Morning Shift

The Year In News: 3 Underreported Chicago Stories In 2017

Stijn Debrouwere/Flickr

Daniel Tucker, Jason Marck

National news dominated the headlines in 2017, and that means you may have missed some local stories. 

To discuss the year’s most underreported Chicago stories, Morning Shift host Jason Marck spoke with some of the best reporters in town: Lolly Bowean of the Chicago Tribune, Mick Dumke of ProPublica Illinois, and Mariano Gielis of Univision. Below are three of stories they said were the most underreported of the year. 

1. Chicago housing: A widening divide between haves, have-nots

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Condominiums on Astor Street in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. (leyla.a/Flickr)

Mick Dumke: A lot of people feel incredibly rent-burdened. The affordable housing stock in this city is deteriorating and disappearing.

The Chicago Housing Authority is basically doing a victory lap saying that they’ve finished the Plan for Transformation they launched in 1999. They’ve rebuilt or rehabbed 25,000 units during that time. But it’s taken almost twice as long to get to that mark. And, as I discovered, their math is somewhat suspect. I bring that up as an example of how this is one of the leading public agencies that’s supposed to be dealing with affordable housing, and they’re basically saying, “Hey, we’re inching along to get there,” while people in a lot of these areas are clamoring for more options. 

You’ve got conversations about how can we bring about rent control? And there’s a lot of pushback on the Obama Presidential Library, which people are welcoming, but at the same time people are fearing what it would do to their communities. And I think that’s the other half of the conversation about whether Chicago can get Amazon as well. What would that do to the housing stock here?

Lolly Bowean: The people who Mick are talking about — who are struggling to pay their rent — these are people who are working every day. How this is lived is: you get up in the morning and you work 12 to 15 hours a day in order to try and make your rent. There’s no time to think about lawsuits. There’s no time to think about how to fight the city. 

You’re hoping that your city is going to work, that your county is going to work in your favor, and that you can out-hustle it, but you can’t out-hustle corruption. You can’t out-hustle incompetence. And you cannot out-hustle deliberate missteps that are victimizing poor people in this city.

2. Political advertising: Candidates for governor not spending on Latino media 

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(Telemundo: Telemundo Communications Group (a NBCUniversal subsidiary)/Wikimedia Commons, Univision: Juancameneses1/Wikimedia Commons)

Mariano Gielis: We know that our candidates for governor have spent already [about] $15 million on political ads. ... But Latino media — Hispanic TV stations in the city of Chicago, Telemundo and Univision — got nothing. Zero dollars.

That shows you how interested our candidates are to bring the discussion to the Latino community. I mean, if that doesn’t show you, what does? 

3. Joblessness: Temporary job creation is just that … temporary 

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This conceptual drawing for the proposed Obama Presidential Center that will be located in Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side. The construction of the center is expected to create thousands of jobs. (Obama Foundation via AP)

Jason Marck: In September, the mayor stands up with a health-tech company, Outcome Health, and he touts thousands of jobs that are being created by the health-tech companies that are flocking to the city. We see periodically the mayor’s office releasing announcements saying, “This company is coming here and it’s going to create this,” but is that cutting the mustard out in the neighborhoods?

Bowean: To quote the great philosopher, Kanye West: “How, sway? How?”

I see the press releases come out. You hear the announcements. But when you’re out reporting, you don’t see it translating in these neighborhoods. You don’t see residents who live in Back of the Yards being qualified to get these jobs, being qualified to go and do this work, right? You don’t see residents in Woodlawn or South Shore being eligible for high-paid, stable, long-lasting jobs.

And in many ways, the reason why there’s such a battle for these jobs — the reason why there is such an uproar over the Obama Presidential Center — is because people want access to long-term, well-paid jobs. Not temporary positions that are going to come and serve the press release purpose for three months or six months, but something that’s actually going to sustain people.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. It was adapted for the web by producer Justin Bull. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.