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An aerial view of the migrant camp construction site at 3710 S. California Ave. on Dec. 5. Gov. JB Pritzker’s office shut the project down due to soil contamination.

An aerial view of the migrant camp construction site at 3710 S. California Ave. on Dec. 5. Gov. JB Pritzker’s office shut the project down due to soil contamination.

Brian Ernst

The Rundown: Unused migrant camp cost nearly $1 million

Good afternoon! The high tomorrow is expected to be … 52 degrees? I’ll take it. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. City Hall spent nearly $1 million to build a migrant camp on a toxic site

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration spent nearly $1 million to convert a Brighton Park lot into a migrant shelter before the controversial project was shut down this month by Gov. JB Pritzker over environmental concerns, my colleagues Mitchell Armentrout and Fran Spielman report.

State environmental regulators determined there were too many harmful metals and other toxic substances on the property for it to safely shelter up to 2,000 asylum-seekers.

The mayor’s office says taxpayer money wasn’t wasted because the lot “has been assessed and further prepared for future use.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

The Johnson administration also faces questions over why it is paying above market rent to house migrants in privately owned buildings, deals that are mostly shrouded in secrecy. [Block Club Chicago]

Meanwhile, migrants battling with trauma say they are struggling to find mental health workers. [WBEZ]

2. Stickers supporting ‘Russian fascism’ were posted throughout Ukrainian Village this week

The stickers bear the letter “Z” — a symbol signifying support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

And they began popping up in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood this week, appearing at a time when support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia has waned in Congress, my colleagues Kaitlin Washburn and Mohammad Samra report.

It is a “symbol for Russian fascism,” said Liliia Popovych of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

“They’re basically trying to tell us that they’re going to reach Ukrainians everywhere,” Popovych said. “It’s not just a war for territory, they basically want to erase all of the Ukrainians.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. The head of the CTA says the Yellow Line crash does not hint at systemwide issues

CTA President Dorval Carter said none of the system’s other train lines are subject to “the same design features” that are being investigated as the potential cause of the Yellow Line crash, my colleague David Struett reports.

In his first public remarks since the Nov. 16 crash, Carter brushed aside criticism that he has remained silent and said National Transportation Safety Board rules prohibit him from commenting on the investigation.

Yellow Line service remains suspended more than three weeks after a train collided with a snowplow, as federal investigators continue to gather information.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said the crash may have been caused by residue on the track and a miscalculation of braking distances. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. The trial of a once powerful Chicago politician could soon go to jurors

Closing arguments began in the political corruption trial of former Ald. Edward Burke, who amassed near-absolute power over an unprecedented 54 years in the City Council.

Burke is accused of using his status in the council to enrich himself through a series of attempts to extort legal work in property tax appeals, campaign contributions and other favors from business owners.

In their closing arguments, federal prosecutors accused Burke of wielding his power to “satisfy his own greed,” to “line his own pockets” and to “punish and to extort.”

Prosecutors are expected to continue making their arguments today before Burke’s attorneys get their chance to make their final case to the jury. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Some good news for the U.S. economy

The economic outlook is looking much better than it did a year ago, fueling optimism the Federal Reserve can tamp down inflation without triggering a recession, The New York Times reports.

“The Fed right now looks pretty dang good, in terms of how things are turning out,” Michael Gapen, head of U.S. Economics at Bank of America, told the Times.

The nation’s central bank has been raising interest rates — which makes it more expensive to borrow money — in an effort to cool down the economy. Such moves in the past have set off an economic downturn.

But that hasn’t been the case as employers continue to add jobs and consumers spend money. And now Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is saying interest rate cuts could take place next year. [New York Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Images of Palestinian men stripped down and humiliated have sparked widespread condemnation. [Washington Post]

  • Few Americans want a Biden-Trump rematch, according to a new poll. [AP]

  • A portrait of Oprah Winfrey, done by a Chicago artist, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery. [Chicago Sun-Times]

  • The final episodes of Netflix’s The Crown are out. [The Guardian]

Oh, and one more thing …

Hold the phone: Doritos unveiled a nacho cheese-flavored liquor?

The snack maker recently announced the limited-edition spirit is available online and costs $65 for a 750ml bottle.

And it’s surprisingly good, according to a Washington Post critic.

“The brand recommends trying it in a margarita, Bloody Mary or Old Fashioned, but if I weren’t hoarding my tiny sample, I’d be leaning into dirty martinis, where it could take the savory, umami-laden riffs people have been creating into new territory,” writes M. Carrie Allan at the Post. [Washington Post]

Tell me something good ...

With the holidays nearing, what treats or dishes are you looking forward to this season?

Louise writes:

“Instead of the traditional mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey, I’m making beef bourbonnais and lasagna. I’m looking so forward to making these dishes and eating.”

And Dan McGee writes:

“Oddly, I used to look forward to my late mother’s creamed onions. She wasn’t a great cook, and we learned growing up that carbon was good for you. But the creamed onions were always there at holidays, never burnt. She was Irish and Swedish, so I’m not sure of the origin of her recipe.”

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

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