The Rundown: The gas stove debate heats up in Chicago

Plus, how local libraries are fighting book bans. Here’s what you need to know today.

Why are people fighting over stoves?
In this Jan. 11, 2006 file photo, a gas-lit flame burns on a natural gas stove in Stuttgart, Germany. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle, File) Associated Press
Why are people fighting over stoves?
In this Jan. 11, 2006 file photo, a gas-lit flame burns on a natural gas stove in Stuttgart, Germany. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle, File) Associated Press

The Rundown: The gas stove debate heats up in Chicago

Plus, how local libraries are fighting book bans. Here’s what you need to know today.

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Hey there! If you had “drag queen” on your George Santos bingo card, congrats! Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Lightfoot’s office is cooking up a ‘gas stove ban’ for new buildings, advocates say

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is expected to propose banning the use of natural gas in new buildings, which could instead rely on electricity to power stoves and provide heat and hot water, according to environmentalists and advocates who gathered at City Hall this week.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, the mayor’s office wouldn’t say if it was drafting a ban, but it did tout Lightfoot’s work with clean energy groups.

Supporters of the proposal say gas stoves produce a significant amount of indoor pollution, impacting public health and climate change. Cities in blue states, like New York and Los Angeles, already have bans in place for most new buildings.

Peoples Gas, in a statement, said banning natural gas would be “flawed and unrealistic.” [Chicago Tribune]

2. The first televised debate in Chicago’s mayoral election is tonight

All nine candidates will square off at ABC7’s downtown studio beginning at 7 p.m. Anchor Judy Hsu will moderate the 90-minute debate, which will be livestreamed online.

And things could quickly get heated. The debate comes as U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas have closed the fundraising gap with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Here are some things I’ll be watching:

Will Lightfoot address lingering questions about her campaign’s attempts to recruit students through public school teachers, a potential ethics violation?

How will García explain his ties to disgraced crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried?

With some polls showing Johnson lagging behind other candidates despite his support from the Chicago Teachers Union, how will he introduce himself to voters who don’t know who he is?

And how do Vallas and millionaire businessman Willie Wilson answer the Trump questions? Wilson previously supported the former president. And Vallas is endorsed by Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, which also backed Trump.

3. Illinois lawmakers approve sending $20 million to Chicago as the city struggles with an influx of migrants

But that’s less than the $53.5 million Mayor Lightfoot requested to help provide shelter and services to migrants bused from Texas and Colorado, reports my colleague Emmanuel Camarillo at the Chicago Sun-Times.

More than 5,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago since late August, and nearly 4,000 have accepted shelter and services from the city, county and state, officials say.

“The city has had to get creative to provide shelter for the influx of migrants, including turning the Northerly Island visitor center into temporary housing,” Camarillo reports. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Both Chicago and New York City have asked the Biden administration for help as an influx of migrants has strained social safety nets in both cities. [Politico]

4. How local libraries are fighting against book bans

Libraries across the Chicago area are taking on fights about the First Amendment in their children’s sections, reports my colleague Adora Namigadde.

“Most people still think of libraries as a place with books, you can hang out, it’s quiet. That’s not what libraries are anymore. Now they’re becoming a battlefield for the First Amendment,” said Josephine Tucci, director of the Lincolnwood Public Library.

And she said efforts to get rid of books are not confined to conservatives — a progressive parent asked the library to remove Johnny the Walrus by Matt Walsh, a book that allegorically compares being transgender to pretending to be a walrus.

In Illinois, there were 67 attempts to ban books last year, according to the American Library Association. That’s a 38% increase compared to 2021, when there were 41 efforts to ban books. [WBEZ]

5. UIC students say they hope a faculty strike ‘doesn’t go on too long’

Today marks a third day of canceled classes at the University of Illinois Chicago as many instructors continue to strike, reports my colleague Lisa Philip.

The 900-member faculty union and administrators have been at the negotiating table for nine months, and the union says no additional bargaining sessions have been scheduled.

The union wants higher minimum salaries and more investments in student mental health services. But university officials say they don’t have the money because they are limited by tuition revenue and state funding.

The strike has students like Makayla Hamilton scrambling to learn course material on their own.

“I’m worried about my grades, especially this first exam that’s going to be coming up next month,” she said. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The U.S. today hit its debt limit and risks defaulting on its bills. [NPR]
  • Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust. [NPR]
  • A group of religious leaders are suing to block Missouri’s abortion ban. [AP]
  • Would you adopt Lord Herald? [Chicago Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

I’ve got some exciting news: If you’re reading this newsletter in your inbox, you have a chance to win tickets to Wuthering Heights at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

WBEZ is throwing a ticket giveaway for Rundown subscribers. If you’re not a subscriber, don’t worry. You can sign up in this link and be entered in.

Wuthering Heights, which I can’t type without thinking of Kate Bush, is an “intoxicating revenge tragedy for our time.”

Speaking as the president of my neighborhood’s John Wick fan club, those are some big words. But I can’t pass up a good revenge story. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

What are some ways you are making the most out of this winter? Are you trying anything new? Picking up hobbies?

Fred Lebed writes:

“I recently had a good-sized greenhouse built on my home’s property. It is my new office where I work, hold meetings. It is my place where I drink my coffee in the morning and maybe a glass of wine at night.

“I have some 50+ plants growing around me, including herbs, orchids, fruit trees, cactus, vegetables, palms and ferns! It is always bright and pleasant there even when the days are gloomy and dark. The little things!”

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