Your NPR news source
Mayor Brandon Johnson walks through the Illinois State Capitol

Mayor Brandon Johnson walks through the Illinois State Capitol as he visits Springfield to lobby state lawmakers.

Tina Sfondeles

The Rundown: Johnson, Pritzker avoid talking budget or Bears

Good afternoon! We’re getting a new “Lord of the Rings” movie in 2026 — and I’ll be rewatching the existing films this weekend in anticipation. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s Springfield visit involved more buddying up than detailed budgets

Democrats expecting to talk to the mayor in depth about education funding or a new lakefront Bears stadium discovered otherwise, my colleague Tina Sfondeles writes for the Chicago Sun-Times. Johnson told reporters his visit was about “making sure that we’re building on relationships.”

Johnson earlier this week referenced the $1 billion owed to Chicago Public Schools due to years of underfunding due to the state’s school funding formula — but the issue wasn’t even broached during a nearly 30-minute meeting with Gov. JB Pritzker.

The meeting also didn’t focus on public subsidies for the Chicago Bears’ potential new stadium, which the governor has voiced skepticism about.

Johnson told reporters he reminded Pritzker and legislative leaders that Chicago is the economic engine of the state and deserves its “fair share of resources.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Ascension hospitals respond to cyberattack affecting clinical operations

A suspected cybersecurity attack disrupted clinical operations at Ascension hospitals throughout the state, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Ascension detected “unusual activity,” on some network systems yesterday and “responded immediately,” the health care network said in a statement.

“Our care teams are trained for these kinds of disruptions and have initiated procedures to ensure patient care delivery continues to be safe and as minimally impacted as possible,” Ascension wrote.

Access to some systems remained limited today as the investigation continued.

Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago took its phone, email and electronic systems offline for several weeks earlier this year because of a “criminal threat.” The hospital remained open throughout the outage. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Hemp sellers push back on the state’s delta-8 ban as lawmakers tackle unregulated cannabinoid market

Two bills have been introduced in Springfield to bring oversight to the unregulated pot-adjacent industry. One would effectively ban sales of delta-8 and other hemp-derived products, some of which appear to market to kids, my colleague Mitchell Armentrout reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

The bill, introduced last month by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Hillside, would halt sales of mind-altering, hemp-derived products pending a lengthy evaluation to set consumer safety standards.

Sellers rallied this week in Springfield behind the other bill, sponsored by West Side state Rep. La Shawn Ford. That legislation would limit sales to people 21 or older, prohibit name-brand lookalike packaging and require manufacturers to undergo product testing to obtain $500 licenses. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration labels hemp-derived products as controlled substances. But minors can easily access these products, some packaged to resemble well-known snacks, such as “Trips Ahoy” instead of “Chips Ahoy.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. A City Council committee agreed to establish a ‘quiet zone’ around a West Loop abortion clinic

For the second time in six months, a City Council committee moved to shield women from intimidation and abuse from bullhorn-bearing protesters around the abortion clinic operated by Family Planning Associates at 659 W. Washington Blvd., Fran Spielman reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

A slightly broader version of the agreement was approved last fall but held in committee for “constitutional purposes” at the request of the city’s Law Department.

Ald. Bill Conway, 34th Ward, a proponent of the ordinance, then agreed to shrink the quiet zone slightly and add specific language noting the adverse impacts of excessive noise on “surgical provider performance and patient outcomes.”

Conway said during a committee meeting that women seeking refuge in a city that has become an oasis of reproductive freedom since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade endure intimidation and abuse from protesters. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, a new analysis shows students graduating from U.S. medical schools were less likely to apply for residencies across specialties in states with restrictions on abortion. [NPR]

5. Chicago is once again fertile ground for a new generation of songwriters

A city that was a 1970s hub for the likes of John Prine is again seeing a proliferation of songwriter-led showcases, WBEZ contributor Mark Guarino writes.

In recent years, venues — from Hammond to Highland Park, Berwyn to Aurora — have presented special curated listening nights for both established and emerging songwriters to present new work in collaborative settings.

These kinds of shows are typical in cities like Los Angeles and Nashville, where performers vie to be seen by record labels and music publishers use them to scout new talent. In Chicago, the showcases are about something much simpler: the craft of writing a good song.

Building a community that continues that tradition is important, showcase creator Jenny Bienemann said.

“Artists are creating because they want to connect,” she said. “We spent a lifetime cultivating these skills so we can express life and bring it to other people who can benefit from it.” [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Stormy Daniels continued her testimony in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial. [NPR]

  • Marjorie Taylor Greene’s effort to oust Speaker Mike Johnson was voted down by the U.S. House of Representatives. [AP]

  • The 2023 Miss USA and Miss Teen USA resigned within days of each other this week. [NPR]

  • The Caleb Williams era begins during the Bears’ rookie minicamp. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

As a musician, sound engineer and provocateur, Steve Albini was a dominant force across Chicago’s musical landscape for more than 40 years. He died of a heart attack late Tuesday at 61.

Albini moved to the Chicago area to study journalism at Northwestern University. His stature rose as he worked with local Chicago bands; his famous peers, including Nirvana and PJ Harvey; and even classic rockers from generations earlier such as Iggy Pop, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Albini also became known for humorous and contrarian essays, media interviews and later social media posts that spared no criticism of the music industry.

“Since the late ‘80s until yesterday, Steve was one of, if not the sole torchbearer of integrity in independent music in Chicago and the world. There is no ‘Chicago sound’ without Steve,” said Ed Roche, former manager with Touch and Go Records, the Chicago label that issued the majority of Albini’s personal projects. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching. What’s your favorite memory with a maternal figure in your life?

Justine writes:

“My parents came from Poland in the late 1980s, and a few years later my maternal grandmother came over to help raise me. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Mary Blue’ by our Polish immigrant community, she became a surrogate mother for every family that didn’t have theirs nearby.

Being a farmer, she turned every square inch of our suburban yard into a small garden paradise, mostly for food production. She was especially fond of morning glories (an invasive nightmare for most gardeners), loving their late summer, early morning displays of bright blue. Each year around this time I get to work creating a tribute in her honor.”

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

The Latest
Plus, Jessie Montgomery is Chicago’s most in-demand classical music collaborator. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, Buddy Guy will perform during NASCAR’s racing weekend. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, an architectural tour along the Lakefront Trail. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, how blues legend Buddy Guy made his indelible mark on Chicago. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, how many James Beard-award winning restaurants have you tried? Here’s what you need to know today.