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The Chicago Teachers Union leadership led thousands through downtown Chicago streets during the 2019 teachers strike.

Manuel Martinez

The Rundown: How the CTU became a political powerhouse

Good afternoon! Every day around noon, my dog Princess Leia will nudge my hand off the keyboard with her nose as a way to tell me she wants a treat. So I really related to this video. Anyway, here’s what you need to know today.

1. How the Chicago Teachers Union grew into a political force

The Chicago Teachers Union faces the real possibility of sending one of its own — Brandon Johnson — to the mayor’s office, a prize that has eluded the union in previous elections.

Today, my colleagues Nader Issa and Lauren FitzPatrick examine how the CTU has grown into a political force over the years and, perhaps more importantly, the stakes it now faces as Johnson competes against Paul Vallas in the April 4 runoff election.

“The CTU’s political activism grew out of the 2012 fight against Mayor Rahm Emanuel during Chicago’s first teachers’ strike in 30 years and solidified in a brutal battle over Emanuel’s closing of nearly 50 Chicago public schools in 2013,” Issa and FitzPatrick report.

“That’s when the union, then led by Karen Lewis, made a choice: If we have to go to such lengths to fight City Hall, why not take over City Hall?” [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, Block Club Chicago looks at why U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García went from frontrunner to fourth place in this week’s election. [Block Club Chicago]

2. Finding a new police superintendent will be a hard task for the next mayor of Chicago

Both Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas say they would promote someone within the Chicago Police Department to replace outgoing Superintendent David Brown.

But the department’s “bench is thin after a wave of resignations among top brass during Brown’s tenure,” report my colleagues Fran Spielman and Tom Schuba.

“Those high-level departures under Brown will make it difficult for the new mayor to find an insider who is qualified, battle-tested — and wants the job.”

But whomever the new mayor chooses, there are three big things the next top cop needs to do, said Charlie Beck, the former Los Angeles police chief who briefly served as the interim top cop in Chicago.

One is embracing the consent decree aimed at reforming the department, he said. And the other two are decentralizing the department and boosting officer morale. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. The founding fathers didn’t own AR-15s, Illinois officials argue in defense of an assault weapons ban

A brief filed by Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argues the weapons restricted by the ban are not commonly used for self-defense and that large capacity magazines are accessories — not “arms,” reports my colleague Tina Sfondeles.

The 72-page brief was filed before a federal judge this week. Critics say the ban infringes on their Second Amendment rights, and several lawsuits are seeking to overturn the law.

But Pritzker, Raoul and Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly argue the ban is legally sound because assault weapons were not in common use when the Constitution was ratified.

“The Second Amendment’s text protects only arms in common use at the time the Second or Fourteenth Amendments were ratified, or those commonly used for individual self-defense today,” their brief says. “Plaintiffs cannot show the Act violates the Second Amendment because it regulates weapons designed for war, not self-defense.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. Walgreens won’t sell abortion pills in 20 states

The pharmacy chain says it will not sell abortion bills — either in stores or through mail — in states where Republican attorneys general have objected, Politico reports.

The list of states includes Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana, where the pills currently remain legal.

“The decision is the latest to demonstrate how widely abortion access can vary state to state in a post-Roe America even in places where there are no bans in effect — as elected officials tussle with the federal government, activists and corporations to block the availability of services,” Politico reports.

Walgreens is not currently distributing abortion pills anywhere in the nation, but it plans to do so in some states. It has not said which ones. [Politico]

5. Community organizers claim victories in Chicago’s new civilian-led police councils

A coalition of activists, faith-based organizations and labor groups are celebrating their successes in electing like-minded candidates to newly formed police district councils, reports WBEZ’s Shannon Heffernan.

“We need better policing, we need police who treat people like people, we need to build community that is restorative and not punitive,” said Dion McGill, who is on his way to victory in the 7th Police District. (Mail-in ballots are still being counted.)

The councils are part of an attempt to create civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department. There are 22 councils that will each have three members, who will serve as a conduit between communities and the police districts.

The councils can nominate members to the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which can recommend policy changes and take nonbinding votes of no confidence on the police superintendent and other police officials. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The Great Lakes saw a record low in ice last month, raising the likelihood of a warmer spring, summer and fall. [Chicago Tribune]
  • Why was voter turnout so low this week? Community organizers and political experts have some ideas. [Block Club Chicago]
  • Meta is cutting the prices for its VR headsets. [CNBC]
  • A Chicagoan with hypertelorism reflects on beauty and what’s normal after criticism of Madonna’s plastic surgery. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

Former President Donald Trump is pitching a contest to create 10 futuristic-sounding “Freedom Cities” on federal land, Politico reports.

And he’s also pushing … flying cars?

The plan “proposes an investment in the development of vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles; the creation of ‘hives of industry’ sparked by cutting off imports from China; and a population surge sparked by ‘baby bonuses’ to encourage would-be-parents to get on with procreation,” reports Politico.

“It is all, his team says, part of a larger nationwide beautification campaign meant to inspire forward-looking visions of America’s future.” [Politico]

Tell me something good ...

I’m going to see the movie Cocaine Bear this weekend. And I just realized the Oscars are coming up. So I’d like to know what movies or TV shows you’ve enjoyed recently.

Susan Clabby writes:

“If you haven’t seen Station Eleven on HBO, stop what you’re doing and get started! I was so fascinated by this series that I am now reading the book, which was published in 2014 — a story about a world altering flu pandemic written in 2014!?! Whatever this person can imagine, as dark as it can sometimes be, I want to know!!”

Thanks for all the responses this week! It was nice hearing from y’all.

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