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Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson listens during a City Council meeting

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson listens during a City Council meeting at City Hall on Sept. 14, 2023.

Pat Nabong

The Rundown: Lowering pollution on the South and West sides

Hey there, happy Monday! This last official week of summer will be warm, with temperatures expected to reach the 80s. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Mayor Brandon Johnson proposes changes to lower pollution in Black and brown communities

The plan comes after federal investigators last year determined the city violates residents’ civil rights by concentrating polluting businesses on the South and West sides, my colleague Brett Chase reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Among the proposals released today are better response times to environmental complaints, reducing air pollution from diesel-fueled trucks, engaging the public in planning and development, and investing in communities that get a disproportionate share of pollution.

Johnson’s administration will also ask the City Council to pass new laws making it more difficult to put polluting businesses in these neighborhoods, Chase writes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year said the planned relocation of the General Iron scrap metal business in Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side was discriminatory.

The investigators agreed with community groups that said moving the business — which was deemed a nuisance in a wealthy white neighborhood — to a Latino community surrounded by Black residential areas was a civil rights violation.

“In the months to come, we will work tirelessly to build support for a new ordinance that protects all Chicagoans from the cumulative impact of environmental burdens,” Johnson said today. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Mexican Independence Day celebrations continued downtown despite last-minute street closures

City officials initially said no street closures were planned, but “traffic may be diverted to control traffic flow if needed,” Block Club Chicago reports.

However, streets were closed with little warning Friday evening as car caravans led to traffic jams in and around the Loop. The closures expanded on Saturday to include DuSable Lake Shore Drive to Halsted Street, and from Division to 18th Street.The last-minute efforts to control the annual party didn’t stop revelers from celebrating for hours. “You feel safe around everyone here,” Jimena Gutierrez told Block Club. “You can you go to talk to whoever around here and you feel them as family.” [Block Club]

Meanwhile, Little Village’s Mexican Independence Day Parade drew thousands of attendees Saturday afternoon in one of the largest celebrations of the holiday in the Midwest. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. A son of drug kingpin El Chapo faces federal drug charges in Chicago

Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a son of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, pleaded not guilty today to drug charges during a hearing in Chicago. U.S. authorities have accused Guzman Lopez and other children of El Chapo of running their father’s cartel through brutal violence.

He was extradited to Chicago from Mexico late last week.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the drug operation “the largest, most violent and most prolific fentanyl-trafficking operation in the world — run by the Sinaloa cartel and fueled by Chinese precursor chemical and pharmaceutical companies.”

El Chapo was convicted of federal drug charges in New York and is serving a life sentence. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. The United Nations General Assembly will hold a climate change summit this week in New York

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’s “Climate Ambition Summit” is designed to pressure world leaders to commit to cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses more rapidly.

The meeting comes after a weekend of protests in New York City in which activists called on President Joe Biden to “end fossil fuels,” NPR reports.

As the station reports: “Protesters are calling on Biden to stop federal approvals of new fossil fuel projects, phase out oil and gas drilling on public lands, and declare climate change a national emergency. They want the U.S. to halt oil and gas exports, and transition to a reliance on renewable energy.”

Biden does not plan to attend the summit. [NPR]

5. Immersive attractions are helping fill storefronts in the Loop

Downtown Chicago retail spaces have struggled to recover since the pandemic changed work patterns — but interactive exhibits have moved into several of these Loop spaces, the Chicago Tribune reports.

These exhibits include the Museum of Ice Cream in Tribune Tower, the Museum of Illusions Chicago, the Medieval Torture Museum next to the Chicago Theatre and Mindworks, a behavioral science-focused space run by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The staying power of these attractions is unclear, but some experts and downtown landlords told the Tribune they’ve seen plenty of foot traffic. [Chicago Tribune]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Illinois became the first state today to eliminate cash bail. Here’s how it works. [Chicago Sun-Times]

  • Hunter Biden sued the IRS after the agency released his tax records. [NPR]

  • Five prisoners sought by the U.S. were freed in a swap with Iran. [AP]

  • Health officials are urging Chicago-area residents to get the updated COVID vaccine. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

Those swarms of bugs reported on the South Side aren’t anything to worry about. They’re just ants that have sprouted wings so they can mate before winter, Block Club Chicago reports.

Andy Suarez, who studies ants at the University of Illinois, told Block Club that queen and male ants will shift toward reproducing in the air during fall and spring. The goal is to produce ants that will grow up to become future queens.

And if you see dead ants stuck to your patio furniture, that’s because they can only fly for short amounts of time and often die before they get a chance to mate, Suarez added. [Block Club Chicago]

Tell me something good ...

With fewer TV shows coming out this fall because of the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strikes, I’m looking for older shows to catch up on, such as Breaking Bad or Suits. What shows are you planning on rewatching this season?

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