Your NPR news source
migrant pushing toy car in snow

José Leonardo Urribarri, an asylum-seeker, pushes a toy vehicle outside the 18th District police station in the River North neighborhood where he and his family are temporarily staying during the first snowfall of the season on Oct. 31, 2023.

Pat Nabong

The Rundown: Johnson’s first migrant camp moves forward

Good afternoon! I can’t stop watching lawyers argue about stuff in movies, like if the Avengers are liable for damage from Loki’s attack in New York City. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Construction begins on Mayor Johnson’s first tent camp for migrants

Crews have started work on a controversial migrant camp located in the Brighton Park neighborhood, my colleague Michael Loria reports.

Construction could take a matter of days, and the camp is expected to immediately house 500 people, eventually growing to 2,000.

The Brighton Park camp has sparked opposition from migrant advocates, who are concerned about its location on a former industrial site that was found to be polluted with toxic heavy metals.

A spokesman for Mayor Brandon Johnson said work has already begun to remove contaminants, and an environmental report is expected to be released this week. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, city officials have abandoned a plan to house asylum-seekers at a West Side park, citing the declining number of migrants staying at police stations and city airports.

About 1,200 migrants were camped out at police stations and O’Hare Airport on Wednesday, according to the city, down from 3,300 at stations in mid-October and nearly 900 at O’Hare in early October. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Peoples Gas discriminated against Black workers, according to a lawsuit

Nearly a dozen former and current Peoples Gas workers say in the federal lawsuit that the company racially discriminated against Black employees in the Chicago area, my colleague Elvia Malagón reports.

The lawsuit says Black workers are relegated to an area that serves the South Side, and they frequently get assigned to jobs in neighborhoods without security where some have faced attacks.

Letitia Jackson, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she witnessed a shooting while working, and she was so shaken up that she drove in reverse.

“When I got back to the shop, my supervisor only offered me a hot dog,” Jackson said. “I am crying, bawling in tears, wanting to go home, and I was told, well, you’ll have to use your own [paid time off] to go home.”

Jackson also said she endured comments from co-workers about her clothes and speculation about what she would do for money, according to the lawsuit.

Peoples Gas said the accusations aren’t true. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Evanston and Wilmette residents are suing to stop Northwestern University’s plan to hold concerts at a rebuilt stadium

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the Evanston City Council’s narrow vote last month to allow concerts and other commercial events at the rebuilt Ryan Field, which is near single-family homes in the northern suburb and neighboring Wilmette, my colleague Dan Mihalopoulos reports.

The most pointed criticism in the case targets first-term Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss, a former Illinois state lawmaker who cast the tie-breaking vote.

“Mayor Biss and certain council members cut a backroom deal … in exchange for monetary contributions from Northwestern,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit against the city.

Critics say Northwestern’s stadium plans will create “intensive traffic congestion, lack of parking, noise pollution at levels violating state and local laws, litter, and public safety concerns, as well as adverse impacts on nearby property values.”

University officials say they need revenue from concerts to help pay for the estimated $800 million stadium project. And supporters say the university’s agreement with the city will funnel $157.5 million to local schools and community causes over 15 years. [WBEZ]

4. Chicago’s winter overnight parking ban begins tomorrow

The citywide ban, which affects 107 miles of streets, will be in effect nightly from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. until April 1.

Drivers can visit chicagoshovels.org to check which routes are affected.

City officials defend the overnight ban as a safety issue, arguing it keeps routes clear for emergency vehicles, public transportation and snowplows. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Critics argue the ban is a money grab from City Hall.

A 2016 investigation from WBEZ found that you’re least likely to be towed on days when it actually snows. And several Midwestern cities, such as Des Moines and Minneapolis, do not have similar parking bans. [WBEZ]

5. You might be able to see the northern lights tonight

The aurora may be visible to the naked tonight in parts of Illinois thanks to explosions on the sun, USA Today reports.

A powerful solar flare on Tuesday hurled a giant cloud of charged particles — known formally as “coronal mass ejections” — toward Earth, raising the possibility of seeing the northern lights in the Plains, Midwest and Northeast.

If you want to see the aurora, experts recommend looking up between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time and getting away from city lights.

And if you don’t see the northern lights from the comfort of your hometown, next year may provide another opportunity.

“The solar forces that produce the gorgeous sky phenomena are predicted to peak next year, and at a more intense level than previously thought,” USA Today reports. [USA Today]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their truce in Gaza for another day as more hostages and prisoners are released. [AP]

  • An appeals court reinstated a gag order on former President Donald Trump in his civil fraud trial in New York. [NPR]

  • Most U.S. cities would have to replace lead water pipes within 10 years under new rules from the Biden administration. [AP]

  • Henry Kissinger, who died last night at 100, leaves behind a divisive legacy. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

A new online dashboard “paints perhaps the most comprehensive picture to date of how children in each Chicago community are faring,” my colleague Sarah Karp reports.

Called the Youth Opportunity Dashboard, users can learn how kids in specific areas of Chicago are doing in school and how many find jobs after graduating.

In the North Side’s Albany Park neighborhood, for example, about 45% of children age 5 and under live in poverty, some 46% of elementary school children are on track with grades and attendance, 87% of students in area high schools graduate and about 81% of 16- to 24-year olds have jobs.

The tool is intended to help philanthropists and policymakers direct resources and make changes, according to A Better Chicago, a nonprofit organization aimed at tackling poverty. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

What are some of your favorite small businesses?

Jennifer and son Augie write:

“Hands down, Unabridged bookstore is THE BEST BOOKSTORE in the city. We’ve been shopping there for 25 years and our 10-year-old son can’t go in without leaving with a huge pile of books. He also wanted me to give a shout out to the people at Timeless Toys in Lincoln Square. A wonderful toy store with wonderful staff. Hi, Stella!”

And Helen writes:

“I really appreciate Allegro Dance Boutique in Evanston. They offer dance students and professionals alike expert pointe shoe fittings. It’s super important to have a well-fitting shoe when dancing en pointe, and Allegro is simply the best! They also have super cute leotards and regularly partner with local studios to assist with fundraising and donations for students in need. As a former dance teacher myself, I highly recommend them to all dancers in the Chicagoland area.”

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

The Latest