WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/tags/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en WBEZ's week in review -Monday, Sept. 30 - Saturday, Oct. 5 http://www.wbez.org/news/wbezs-week-review-monday-sept-30-saturday-oct-5-108860 <p><p>It was a busy news week with the government shutdown and the roll out of the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces.</p><p>WBEZ reporters and producers were busy putting together stories and conversations of national, regional and local significance, and we&#39;ve collected some of those stories all in one place for you to enjoy this weekend.</p><p>WBEZ&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/llutton-0">Linda Lutton</a> looked at the current plight of Chicago&#39;s neighborhood schools in light of heavy competion from charter, magnet and selective schools, which seems to be spreading the current freshman class thin and jeopardizing everything from sports to music.</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">Future uncertain for Chicago&#39;s neighborhood high schools</a></strong></p><p>John Lillig, a resident of the West Ridge neighborhood on Chicago&rsquo;s far North Side, asked our Curious City crew about the history of Indian Boundary Park Zoo, which is rumored to be closing. This is what they found out:</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-long-forgotten-zoo-108844">Chicago&#39;s long-forgotten zoo</a></strong></p><p>Writer <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett">Leah Pickett</a> tackled street harrassment this week, soliciting stories from other Chicago women about how they&#39;ve been treated in public by men, groups of men and even mixed groups of men and women.</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/standing-street-harassment-108847">Standing up to street harassment</a></strong></p><p>Half the public and two-thirds of the uninsured say they don&#39;t have enough information about the Affordable Care Act to know how it will impact them. So WBEZ&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/shannon-0">Shannon Heffernan</a> put together a primer on the law with 8 things everyone should understand.</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/understanding-basics-affordable-care-act-108806">Understanding the basics of the Affordable Care Act</a></strong></p><p>And writer Alison Flowers continues the Exoneree Diaries with a look into the conviction of Jacques Rivera, one of three people she is profiling in a year-long series on WBEZ that looks at the Illinois justice system.</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/exoneree-diaries-jacques-riveras-conviction-108801">Exoneree Diaries: Jacques Rivera&#39;s conviction</a></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/takimoff">Tim Akimoff</a> is the Digital Content Director at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/timakimoff">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/timakimoff">Facebook</a>. </em></p></p> Sat, 05 Oct 2013 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/wbezs-week-review-monday-sept-30-saturday-oct-5-108860 Herd of goats, llamas, sheep and burros are grazing around the O’Hare grounds http://www.wbez.org/news/herd-goats-llamas-sheep-and-burros-are-grazing-around-o%E2%80%99hare-grounds-108408 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-07707cd9-7e20-3f9e-2c35-610b395b0a92">A herd of goats, burros, sheep and llamas are chewing their way through the grounds of O&rsquo;Hare International Airport in Chicago. The Chicago Department of Aviation showed off their latest &ldquo;employees&rdquo; this week, though the animals have been at work, clearing the vegetation around the airport for almost a month.</p><p dir="ltr">The group of 14 goats, five sheep, three burros and two llamas will graze inside fenced areas around the airport at least until the end of 2014. Officials say the animals were brought to the airport as a sustainable way to clean up the dense scrub vegetation that covers much of the grounds.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It gets pretty rocky under here,&rdquo; said Rosemarie Andolino, CDA commissioner. pointing to a five-acre field of grass and brush behind her. &ldquo;And there (are) areas where it kinda goes up and down and lawnmowers in many cases don&rsquo;t provide or aren&rsquo;t adequate to get to some of these areas.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/goats13.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Three of O’Hare airport’s latest hires explore their new workspace. The burros are part of a herd of 25 animals that will eat vegetation around the airport to help maintain the grounds. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Andolino said the contract for the goats won&rsquo;t exceed $19,500, and it expires by the end of 2014. The commissioner didn&rsquo;t have estimates as to how much it cost to maintain the grounds before the animals, yet a spokeswoman maintained there may be some cost savings down the road.</p><p dir="ltr">The herd won&rsquo;t be eating at the same spot everyday &mdash; Andolino says they&rsquo;ll move around to different places on the airport&rsquo;s grounds, depending on need. As for concerns about the animals during brutal Chicago winters, officials say the herd will only be out as long as weather permits.</p><p dir="ltr">Most of the animals in the O&rsquo;Hare herd come from Settler&rsquo;s Pond &mdash; a shelter for abandoned animals in Beecher, Ill. &mdash; but four of them were originally owned by Joseph Arnold, head of Central Commissary Holdings, LLC. The airport contract isn&rsquo;t technically their first job: Arnold&rsquo;s four goats used to provide milk for the goat cheese served at Chicago restaurant <a href="http://butcherandtheburger.com/">Butcher and the Burger</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/goats17.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="A day-old lamb stays close by her mother at their new home, the O’Hare International Airport. They’re part of a herd of animals eating its way around the fields at O’Hare. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" />Though they might seem an unlikely sight among the security fences and planes flying overhead, the burros, goats, sheep and llamas Tuesday seemed to make themselves quite at home. One of the sheep even gave birth to a lamb Tuesday, and all the animals gathered around to greet him.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a little boy and his name is O&rsquo;Hare,&rdquo; said Pinky Jenota, one of the caretakers from <a href="http://www.settlerspondshelter.net/about.html">Settler&rsquo;s Pond</a>. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s doing great, he was up suckling on mom, planes flying overhead. He didn&rsquo;t flinch, Mom didn&rsquo;t move - everybody&rsquo;s content.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">For now, the herd will continue munching around a five acre space on the airport grounds. Officials say they should finish that section in the next few weeks, and then it&rsquo;s on to the next spot.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a> .</em></p></p> Wed, 14 Aug 2013 13:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/herd-goats-llamas-sheep-and-burros-are-grazing-around-o%E2%80%99hare-grounds-108408 Rep. Mell appointed to father's city council seat http://www.wbez.org/news/rep-mell-appointed-fathers-city-council-seat-108162 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/debmell.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has chosen State Representative Deb Mell to succeed the 33rd ward seat held for decades by her father, Dick Mell. Mell resigned her state post early Wednesday morning, and was later confirmed by the City Council.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m just trying to take it in,&rdquo; Mell told the council. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t get much sleep last night, and I love my area. I don&rsquo;t think anyone who knows me [questions] that, and how much passion I have for the people of the 33rd ward and how hard I&rsquo;m gonna work on their behalf.&rdquo;</p><p>The announcement was not a surprise - Mell&rsquo;s name had been rumored to be the choice out of the 12 people vying for the spot. Mayor Emanuel had said Mell&rsquo;s last name and familial ties would neither work for her or against her in the selection process. The mayor lauded Mell Wednesday for &ldquo;breaking glass ceilings&rdquo; for being the first openly lesbian member of the City Council.</p><p>Most of the City Council joined the mayor in his praise, some of them even highlighting family ties as a blessing, instead of criticizing the choice as nepotism.</p><p>As Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) put it: &ldquo;it&rsquo;s just the way life is.&rdquo; Zalewski&rsquo;s son serves as a state representative in Illinois.&nbsp;</p><p>Ever the historian, Ald. Ed Burke even spouted off all the family connections in the City Council&rsquo;s history, including his own, adding that he couldn&rsquo;t think of anything that would &ldquo;make someone more proud than to succeed their parent in an office that that parent had held.&rdquo;</p><p>The lone &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote in the council came from Ald. Bob Fioretti (2).</p><p>&ldquo;I do know Deb Mell, and I like Deb Mell. And I like what she stands for. But we are not a monarchy, we are a democracy, so let&rsquo;s start acting like it,&rdquo; Fioretti said.</p><p>Fioretti later added that his vote wasn&rsquo;t cast against Deb Mell as an individual, but rather was a vote against the process.</p><p>Mell responded to the criticism as soon as she took the floor.</p><p>&ldquo;That just makes me work even harder, and I have something to prove,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And you will not question my passion and hard work on behalf of the 33rd ward.&rdquo;</p><p>Deb Mell&rsquo;s father and sister, Patti Blagojevich, were both in attendance for the swearing-in. Dick Mell told reporters he didn&rsquo;t give his daughter any advice on her new position, and it was &ldquo;her ballgame now.&rdquo;</p><p>Mell added there were some things he would miss about being an alderman, saying there was no other position like it out there, but said time had passed him by.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t tweet, I don&rsquo;t have Facebook, I don&rsquo;t email very well, I do text a little bit,&ldquo; he said. &nbsp;&ldquo;And when I get stacks of emails from constituents and I try to call them back and I get their voicemails, that&rsquo;s what I miss. I miss that one on one conversation with the person who&rsquo;s got the problem.&rdquo;</p><p>As if a sign of the changing tide, shortly after Deb Mell had been sworn in by the City Council, the <a href="http://33rdward.org/">33rd ward website</a> was swiftly changed to showcase a picture of her face.</p><p>Dick Mell won&rsquo;t be drifting too far away from the political spectrum. He still holds the powerful Democratic Committeeman seat, a position that gives him a weighted vote for his daughter&rsquo;s successor in Springfield. Mell wouldn&rsquo;t say if he had any favorites, telling reporters only that there were &ldquo;many candidates.&rdquo;</p><p>Deb Mell said she officially resigned from her state post Wednesday morning, and would be out in the 33rd ward as soon as Wednesday evening, meeting her new constituents.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ web producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian&nbsp;</a></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F102454479" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rep-mell-appointed-fathers-city-council-seat-108162 Blagojevich appeals convictions, stiff sentence http://www.wbez.org/news/blagojevich-appeals-convictions-stiff-sentence-108062 <p><p>Lawyers for Rod&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;filed an appeal just before a midnight deadline Monday that challenges the imprisoned former Illinois governor&#39;s corruption conviction and 14-year prison term, including on grounds the trial judge allegedly committed a litany of errors.</p><div><p>The 100-plus page filing with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago comes more than two years after the Chicago Democrat&#39;s retrial and 16 months after he entered a federal prison in Colorado.</p><p>Jurors convicted&nbsp;Blagojevich, 56, of engaging in wide-ranging corruption, including that the two-term governor sought to profit from his power to appoint someone to the U.S. Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated to become president.</p><p>Blagojevich&#39;s&nbsp;most shocking crime in the eyes of most observers was no crime at all, the appeal contends.&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;was merely engaging in standard politics when he floated the idea of securing a U.S. Cabinet seat or ambassadorship for himself if he appointed Obama confidant Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat, it says. Neither Obama nor Jarrett have ever been accused of any wrongdoing in the case.</p><p>&quot;The record shows that&nbsp;Blagojevich&#39;s&nbsp;proposed exchange was an arm&#39;s length political deal, described by&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;as a political &#39;horse trade,&#39;&quot; the appeal says. It wasn&#39;t criminal &quot;because the political deal proposed by&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;was a proper and common exchange under our democratic system of government.&quot;</p><p>The appeal also points to what it says was a lack of evenhandedness by U.S. District Judge James Zagel throughout Blagojeivch&#39;s two trials.</p><p>It alleges Zagel gave&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;little choice but to testify at his retrial after repeatedly ruling arguments the defense viewed as crucial could only be broached byBlagojevich&nbsp;himself from the witness stand. Once on the stand, Zagel prohibited many of those statements, including&nbsp;Blagojevich&#39;s&nbsp;attempt to tell jurors he believed at the time that his actions were legal, it contends.</p><p>&quot;Had&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;been permitted to present his good-faith defense, it would have been a powerful defense, likely to produce an acquittal,&quot; his lawyers argue.</p><p>The appeal also blames Zagel for allowing a juror who allegedly expressed bias against&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;to remain on the jury despite defense attorneys&#39; objections. The appeal only referred to the panelist as Juror No. 174, saying he said aboutBlagojevich&nbsp;during jury selection, &quot;I just figured him, possibly, to be guilty.&quot;</p><p>The appeal also raises longstanding claims that Zagel barred FBI wiretap evidence that might have aided the defense, that he sided overwhelming with prosecutors and that he miscalculated the appropriate prison term for&nbsp;Blagojevich.</p><p>The appeal was filed about 30 minutes before midnight.</p><p>Blagojevich&nbsp;was convicted on 18 counts over two trials, jurors in the first deadlocking on all but one count. Taking the stand in the second, decisive trial in 2011,&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;insisted his talking about wanting to sell Obama&#39;s seat was just that &mdash; talk.</p><p>Zagel imposed a lengthy prison term at a sentencing hearing later in 2011, tellingBlagojevich&nbsp;he had abused voters&#39; trust and undermined the democratic process &quot;to do things that were only good for yourself.&quot;</p><p>Many observers at the time said&nbsp;Blagojevich&#39;s&nbsp;best hope on appeal wasn&#39;t that a higher court would overturn his convictions but that appellate judges would agree his sentence was too harsh.</p><p>Appeals can take years to play out, and defendants rarely prevail.</p><p>Another Illinois governor convicted for corruption, George Ryan, filed multiple appeals over years and lost every key ruling. The former Republican leader was recently released after more than five years in prison and seven months of home confinement.</p><p>Secret wiretaps of an often foul-mouthed&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;eager to earn big money were at the core of prosecutors&#39; case.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve got this thing and it&#39;s f------ golden,&quot; jurors heard&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;saying in one wiretapped conversation about Obama&#39;s vacated seat. &quot;And I&#39;m just not giving it up for f------ nothing.&quot;</p><p>As Inmate No. 40892-424 in the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in suburban Denver,&nbsp;Blagojevich&#39;s&nbsp;life is highly regimented, including frequent head counts and having to wake at dawn.</p><p>In a Facebook posting this year,&nbsp;Blagojevich&#39;s&nbsp;wife, Patti, said her husband is spending time in prison teaching Civil War history and learning to play the guitar. She added that he frequently jogs around a quarter-mile prison track.</p><p>&quot;All that we have been left with is a aching hole in our lives,&quot; she added about herself and the couple&#39;s two daughters.</p><p>After the then-governor&#39;s Dec. 9, 2008 arrest,&nbsp;Blagojevich&nbsp;hit the talk show circuit to declare his innocence and to rail against prosecutors. He even appeared on Donald Trump&#39;s reality show, &quot;The Apprentice.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 16 Jul 2013 07:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/blagojevich-appeals-convictions-stiff-sentence-108062 Morning Shift: New book offers lessons on surviving infidelity http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-02/morning-shift-new-book-offers-lessons-surviving <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Noel_Shush -courtesy of ashleymadison.com_.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cheating can be a devastating blow to not just your relationship, but your ego as well. How do you pick up the pieces and move on? Also, with the digital age upon us, how do news organizations keep up with the times?&nbsp;</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-surviving-infidelity.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-surviving-infidelity" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: New book offers lessons on surviving infidelity" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 10:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-02/morning-shift-new-book-offers-lessons-surviving Protesters rally against Chicago Sun-Times photo layoffs http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photo-layoffs-107573 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/c19862c4ceb711e28faf22000a1f99f9_7.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Local reporters, photographers and labor leaders gathered with picket signs outside the Chicago Sun-Times building Thursday, a week after the entire photography department at the newspaper was let go.</p><p>Cars driving by the rally beeped their horns as around 150 supporters chanted &ldquo;quality, not cuts&rdquo; and &ldquo;no more layoffs.&rdquo;&nbsp; Many of the faces in the crowd matched the bylines and names from the newspaper: Longtime Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown carried a sign that said, &ldquo;John H. White - &lsquo;nuf said.&rdquo; White, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, marched just a few steps behind him, along with other former Sun-Times photogs.</p><p>Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, says they&rsquo;ve filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that says the layoffs violate federal law. The Guild represents 20 of the photographers who were laid off.</p><p>&ldquo;This is one of the few cities that has two papers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And how are you going to be able to compete with the competition when you don&rsquo;t have two professional photojournalists?&rdquo;</p><p>Rosenbaum says the Guild is planning another rally for next week.</p><p>A statement from the Sun-Times Media group after the layoffs said the decision was &ldquo;difficult,&rdquo; but noted the media business is changing rapidly, and audiences want more video content with their news.</p><p>Meanwhile, many of the former Sun-Times photographers say they&rsquo;re trying to move on to freelancing and other projects.&nbsp; Rob Hart, who started at the Sun-Times over a decade ago, says he was serving dual roles at the protest Thursday morning: marching alongside his former colleagues, and photographing the protest for a freelance assignment.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photogr.js" type="text/javascript" language="javascript"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photogr" target="_blank">View the story "Protesters rally against Chicago Sun-Times photography layoffs" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Thu, 06 Jun 2013 14:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photo-layoffs-107573 Construction begins on Midwest’s first affordable housing for LGBTQ seniors http://www.wbez.org/news/construction-begins-midwest%E2%80%99s-first-affordable-housing-lgbtq-seniors-107501 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/photo (1)(1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Construction vehicles knocked down walls at a building in Lakeview Monday to prepare for what will soon become the region&rsquo;s first LGBTQ-friendly senior affordable housing development.</p><p>The $26 million dollar development will occupy a part of the old 23rd district Town Hall police station on Halsted and Addison streets, as well as the now-vacant space next to it. The building will be home to 79 studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as a space for community programming run by <a href="http://www.centeronhalsted.org/" target="_blank">The Center on Halsted</a>.</p><p>The development has been in the works for a while. By Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney&rsquo;s count, he&rsquo;s been working on the issue for at least 10 years. Tunney, one of the first openly gay Chicago aldermen, says the work won&rsquo;t stop once the center opens.</p><p>&ldquo;The selection process is going to be interesting because the demand is gonna be amazing,&rdquo; Tunney said. &ldquo;And getting it open and learning in general how to integrate the community center with the housing component, I think there&rsquo;s gonna be a few challenges there.&rdquo;</p><p>Some Chicagoans have already voiced interest in living in the building. Tom Genley said the senior center would be a safe zone, and thus he was eyeing one of the apartments.</p><p>&ldquo;Here, because I can be me, an out gay man. Here, because I do not have to hide my true self,&rdquo; Genley said. &ldquo;Here, because the closet is for clothes.&rdquo;</p><p>But alongside the celebration and hard-hat photo-ops was an air of disappointment over the Illinois House of Representatives&rsquo; decision not to call a vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. During her remarks about the housing project, Representative Sara Feigenholtz called the last weekend of the legislative session one where a lot of &ldquo;broken dreams happened.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We just didn&rsquo;t quite get it done yet,&rdquo; Feigenholtz said. &ldquo;But we&rsquo;re gonna go back and we&rsquo;re gonna get it done.&rdquo;</p><p>Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago decided not to call a House floor vote on the bill that would&#39;ve made Illinois the 13th state to allow gay marriage. Harris said he didn&#39;t have the votes but also vowed to bring back the issue.</p><p>The Center on Halsted has been working with <a href="http://www.heartlandalliance.org/" target="_blank">The Heartland Alliance</a>, a local anti-poverty organization, state and city officials on the financing and construction for the affordable housing development.&nbsp; All 79 units will be subsidized, and will cost no more than 30 percent of a given resident&rsquo;s income. Construction on the building is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2014.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Jun 2013 16:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/construction-begins-midwest%E2%80%99s-first-affordable-housing-lgbtq-seniors-107501 Pritzker faces few tough questions at Senate hearing http://www.wbez.org/news/pritzker-faces-few-tough-questions-senate-hearing-107341 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP090520015810.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago businesswoman and current Commerce secretary nominee Penny Pritzker faced few tough questions at her Senate hearing Thursday. Pritzker, a long-time friend of and fundraiser for President Barack Obama, was nominated to the post earlier this month.</p><p>Pritzker seemed prepared for the two-hour hearing, answering a questions on topics including cyber security, job creation, manufacturing, travel and the fishing industry.</p><p>&quot;The calls you&rsquo;ll get will be about fish,&quot; Alaska Senator Mark Begich (D) told Pritzker. &quot;You will think they&rsquo;re about trade and agreements and tourism&nbsp; - it&rsquo;s gonna be about fish.&quot;</p><p>Pritzker was expected to face tough questioning on a few issues. Her family owned 50 percent of the Superior Bank of Chicago, which failed after losing millions of dollars on risky mortgage loans to borrowers with bad credit. Republican Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the ranking member on the committee, was the only senator to inquire about Pritzker&rsquo;s role in the bank&rsquo;s collapse.</p><p>&quot;Unfortunately, when problems arose, my uncle had recently passed away,&quot; Pritzker responded, saying she was never an officer of the bank or involved in management. &quot;I stepped in on behalf of the 50 percent ownership of my family to try and salvage the situation.&quot;</p><p>Pritzker said after the bank failed, she went to the FDIC herself, and her family voluntarily agreed to pay $450 million.</p><p>When Thune asked Pritzker what she&rsquo;d say to the depositors affected by the bank&rsquo;s failure, she responded that she regretted the outcome of the bank.</p><p>&quot;I feel very badly about that,&quot; she added.</p><p>Pritzker was also questioned about her family&rsquo;s offshore trusts, an issue that was expected to be a point of conflict at the hearing.</p><p>&quot;I am the beneficiary of off-shore family trusts that were set up when I was a little girl,&quot; Pritzker said. &quot;I didn&rsquo;t create them. I don&rsquo;t direct them. I don&rsquo;t control them. I have asked the trustee to remove themselves and appoint a US trustee.&quot;</p><p>Rocky relations between labor unions and the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, where Pritzker is a board member, barely entered the questioning. Union members of Unite Here in Chicago have protested Pritzker&rsquo;s nomination over low wages.</p><p>Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) mentioned the back and forth between the union and hotel management in her questioning, but didn&rsquo;t directly ask Pritzker about her role.</p><p>Pritzker was introduced at the hearing by both Illinois U.S. Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin. Kirk was reportedly on the fence at first about Pritzker&rsquo;s nomination, but came out with his endorsement earlier this week.</p><p>&quot;I see her as a voice for business that the president will have to heed,&quot; Kirk told the committee Thursday.</p><p>Pritzker&rsquo;s nomination still has to face the full Senate.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em></p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 15:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/pritzker-faces-few-tough-questions-senate-hearing-107341 CPS limits coverage from closing schools http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-limits-coverage-closing-schools-107275 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CPS Access(1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>On Wednesday, the Chicago Board of Education will decide whether to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202" target="_blank">close 54 schools</a> it says are failing or underutilized.</p><p>Since the recommended list of closures was announced in March, the city has been in a heated debate about whether some schools should be taken off the list. Media access to these buildings has been almost impossible, and some worry decisions will be made without a thorough inspection.</p><p>Arturs Weible is a music teacher at Lafayette Elementary School in Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood. He directs the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/lafayette-elementary-string-orchestra-tunes-despite-uncertain-future-107255" target="_blank">only string orchestra</a> at a CPS elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;We have 85 kids participating in the program. And these kids have higher expectations to keep their grades up. They have to keep their behavior in order,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And so these kids are basically doing above and beyond pretty much anything that&rsquo;s being asked of an elementary school child.&rdquo;</p><p>Lafayette is slated to close because CPS considers it an underutilized building. Weible disagrees, and says all parts of the building are in use, but maybe not at all times of the day.</p><p>He says he wants the public to see the school before a decision is made.</p><p>&ldquo;To not allow media coverage within school hours is not fair to these parents. They don&rsquo;t have a voice otherwise. The media is the voice of the community,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Before CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett announced the closings list, Weible said journalists got into Lafayette easily. Now, it&rsquo;s like a black out with the exception of heavily restricted visits.</p><p>The district said since late March, every media outlet has had access to a proposed closing school and/or receiving school.</p><p>CPS says with less than a week until the board vote, it&rsquo;s denying media access to the closing schools because it would be too disruptive. But a number of news organizations including WBEZ and Catalyst magazine say they&rsquo;ve been denied access to closing schools since the list was made public.</p><p>Some reporters have successfully entered closing schools through other means.</p><p>&ldquo;I was invited to come to Garvey by a parent,&rdquo; said Kate Grossman, deputy editorial page editor for the Chicago Sun-Times.</p><p>She toured Garvey Elementary on the city&rsquo;s South Side earlier this spring. It&rsquo;s another school proposed to be closed because of underutilization.</p><p>She said there are numbers to back up CPS&rsquo;s closing recommendations, but there&rsquo;s also the reality of what&rsquo;s happening inside.</p><p>&ldquo;You can see that by going to these schools and seeing that they have quite a lot to offer kids even though on paper they&rsquo;re underused,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So I think it&rsquo;s a crucial part of the decision making when you&rsquo;re deciding to close a school and consolidate it with another to know what you might be losing.&rdquo;</p><p>Grossman said her visit to Garvey was very different from when she was invited by CPS to tour a receiving school with CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett.</p><p>&ldquo;It was lots of people, and you can&rsquo;t really do a lot of in-depth reporting when you&rsquo;re following a school CEO around. And the principal might not be comfortable speaking her mind,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>A student at Northwestern&rsquo;s Medill School of Journalism also tried to gain access to schools without permission. CPS threatened to sever ties with Medill if it happened again.</p><p>Professor Marcel Pacatte agreed the student was wrong, but said the district&rsquo;s response was extreme.</p><p>&ldquo;A student was told yesterday there would be no more audio recording at closing schools. So that&rsquo;s a fairly draconian issue,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Pacatte said now he&rsquo;s making sure students are going through the proper channels to ensure Medill can continue covering the schools.</p><p>&ldquo;I get where they&rsquo;re coming from but I still don&rsquo;t understand how they think it&rsquo;s beneficial for the citizens of Chicago or the students in the schools of the district in the city itself to prevent stories from being told,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Media restrictions aren&rsquo;t uncommon for urban school districts.</p><p>But Emily Richmond with the National Education Writers Association says too many restrictions can force reporters to find another way into the schools.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s really no substitute for being able to just step back and watch what&rsquo;s happening around you and have that first hand observation. And who knows what stories they would find in there,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Richmond says with an historic number of schools that could be affected, news coverage needs to go beyond statistics and present a clearer view of what&rsquo;s happening.</p><p><em>Susie An covers business for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon" target="_blank">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 20 May 2013 12:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-limits-coverage-closing-schools-107275 Where was Congressman Gutierrez at 25? http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/where-was-congressman-gutierrez-25-107062 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/luis25.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://gutierrez.house.gov/about-me/full-biography">Illinois U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez</a> has made a name for himself across the nation as one of the most vocal &nbsp;proponents of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/gutierrez-ryan-push-immigration-overhaul-chicago-106786">immigration reform</a>.</p><p>Gutierrez is a longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives &ndash; he&#39;s been serving since 1992. And years before that, he served as alderman of the 26th Ward in Chicago.</p><p>So, you&rsquo;d think, this guy must have been working toward a spot on Capitol Hill all his life.</p><p>Wrong.</p><p>25-year-old Luis Gutierrez was a 1st, 2nd and 3rd teacher in Puerto Rico. He had followed his then-girlfriend, Soraida, there and eventually married her.</p><p>The two were making a life for themselves - Soraida was going to school, and Luis was the lone male teacher in a little school out in the mountains. He was paid minimum wage - about $3.25 per hour, he says &ndash; which was hardly enough to feed the two of them and get Soraida to school. So, as Gutierrez recalls, he gave what little money he had to Soraida for school and then got creative.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember - it&rsquo;s probably a violation of the law today, I hope it wasn&rsquo;t one then, although I&rsquo;m sure the statute of limitations have run out,&rdquo; Gutierrez said. &ldquo;I used to eat with all the children in the school lunch program.&rdquo;</p><p>Gutierrez says he soon realized Puerto Rico wasn&rsquo;t the best option for him and his wife, so they moved back to Chicago, where he was from originally. After a month or so of fruitless attempts to find a job, Gutierrez decided to get his his chauffeur&#39;s license and drive a cab.</p><p>Yes, you read that right. Illinois U.S. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZbMdFUFAro">Congressman Luis Gutierrez</a>, drove a cab when he was 25 years old.</p><p>&ldquo;So, for all of those that see the cab driver, remember, it could be a transitional moment in their life, and one day they could be actually adopting and proposing the laws of the nation, that guy in the front seat,&rdquo; Gutierrez said.</p><p>In this interview with WBEZ&rsquo;s Lauren Chooljian, Gutierrez tells the stories of his 25th year, and explains how that person had not a clue in the world that he&rsquo;d wind up in elected politics. He also discusses how his personality has changed over the years, and what parts of his 25-year-old self had to change in order to be the lawmaker he is today.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is the WBEZ Morning Producer and Reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 07 May 2013 15:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/where-was-congressman-gutierrez-25-107062