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A photoillustration of a CTA rail car with banana peels

The Chicago Transit Authority launched a ‘Goodbye, Grime’ campaign this month, but some riders say they are still waiting to see improvements.

Photoillustration by Andjela Padejski. Photo by Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

The Rundown: The CTA’s anti-grime campaign

Good afternoon! Thanks to notes of encouragement from readers, I’m taking the brave step to petition Marvel Studios to incorporate The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel into the MCU. America needs a Mrs. Maisel-Thor team-up. Anyway, here’s what you need to know today.

1. The Chicago Transit Authority is cleaning up its act, hoping riders will return to the struggling transit system

For some CTA commuters, trains seem like they’ve transformed into dumpsters on wheels during the pandemic. And there’s always the nightmare of grabbing a seat and learning you’ve just sat in who knows what.

Now, the nation’s second largest transit system has launched an “anti-grime campaign” as part of a $6.5 million plan to improve and repair rail stations, reports my colleague Samantha Callender.

The plan aims to boost the CTA’s number of janitors, power wash 145 rail stations once a month, upgrade 28 stations and complete a regular exterior wash of the rail fleet.

This gigantic spring cleaning at the CTA is part of bigger efforts to boost sagging ridership and public confidence in the agency. In a November WBEZ survey of regular CTA commuters, complaints about cleanliness and sanitation ranked third among rider concerns, after reliability (1) and safety (2). [WBEZ]

2. The race to replace Kim Foxx as Cook County’s top prosecutor

It didn’t take long for names to start circulating over who may seek to become the next Cook County state’s attorney after Kim Foxx announced she is bowing out.

One person to watch is Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle because she was a huge Foxx supporter. Whoever Preckwinkle backs in this open race could have a leg up on the competition.

The powerful Democrat hasn’t announced her preferred candidate, but one option may be Risa Lanier, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Shomari Legghette, who murdered CPD Cmdr. Paul Bauer, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Other potential candidates in the 2024 state’s attorney’s race include Joe Ferguson, the former inspector general for Chicago, former prosecutor Dan Kirk and former Cook County board member Richard Boykin. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Free COVID-19 tests may be a thing of the past

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the state’s largest insurer, will stop covering the cost of COVID-19 tests after May 11, when the pandemic’s national emergency ends, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Under that emergency declaration, health insurance companies were required to cover the cost of up to eight over-the-counter COVID tests per month.

After the federal emergency ends, tests will be covered the same way as flu or strep tests, depending on a person’s plan, the Tribune reports.

Other insurers — like UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and Aetna — did not respond to the Tribune’s questions about how they will handle COVID-19 tests next month. [Chicago Tribune]

4. Love is in the air for the piping plovers

It’s that time of the year again: the return of the piping plovers, the plucky and endangered birds who’ve become a symbol of resilience in a city that loves a good underdog story.

Imani, the offspring of the famous Monty and Rose piping plovers, was spotted yesterday at Montrose Beach, reports my colleague Stefano Esposito. The bird has returned to Illinois to nest if it can find a female, bird experts say.

Hopefully he’ll have better luck this season. Last year, Imani spent six weeks here with no luck.

“What it’s going to take is for a lovely piping plover gal to show up,” said Tamima Itani, one of several local birders who spotted Imani on Tuesday — the first sighting of the bird since last year. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Lake Geneva played a pivotal role for Dungeons & Dragons, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the place

Dungeons & Dragons has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to Netflix’s Stranger Things.

With an estimated 14 million active players and a new movie out in theaters, questions are being raised over why Lake Geneva doesn’t have a statue for the game’s co-creator Gary Gygax, who lived and worked in the picturesque Wisconsin town.

“Call me biased because he’s my dad, but I don’t know another figure from Lake Geneva who had as much impact beyond Lake Geneva as my dad,” Luke Gygax, one of Gygax’s six children, told the Chicago Tribune.

“You should drive into Lake Geneva and there should be a sign, at the least, saying: ‘Lake Geneva, Home of Dungeons & Dragons.’ Someone in local government should be arguing for this. Hopefully, the 50th anniversary will help.” [Chicago Tribune]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The Biden administration will send nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea amid growing threats from North Korea. [NPR]
  • Disney sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over what it calls a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power.” [CNBC]
  • Illinois students would learn Native American history under a bill pending in Springfield. [WBEZ]
  • Reviews are beginning to pop up for one of the most anticipated video games this year — The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

We are quickly approaching one of my favorite times of the year — the summer movie season.

Today, Sun-Times movie critic Richard Roeper looks at 15 films that could be worth checking out.

Included are Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and one I’m particularly looking forward to seeing — Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Tell me something good ...

Sometimes it feels like there is way too much going on. Do you have any hobbies that give you a sense of joy?

Melanie Mathews writes:

“I’m 64, soon to be 65! For 52 years I have been ice skating. I’ve enjoyed freestyle, dance, ice shows, theater on ice, skating with a group in synchronized skating and teaching! It’s challenging, rewarding and gives me a sense of freedom as I glide around the ice. Such joy!

“I’m headed for my second hip replacement surgery mid-June and plan on returning to the ice in the beginning of September! Finding a sport that brings you joy is such a gift.”

And Martha Daniels writes:

“I returned to choral singing! I’ve been a member of one choir or another since I was a child, and I realized a few years ago how much I missed it. I now sing with Elmhurst Choral Union, an auditioned choir with 70 seasons of beautiful music under its belt.

“We sing a wide variety of music, from classical (we’re doing Beethoven’s 9th with the Elmhurst Symphony next week!) to modern to Broadway, from a diversity of cultures and times. We are all ages, and the camaraderie is one of the best parts!”

Feel free to email me, and your response might be shared in the newsletter this week.

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