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Women sort through bags of donated clothes in front of the 12th District Chicago Police station where immigrant families are being provided refuge on July 14, 2023.

Women sort through bags of donated clothes in front of the 12th District Chicago Police station where immigrant families are being provided refuge on July 14, 2023.

Manuel Martinez

The Rundown: Mayor Johnson and the migrant housing crisis

Good afternoon! The heat wave is over and I feel like I can be happy again. (Though I’m still writing in a dark room in the back of my apartment.) Here’s what you need to know today.

1. What is Mayor Johnson’s plan to move migrants out of police stations?

It’s been a year since migrants began arriving in Chicago, creating a housing crisis that has forced city officials to rely on police stations as temporary shelters.

In a sign of how the situation is escalating, city officials this week quietly moved migrants back into two police stations at the center of sexual misconduct investigations.

The allegations created a swift public outcry earlier this summer, resulting in officials at the Civilian Office of Police Accountability to give a rare press conference on an ongoing investigation. At the time, officials said they had not identified any victims.

Moving migrants back to the two police stations was necessary “because of the rising numbers and lack of space,” a city spokesperson said in a statement.

About 1,500 migrants are currently housed in police stations and airports as they wait for room at shelters, my colleague Michael Loria reports. Around 6,500 migrants are staying at the city’s 15 shelters. And more migrants are expected in the lead up to next year’s Democratic National Convention.

Mayor Brandon Johnson has said he is focused on securing better housing for migrants staying at police stations, but so far has offered very few details of his plan. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. The Chicago Transit Authority says crime is down and service is more reliable

CTA President Dorval Carter appears to be on a media blitz as some of Mayor Johnson’s allies want him out.

The embattled transit chief spoke to WBEZ and several other media outlets to tout the first year of his “Meeting the Moment” plan, which is aimed at improving service on trains and buses.

“One major improvement has been a decrease in crime,” WBEZ’s Claudia Morell reports. “Since the start of 2023, crime on the CTA is down 9% compared to the same time last year, according to Chicago Police data.”

But staffing shortages continue to be a challenge, and the agency is still running fewer buses and trains compared to before the pandemic. [WBEZ]

3. The Friday Morning Swim Club was canceled amid questions over its safety

It’s unclear why organizers of the weekly event, which draws thousands of swimmers to Chicago’s Montrose Harbor, canceled today’s swim club.

But the move comes after the Chicago Sun-Times reported on how the club breaks almost every rule the Chicago Park District has about swimming.

Among the big issues? The club takes place in an area that’s not patrolled by lifeguards, making it off limits for swimming.

Club organizers told the Sun-Times they had never been contacted by the Chicago Park District. But park officials said they approached organizers about getting a permit — but never heard back from the group.

Even though today’s swim club was canceled, hundreds of people still showed up as police patrolled the area. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. The Logan Square Farmers Market is ground zero to the biggest neighborhood drama in Chicago

Earlier this week, organizers of the popular event said they were taking a break this weekend as they struggle to safely incorporate unauthorized vendors who’ve set up around the official market.

But that decision received widespread backlash, and the market is now back on.

The problem is this: The market has grown in recent years, attracting dozens of unlicensed vendors.

Some neighbors say the market is too large and creates safety problems. Others say the market helps create a sense of community following the years of isolation during the pandemic.

As my colleagues at the Chicago Sun-Times report, the market sought to expand its permit and secure additional space. But the Police Department protested that expansion, citing other safety concerns shared by event organizers. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. The people who help make Chicago a cultural powerhouse

I know I’m biased because I live in the city. But Chicago, despite some of its flaws, can be amazing.

The Chicago Sun-Times reminds me of that today, as it showcases “a few of the exciting, innovative people and organizations shaping and propelling the Chicago area’s vibrant creative scene,” executive editor Jennifer Kho writes. [Chicago Sun-Times]

And that includes drag shows, which are a big deal in Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community. Celebrities Shea Couleé, Kim Chi and Pearl all began their careers in the city.

That may be intimidating to some performers. But at the “Our New BFF” competition at Splash Chicago, the hosts help mentor performers.

“A lot of times I’ve heard drag entertainers say they don’t have any guidance, or they don’t have a drag family. It’s nice to have someone in your corner,” creator and producer Miss Toto said. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The Kremlin denied it played a role in the plane crash believed to have killed Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. [NPR]

  • Maui officials released the names of 388 people still missing after this month’s deadly wildfire. [AP]

  • The U.S. could see more interest rate hikes, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned. [CNBC]

  • Today is the last day to claim money from Facebook. [NBC5 Chicago]

Oh, and one more thing …

After two days of oppressive heat, I’m ready to actually do something other than lying on the floor in front of an AC unit.

Luckily there are plenty of cool things to do this weekend.

Thalia Hall, one of Chicago’s more high profile music venues, is throwing a block party tomorrow. The Taste of Greektown is currently underway. And Millennium Park is screening one of my favorite movies in recent years — Everything Everywhere All At Once. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

With the new school year here, what advice do you have for students as they navigate life?

Art Fox writes:

“At age 75, my advice to high schoolers is to consciously look at both the big picture and what’s immediately in front of you and keep both pictures in mind as you plan and work. It’s easy to just focus on making money, but I can tell you from personal experience, that leads to a very unsatisfying life.

“With climate change, political and social divisiveness and worldwide health crises, as well as the promises of AI, an inevitable renewable energy future, and a growing emphasis on improving social justice, there will be both huge challenges and huge opportunities during the next 40 years.

“Don’t just look for a job when you get out of school, look for a way to be useful. When you find a way to significantly improve the lives of other people, yours will improve too, and in ways you can’t even imagine today.

“Finally, don’t blindly accept my advice. I’m just an old guy you don’t know, so get advice from lots of other people and look for common threads. Quiz successful people about how they got successful, and ask unhappy people about their greatest regrets. We baby boomers have done some great stuff, but we’ve also been incredibly stupid and short-sighted in many ways. Please, learn from our mistakes, make better choices and make the world a better place for your kids.”

Thanks for all the emails this week! It was great hearing from y’all.

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