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Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign faced backlash for its solicitation of student volunteers through Chicago Public Schools teachers.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign faced backlash for its solicitation of student volunteers through Chicago Public Schools teachers.

Ashlee Rezin

The Rundown: An early warning to Lightfoot’s campaign

Hey there! Thanks for reading the newsletter this week. I want to give you a heads up that I’ll be taking a short break on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I’ll be back on Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Lightfoot’s campaign was warned in August it could not solicit the city’s community colleges for student volunteers

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reelection campaign was notified in the late summer it could not solicit staff at the city’s network of community colleges for student volunteers because it violated ethics policies, a spokeswoman for City Colleges said in a statement.

And yet Lightfoot’s campaign reached out to teachers at Chicago Public Schools with a similar request this week.

The timeline of events raises more questions about how the campaign internally discussed efforts to recruit students as volunteers, plans that have instead resulted in an investigation by CPS’ inspector general, an upcoming review by the Chicago Board of Ethics and a wave of criticism from Lightfoot’s opponents in the Feb. 28 election. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Lightfoot has said she was unaware of the solicitations until Wednesday afternoon, at which point she “put an immediate stop to it.”

But her campaign initially defended reaching out to public school teachers, saying in a statement that students had the “opportunity to engage with our campaign, learn more about the importance of civic engagement and participate in the most American of processes.” [WBEZ]

2. Illinois’ assault weapons ban may not hold up in court, legal experts say

That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court decided last year that judges can’t decide the constitutionality of gun laws based on concerns over public safety, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The Supreme Court has completely transformed the way Second Amendment cases get litigated,” said Eric Ruben, a Southern Methodist University assistant law professor who focuses on gun issues.

Illinois this week became the ninth state to ban assault weapons, a top priority for Democrats in the aftermath of the deadly Fourth of July shooting in Highland Park.

Similar bans in California and Maryland are currently facing legal challenges and will most likely be the ones heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, said Andrew Willinger, executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law.

Illinois Democrats who sponsored the state’s ban say they are confident the law will survive in court.

“The constitutional interpretation of the Second Amendment, of course, loomed large in the drafting of this legislation,” state Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, said earlier this week. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Accidental shootings raise doubts about a Chicago alderman’s skills as a firearm instructor

“As a firearm instructor — like, say, Ald. Derrick Curtis (18th) — you’re doing something wrong if you manage to shoot yourself, and then have someone in your class get shot a few months later,” experts told my colleague Andy Grimm at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Curtis has been in the news this week after saying he’s reconsidering his support of Mayor Lightfoot because she did not call him when he shot himself last fall while cleaning someone else’s gun.

Then the Sun-Times reported his 25-year-old daughter was shot in the leg last week during a firearm training session led by the City Council member.

“There are three basic rules: Keep the gun unloaded until you’re ready to use it, never point the gun at anything you don’t want to shoot and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association and a licensed firearm instructor. “He would’ve had to break all three of those for somebody to get shot.”

Another gun instructor, who asked not to be named, said “it would be like lightning striking twice. Actually, it should never happen.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. It’s easier than ever for students to cheat on that five-paragraph essay

A new AI tool called ChatGPT allows students to generate original essays in a matter of seconds.

All students have to do is give a prompt, like “write a five-paragraph essay about the role of guilt in Hamlet,” and then call it a day. Hmmm, now that I think about it, I wonder if ChatGPT could write this newsletter.

But anyway, Chicago-area teachers are debating whether the tool should be banned or embraced, reports my colleague Char Daston.

“Some are labeling any use of AI cheating, while others are looking for ways to embrace it,” Daston writes. “Some think concerns about cheating with this imperfect tool are somewhat overblown.”

New York City and Los Angeles have already blocked access to ChatGPT on school computers and networks. But Chicago Public Schools, like many school districts, has not made a decision one way or the other.

“Artificial Intelligence has significant educational value so we need to take a measured approach before considering blocking it,” CPS said in a statement. [WBEZ]

5. Will California’s beloved In-N-Out come to Chicago?

Sorry, I need to take a moment to pray to our heavenly Lord and father for a second.

OK, amen. So the popular West Coast burger chain announced this week it is expanding farther east into Nashville.

And the move is offering a ray of hope to fast-food aficionados who have long suffered from the company’s resistance to open locations east of the Mississippi River.

Lynsi Snyder, the president of In-N-Out, hinted more restaurants could pop up in other states.

“So, don’t worry, there are others that will be included in this plan eventually.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The U.S. will hit its debt limit on Jan. 19, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned today, saying she will have to take “extraordinary measures” to pay the nation’s bills. [New York Times]
  • The Trump Organization was fined $1.61 million for evading taxes. [NPR]
  • The Pentagon has received 366 new reports of UFOs since March 2021. [NBC News]
  • HBO’s The Last of Us, heralded for breaking the curse surrounding adaptations of video games, premieres on Sunday. [New York Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

Here’s something I learned today: ICEWATCH.

It comes from local illustrator and designer Cori Nakamura Lin, who started a practice in recent years of walking to Lake Michigan, observing the ice, taking pictures and then heading back home.

“For me, ICEWATCH is a deeply spiritual practice: I want to build reverence and fear for the power of the Lake, understand its changes more intimately, and pay my respects to the entity that gives life to all of Chicago,” she writes. “ICEWATCH is an attempt to grow closer to the Lake’s cycles.” [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

With Chicago’s elections coming up, I’d like to know: If you were running for any office, what would be your campaign song?

Chad Cradtree writes:

“My campaign song would be ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba. I may get knocked down but I get up again and I’ll be singing!”

And Evelyn A. Voxley tweets:

“Obviously I’d ask @TheDoubleclicks to support my campaign with a rousing performance of ‘President Snakes’! (Though my campaign manager will advise against it). Vote Snakes, 2024! 🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍”

Thanks for all the responses this week. I’m sorry I couldn’t share them all, but it was nice hearing from y’all.

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