Your NPR news source
Flanked by family members and attorneys, former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

Flanked by family members and attorneys, former Ald. Edward Burke (14th) walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after being found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

Ashlee Rezin

The Rundown: Former Ald. Ed Burke found guilty

Hey there! Today is the winter solstice, AKA the shortest day of the year. That means Chicago will only clock about nine hours of daylight. Good news: The days will then start getting longer. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Former Ald. Ed Burke convicted of racketeering and bribery

Edward M. Burke, the longest-serving City Council member in Chicago history, was found guilty today of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion by a federal jury.

Burke was found guilty on all but one of 14 corruption counts against him. He remained straight-faced, his chin resting on his hands, as the verdict was read, my colleagues Jon Seidel and Mariah Woelfel report.

Burke’s co-defendant, businessman Charles Cui, was also found guilty. Longtime Burke aide Peter Andrews was acquitted of all charges.

A jury of nine women and three men heard from 38 witnesses over 16 days of testimony as prosecutors made their case that Burke was “a bribe taker” and “an extortionist.”

Burke was once seen as an old-school and seemingly untouchable politician. For more than half of a century, he represented Chicago’s 14th Ward and amassed power as the longtime chair of the Finance Committee. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Chicago could move away from school choice. Here’s what that means for parents and students.

As part of a new strategic plan, the Chicago Board of Education has signaled it wants to turn back to neighborhood schools and move away from “school choice,” which allows students to vie for spots in competitive programs. But what does that mean for students and parents?

My colleague Sarah Karp reports that nothing in the immediate future has been decided. Parents should feel comfortable continuing to send their kids to selective enrollment, magnet or charter schools. Board members have said they don’t foresee the wholesale closing of any type of schools, but charter schools will face increased scrutiny under the proposed plan.

Many of Chicago’s selective enrollment and magnet schools opened as a way of integrating schools in a segregated city. But school choice in Chicago really took off under Mayor Richard M. Daley. Proponents of the model say, beyond just integration, it also gives all parents the right to choose where their kids go to school, not just wealthy parents.

But Mayor Brandon Johnson and his school board say school choice has created a system with intense competition — and selective enrollment schools have been disproportionately white, Asian and middle class. That has left neighborhood schools in poor communities that lack racial, socio-economic and ability-level diversity. [WBEZ]

3. Texas governor sends migrants by private plane to Chicago

Chicago officials say for the first time the Texas Division of Emergency Management sent a private chartered airplane with about 100 asylum-seekers to O’Hare Airport Tuesday night.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s confirmed Texas is responsible for the plane that left El Paso, Texas, and said more than 120 passengers were on board. The governor’s office said the state is “expanding our operation” to include sending migrants to Chicago by plane.

In total, more than 26,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 2022 and the city has struggled to provide shelter for all the new arrivals.

After briefly clearing police stations from housing migrants over the weekend, more were back Monday morning. As of Wednesday, 14,094 migrants were housed across 27 city shelters, with another 18 in police stations and 296 at O’Hare Airport waiting for a spot. [WBEZ]

The flight arrived in Chicago as some are calling for more medical resources for migrants living in shelters in the city. Last night, hundreds gathered at a vigil for 5-year-old Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, who died Sunday after becoming ill at a Pilsen shelter. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. Suburban Evergreen Park stops more Black drivers than almost anywhere else in Illinois

Police in Evergreen Park, which has a population of about 20,000, have stopped a total of 181,600 Black drivers since 2004. Only the Chicago Police Department and Illinois State Police stopped more Black drivers during that 19-year span.

Black drivers have been the subject of more than 50% of all traffic stops in Evergreen Park since 2004, despite Black residents making up just 23% of the population, a WBEZ analysis found.

Some say Evergreen Park engages in racial profiling. Police deny those allegations and say the numbers reflect the demographics of individuals driving through the village and the department’s attempts to promote traffic safety. [WBEZ]

WBEZ and the Investigative Project on Race and Equity analyzed 42.5 million traffic stop records from more than 1,000 jurisdictions across Illinois. You can search stops by department using this interactive tool. [WBEZ]

5. Chicago’s best new albums of 2023

What was the best new music that came out of Chicago this year? WBEZ’s Reset put that question to Vocalo host Nudia Hernandez and music critics Greg Kot and Britt Julious.

Their picks span from hip-hop to electronic to indie and more. One of Kot’s top albums of the year is Victor from Chiago rapper Vic Mensa. He said his fondness for the record comes from having watched Mensa grow over the years.

“With each album, he just keeps growing as an artist. He’s unafraid. He’s fearless,” Kot said.

One of Julious’s top picks is Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? by 23-year-old Kara Jackson of Oak Park. Julious said she found the album’s title track about grief complex and comforting.

Other top choices include albums from R&B poet and singer Jamila Woods, rapper Mick Jenkins, rapper Ric Wilson and the Wisconsin transplant Band Slow Pulp. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church says he plans to bless same-sex couples following the pope’s declaration earlier this week. [Sun-Times]

  • Bally’s casino will be open 24/7 starting next week [Sun-Times]

  • Rudy Giuliani files for bankruptcy. [NYT]

  • The U.S. freed an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in exchange for 10 imprisoned Americans and a fugitive contractor. [AP]

  • Did you have a package stolen this holiday season? Here’s what you can do about it. [AP]

Oh, and one more thing …

It’s been 40 years since A Christmas Story was released. While the movie is set in fictitious Hohman, Indiana, it’s based on writer Jean Shepherd’s upbringing in Hammond. And there are real-life spots throughout Hammond that inspired the iconic holiday movie.

Fans have tracked down the addresses belonging to Shepherd and his friends, who movie characters are based on. But don’t expect these houses to look too familiar. The movie was actually filmed in Cleveland, so you’d have to travel a few hours east to see the house used on screen.

But still, if it weren’t for these homes in northwest Indiana, we may never have the scene where Ralphie’s friend licks a frozen flagpole on a dare or the infamous leg lamp his dad wins and cherishes. And really, what would the holiday season be without those moments? [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?

Jennifer Christy writes:

“My husband and I have been part of a group of 10 who have met every year for 36 years for an elegant multi-course dinner. Over the years we have come to treasure our friendships and shared memories more than we ever could have imagined back when we started. Many thanks to Myra and Owen, our hosts!”

Thanks for reading. Hunter is back tomorrow.

The Latest
Plus, a free soccer program for migrant children living in city shelters. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, Millennium Park has become a gravity-defying art gallery. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, Pitchfork Music Festival starts Friday. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, Brookfield Zoo announced a massive redevelopment project. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, a third piping plover chick has died at Montrose Beach. Here’s what you need to know today.