The Rundown: Taxpayer money for a new White Sox ballpark?

Plus, good news for CPS students. Here’s what you need to know today.

The Rundown: Taxpayer money for a new White Sox ballpark?

Plus, good news for CPS students. Here’s what you need to know today.

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

Good afternoon! Here’s the quote of the day: “We’re kind of, like, crises-ed out.” And here’s what else you need to know today.

1. The White Sox’s owner wants $1 billion in public money for a new ballpark

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is expected to ask Gov. JB Pritzker and other state leaders for the money as the team seeks a new home in the South Loop, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.

But Reinsdorf has at least two things going against him, writes Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Rick Morrissey.

“Taxpayers are tired of footing the bill for wealthy owners of professional sports franchises,” Morrissey writes.

And “fewer people are buying the assertion that the jobs and neighborhood investment that come with new stadiums more than offset the cost to pay for the buildings.”

The Sox may want to pay closer attention to the resistance to the Chicago Bears’ plan to build a stadium in Arlington Heights.

“The message seems to be: You have the money. Build your own home. Or get a loan, like the rest of us do when we take out a mortgage,” Morrissey writes. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Gun owners in rural Illinois have registered few assault weapons

The state’s ban on assault weapons allowed residents who legally owned such weapons before Jan. 10, 2023, to keep them — if they registered them with the state.

Registration rates are low throughout the state, but they are particularly down in rural counties. In downstate White County, just 23 residents — or 0.5% of Illinois gun owners — registered banned firearms and accessories.

It’s not known how many FOID cardholders in Illinois possess guns that are now banned, but gun advocates and experts suggest that number is in the tens of thousands.

The state’s most populous county, Cook County, also has a registration rate lower than the statewide rate. Records show 6,364 out of nearly 731,000 licensed gun owners in Cook County, or less than 1%, registered their banned weapons before Jan. 1. [WBEZ]

3. Reading scores for CPS students have bounced back from a pandemic slump

New research from Harvard and Stanford universities shows Chicago public school students have recovered to prepandemic reading levels and outperformed most large school districts nationwide, my colleagues Sophie Sherry and Nader Issa report.

“District officials acknowledge they still have a ways to go to increase proficiency and close opportunity gaps,” my colleagues write.

“But they see the findings as evidence that CPS has spent its pandemic relief funding wisely to stem learning loss — and as a reason for additional funding moving forward.”

The study from the two prominent universities shows Chicago’s third to eighth grade students rank third among large districts nationwide in reading growth from 2019 to 2023.

Illinois saw the most gains in reading during that time and was one of only three states whose reading achievement now exceeds 2019 levels. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. Will monarch butterflies return to Chicago this summer?

Monarch butterflies, the state insect of Illinois, may not be spotted as frequently this summer thanks to climate change and extreme weather, my colleague Audrey Hettleman reports.

Researchers in Mexico have observed a steep decline in the butterfly population ahead of its spring migration. And experts now worry those environmental factors could lead to the loss of the insect’s famed migration path altogether.

On top of all that, the monarch had already faced threats such as pesticide use and habitat loss that contributed to its low migration numbers.

Experts say one of the best ways residents can support monarchs is by planting milkweed, the state wildflower.

Milkweed is a main food source for the insects, and the only plant upon which they’ll lay eggs. Chicago residents can receive up to $60 toward locally bought, native plants, including milkweed, through the city’s Sustainable Backyards Program. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. It sounds like it came from outer space. And it’s taking off in Chicago.

It’s called microtonal music, which features spooky or sublime sounding pitches that remain outside the mainstream in most Western musical genres, WBEZ contributor Hannah Edgar reports.

Microtonal music is having a moment in Chicago, partly due to a recent record release from local label Cedille Records, Acoustic Microtonal.

The record comes from two collaborators with second-degree claims to mega-fame: Matthew Sheeran, a British composer who is the brother of pop star Ed Sheeran, and Cedille Records owner Jim Ginsburg, who is the son of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And if you want to hear microtonal music in person, the Frequency Festival, an annual celebration of the sonic fringe, takes over Constellation in West Lake View from Feb. 20 to 25. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexi Navalny, vowed to carry on her husband’s fight for a “free Russia.” [BBC]

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s fight to stop his extradition to the U.S. may be coming to an end. [AP]

  • Abraham Lincoln pardoned President Biden’s great-great-grandfather, documents show. [Washington Post]

  • The first Black Peanuts character received a backstory. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

Here’s something I think about almost every week: What would happen if I used AI to write this newsletter?

Well, it’s not the same, but Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg used Google’s Gemini AI software to write his latest column.

So how’d it turn out? Pretty much how you’d expect.

“Does that sound like my voice? Kill me now,” Steinberg writes. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Tell me something good …

What’s something that made you smile recently?

One of the nephews got a Valentine’s Day card from a classmate who instead wished him a happy birthday and told him he was “the best birthday man.”

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