WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Madigan’s replacement quits after 3 days

Michael Madigan
In this January 2016 file photo, then-Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, attends a joint session of the General Assembly at the state capitol in Springfield. Seth Perlman / Associated Press
Michael Madigan
In this January 2016 file photo, then-Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, attends a joint session of the General Assembly at the state capitol in Springfield. Seth Perlman / Associated Press

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Madigan’s replacement quits after 3 days

Hi there, it’s Wednesday. We’ve all daydreamed about conjuring an elaborate ruse to get out of work, but this guy actually tried it. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Michael Madigan’s hand-picked successor steps down after just 3 days

Edward Guerra Kodatt, who was handed a state legislative seat on Sunday, abruptly turned in his letter of resignation today after allegations emerged about unspecified “questionable conduct.”

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan — who announced his resignation this month after holding the seat for a half century — plucked the little-known Kodatt from a constituent service office run by Madigan and Southwest Side Ald. Marty Quinn.

Kodatt, 26, has worked on three Democratic legislative campaigns but has never held public office. He had been working as a budget assistant and performing bilingual outreach at the constituent service office.

Madigan still has the power to pick his replacement. A committee led by Madigan will reconvene Thursday to make a selection from the remaining pool of candidates. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, Madigan’s resignation as head of the Democratic Party has led to a messy political battle. U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, state Sen. Cristina Castro and Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris are all in the mix to replace Madigan, who held the position since 1998.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet looks at the behind-the-scenes drama. [Sun-Times]

2. FDA says Johnson & Johnson vaccine works, approval could come this week

The Food and Drug Administration today said the one-shot coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson works well enough to protect recipients from severe illness or death from COVID-19.

With demand for vaccines still far outpacing supply, the FDA could authorize the Johnson & Johnson shot as early as Saturday. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech make the only other two vaccines currently approved in the U.S.

But unlike the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which require two shots and storage in freezers, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides a single-dose option that will also be easier to distribute because it only needs to be stored in a normal refrigerator. [New York Times]

In Chicago, public health officials want to work with Rush University Medical Center to track COVID-19 variants. City officials say they don’t have the resources to conduct this research in-house because it requires a highly specialized test that isn’t widely available. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced today that it plans to send more than 25 million masks to community health centers, food pantries and soup kitchens across the country. [CNN]

3. Snail mail could get slower under proposed plan

Embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told a House panel today that the U.S. Postal Service might soon slow first-class mail and greatly reduce the use of air transportation.

The agency plans to buy up to 165,000 delivery trucks over the next 10 years to replace its 30-year-old fleet. The cost: $482 million. The price tag has many lawmakers wondering how the post office can sustain itself as mail volume continues to decrease.

DeJoy testified that the Postal Service conducted multiple studies in the past year in an effort to improve reliability and lower costs.

Many Democrats want to oust DeJoy, but President Biden has limited control over the post office. That’s because DeJoy reports to the Postal Service’s governing board, a nine-member panel chosen by a bipartisan group in the Senate. [Washington Post]

4. Should Chicago keep money with banks that don’t lend equitably?

For the first time in years, the Chicago City Council is debating which banks should hold city funds. And some aldermen are using a pair of hearings this week to apply pressure to banks to improve their dismal mortgage lending records in Black and Latino neighborhoods.

At any given time, Chicago has $400-$500 million in banks. The city currently uses large institutions — including Chase, Fifth Third, BMO Harris and PNC Bank — to collect payments, pay its bills and for operations such as payroll.

But on Monday, aldermen refused to vote on an annual measure certifying 13 banks as “municipal depositories” that are approved to do business with the city. A hearing on equitable mortgage lending is scheduled for Friday, but most banks that do business with the city have so far refused to participate. [WBEZ]

5. Chicago is still the most corrupt city in the U.S.

At least according to a new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago that examined 2019 corruption statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois secured a whopping 26 public corruption convictions in 2019 — double the number recorded in 2018.

The report, which compares corruption convictions with population, acknowledges it “does not come close to capturing” all the political scandals. For example, Chicago Ald. Ed Burke was indicted in May 2019 on charges of racketeering, bribery and extortion, but he has yet to stand trial.

Some notable names that did make the list: former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, former Chicago Ald. Willie Cochran and former Teamsters leader John Coli. [WTTW]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Some South Side streets went weeks without being plowed. [Block Club Chicago]

  • Jury duty is resuming in Cook County. [WBEZ]

  • Prosecutors dropped drunken driving charges against Bruce Springsteen. The rocker (and podcast host) will instead pay a $500 fine. [AP]

  • Chicago Restaurant Week will now include pick-up and delivery options. [Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

A NASA engineer coded a secret message on the huge parachute used to land the Perseverance rover on Mars this month.

Engineers wanted an unusual pattern on the 70-foot parachute so they could easily monitor the orientation during descent. Ian Clark, a systems engineer and puzzle lover, saw an opportunity.

Clark used binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things,” a line from former President Theodore Roosevelt that adorns many of the walls at the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.

Clark said around six people knew about the message before the landing. But once NASA released images of the descent, space fans needed only a few hours to decipher Clark’s delightful Easter egg hunt. Deputy project manager Matt Wallace said more surprise messages will be visible later in the mission. [AP]

Tell me something good …

What book have you recently read and loved?

Nick writes:

“I lost my father to COVID in April, 2020. Needless to say, it’s been a rough year and — true of everyone experiencing grief — different triggers make it even more difficult. As much as I was elated by the Biden inauguration in January, the National Mall memorial marking 400,000 deaths brought me to tears. Now we’ve hit 500,000. So many emotions knowing my father is one of those lost to this virus. And knowing that hundreds of thousands of others are hurting the same way my family is. So, I recently read The Beauty Of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift by Steve Leder. It’s really helped me see my dad’s life and my life in a very different light.”

And Jim says:

“I recommend The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It is a great blend of history and family. I was skeptical since I didn’t care for the excerpt in the New Yorker. Yet what struck me was how the author Junot Diaz took on the voice he did in the novel. I was pleasantly surprised and greatly enjoyed reading it. Combine it with The Farming of Bones and you will get a nice combination of history and family from both countries on the island of Hispaniola.”

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! We’ll see you tomorrow.