like yours that we will make a difference in public health on a national level.&quot;</p><p>If the City Council resolution passes this week, Chicago would join the ranks of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Seattle and others. But even if all the cities in the nation adopt such resolutions, they can&rsquo;t pass an act of Congress.</p><p>Still, Susan Vaughn Grooters of <a href="http://www.keepantibioticsworking.com/">Keep Antibiotics Working</a>, a nationwide coalition that aims to pass legislation to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, says the local resolutions add a new voice to the usual Congressional debates. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If we could get the groundswell from city councils across the nation to help support the federal legislation it could really help what&rsquo;s happening in DC now,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s essential that they hear from other people, not just inside the beltway in DC.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Burke also notes that municipal resolutions have played a part in creating national momentum on issues in the past. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;One issue that comes to mind is the effort we undertook a number of years ago to ban trans fats from food products,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Now you can&rsquo;t walk down the aisles of the grocery store without seeing notations on boxes, &lsquo;no trans fats&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>The City Council is expected to vote on the resolution Wednesday afternoon.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-top-chefs-join-ald-ed-burke-urge-limits-antibiotic-use-110406 Chicago Iraqis react to deepening crisis back home http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-iraqis-react-deepening-crisis-back-home-110384 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Local Iraqis_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the U.S. will dispatch 300 military advisers to Iraq to help fight a fast-moving Islamist insurgency. The news could provide some hope to local Iraqis in Chicago, who have watched the deteriorating situation back home with increasing alarm.</p><p>The night before Mr. Obama&rsquo;s announcement, a group of them came together to talk about their anguish at the deepening crisis in Iraq.</p><p>They met in an unmarked storefront right next to 50th ward alderman Debra Silverstein&rsquo;s office on Devon Avenue, in the West Ridge neighborhood. A call to a phone number on a flier in the window resulted in a fellow named Deeyah Qasim calling back. He said he was eager to talk to a reporter about Iraq, and would be at the empty office at 4:30 p.m.</p><p>In fact, Qasim gathered at least 40 Iraqis into the space &ndash; formally registered as the Baghdad Bridge Organization. A medical technician, Qasim arrived in the U.S. two years ago as a refugee from Baghdad.</p><p>The meeting space is comfortable, if sparsely decorated. The floors are covered with carpets, the walls with colorful fabrics. He installed a door to partition a space for women in the back, from men in the front, in keeping with their Islamic cultural norms.</p><p>Qasim explained that their gatherings at the space started with his and four other families, who got together socially. He said they decided it would be good for Chicago&rsquo;s growing Iraqi refugee community to broaden the gatherings, so they pooled together money out of their own pockets, formed a 501(c)3 non-profit, and rented the space.</p><p>&ldquo;They are meeting together and talking,&rdquo; he said, when asked to describe what people do at the center. &ldquo;And we give our kids like culture. Because we don&rsquo;t like to lose our special culture for the Middle East thing, OK? We give our children Arabic language, too, we have many classes&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>Normally, the space is only open on Thursday and Friday evenings, after work hours. But on a Wednesday evening, men and women lined the walls, hoping to share their concerns about recent events in Iraq. One of them was Asaad Al-Ibrahimi, a refuge from Baghdad who came to the U.S. less than a year ago. He spoke Arabic, and 25-year old Shaker Alshummary translated into English.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s affected him immensely,&rdquo; Alshummary translated for Al-Ibrahimi, &ldquo;and he has people in Mosul &ndash;&nbsp;family members that have died. And it&rsquo;s took a toll on him mentally, and physically he can&rsquo;t work.&rdquo;</p><p>Al-Ibrahimi said he has been so distraught, he took a leave of absence from his warehouse job, and hasn&rsquo;t been to work since June 12. He said many of his young cousins went to Mosul to fight against militant Islamists from a group sometimes referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They captured Iraq&rsquo;s second-biggest city last week. One of Al-Ibrahimi&rsquo;s cousins, newly married, was killed.</p><p>When asked whether he felt the U.S. should send soldiers to Iraq, Al-Ibrahimi responded in broken English, &ldquo;I hope. I hope (the U.S.) send(s) soldiers to Iraqi.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, he said even though he&rsquo;s 46 years old and a grandfather of three, he would join the U.S. army if it sends troops there.</p><p>But not all agree that this would be an appropriate move. &ldquo;Actually we don&rsquo;t need soldiers, just we need support,&rdquo; said Qasim, &ldquo;like diplomatic support and equipment support.&rdquo;</p><p>Qasim and many others said they&rsquo;ve been frustrated watching the news play out from afar. He said all he can really do is implore Iraqis through his Facebook page, or via e-mail, to work together to resist the armed opposition to Iraq&rsquo;s government. &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t give the chance for the terrorist people to have control for another city,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Qasim and many others blamed &ldquo;foreign terrorists&rdquo; for the recent wave of violence in Iraq, and said they&rsquo;ve been aided by arms and other support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular. Most shared Qasim&rsquo;s sentiment that if Iraq&rsquo;s Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Kurds and Christians come together, they can drive the militants out.</p><p>But Hakim Hammadi disagreed.</p><p>&ldquo;All the Sunnah in Iraq, they are feeling they are outside the square of government,&rdquo; he said, referring to Iraq&rsquo;s Muslim minority group. Hammadi blamed Iraq&rsquo;s Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki for excluding Sunnis and other minorities from sharing power. &ldquo;This the wrong balance to government in Iraq,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Hammadi was the lone Sunni in the group on Wednesday night, and he dismissed others&rsquo; claim that &ldquo;foreign terrorists&rdquo; caused the problem. The 60-year old attorney, who came to the U.S. as a refugee two years ago, was also a member of the Ba&rsquo;athist Party, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein.</p><p>Despite their assurances that Iraqis of Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and Christian backgrounds all partake congenially in activities at the Baghdad Bridge Organization, the discussion exposed deep rifts. When Hammadi said he believes the only way forward for Iraq is to split into three separate states &ndash;&nbsp;one for Shia, one for Sunni, and one for Kurds &ndash;&nbsp;many scoffed at the notion.</p><p>Among those who refuse to entertain the idea of partitioning Iraq was Rina Abdulamir, a 19-year old student at Northeastern University. Abdulamir has been in the U.S. since she was a small child, but teared up when she spoke of her homeland.</p><p>&ldquo;I wish to go back there, I wish to go back there and we all build it together &ndash;&nbsp;all Shia, Sunnis, Kurds,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;And I wish to work with my degree that I got here, since I&rsquo;m working on my justice degree.&rdquo; Abdulamir said she could imagine working in the Iraqi government, or as a lawyer.</p><p>Despite occasional tensions in the room, after two-and-a-half hours of discussion, everyone said they were grateful to be heard. They said part of their stress has been feeling like nobody outside their community cares about events in Iraq. They said just getting their voices out there made them feel better.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-iraqis-react-deepening-crisis-back-home-110384