Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about an eight-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.
— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)
This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 52 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 35. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 55.
Former public school teacher Brandon Johnson will soon become the city’s 57th mayor after his election Tuesday, and some of his first official decisions will likely have to do with education — the issue closest to his heart and his work over the past decade.
From new leadership to a budget dilemma and a new Chicago Teachers Union contract, here’s a look at his to-do list for Chicago Public Schools.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez
One of the biggest and most immediate questions is whether Johnson will keep Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez. Johnson hasn’t committed one way or another.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union has developed a professional working relationship with Martinez and praised his willingness to partner with the union — a departure from years of strife. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be Johnson’s preferred schools chief.
Board of Ed members
Johnson is more likely to have a quicker imprint on the seven-member Board of Education, where board President Miguel del Valle’s term is set to expire this spring. Del Valle acknowledged at last month’s school board meeting that “I’m not gonna be here much longer.”
Beyond the president, it’s questionable whether Johnson would retain any of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointees. Elizabeth Todd-Breland, a history professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, is the most progressive school board member and might have the best chance of staying on. Todd-Breland endorsed Johnson in the runoff in her capacity as a professor, not as a board member.
Despite last year’s legislation that created an elected Chicago school board, Johnson will retain control of the Board of Education throughout his term.
The CTU contract expires in June 2024 — which might sound like quite a ways away until you realize negotiations typically start months in advance. Johnson will have a little longer than Lightfoot to ease into those negotiations; talks had started when she was inaugurated in May 2019, and the contract expired in June 2019.
It’ll be a relatively easy task for Johnson as he swaps sides of the table. It would take a shocking turn of events for there to be labor strife between the CTU and one of its soon-to-be-former leaders.
He’ll continue to face accusations that he’s beholden to the union — and he’ll have to find a way to put that criticism behind him to become a “mayor for all Chicagoans,” as he puts it. Johnson’s word will be put to the test as taxpayers closely watch his fiscal responsibility.
More news you need
- After coming out of nowhere to make the runoff, Johnson needed to consolidate support from Black Chicagoans who voted for Mayor Lightfoot and Willie Wilson, build on his strong showing among lakefront progressives and stop Paul Vallas from making big inroads among the city’s Latino community. Johnson is the mayor-elect today because he executed that strategy to perfection, our Fran Spielman writes in an analysis.
- Johnson said yesterday he hopes to reassure Chicago Police officers who fear he won’t have their back to stay on the job by giving them more support and taking extraneous responsibilities off their plate. We’ve got more with Johnson in one of his first Sun-Times interviews as mayor-elect.
- An autopsy found Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt died of carbon monoxide poisoning while battling a blaze on the Far South Side, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. Pelt, 49, died early Tuesday while working to put out an extra-alarm fire.
- One day later, Chicago Fire Department Lt. Jan Tchoryk died battling an extra-alarm blaze in a high-rise building near the Gold Coast neighborhood. The fire was started by combustibles too close to a “heat-generating appliance,” CFD officials said today.
- A Naperville man has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison for stealing nearly a half million dollars through a scheme that included recruiting postal employees to steal credit card information. The 30-year-old recruited female U.S. Postal Service workers — who he called his “mail ladies” — to steal credit cards from the mail, prosecutors said.
- A Save A Lot grocery that was set to open in Englewood today will remain closed after demonstrators yesterday gathered outside the store and demanded to first meet with owners. Activists, neighbors and elected officials said the store — at the site of the former Whole Foods there — was installed without input from residents. Additionally, protestors said they didn’t want the Save A Lot brand in their community because they associate the brand with poor food quality.
- The federal government said it will demolish a vacant three-story building it owns on State Street because it poses a safety hazard. The building, located at 208-212 S. State St., is between two taller buildings involved in a preservation fight.
- Days after the polls closed on Election Day, several of Chicago’s 14 City Council runoff races were still too close to call. In at least three of those tight contests, a candidate has declared victory — but none of the opponents were conceding defeat with thousands of outstanding mail ballots that could still be counted over the next two weeks. Our Mitchell Armentrout has more on the runoff results.
ComEd bribery trial
Jurors listening to the trial of four former political power players accused of conspiring to bribe onetime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan have likely become very familiar with the former speaker’s voice by now.
They’ve heard recordings of Madigan strategizing over leadership changes in the House, making dinner plans with longtime friend and confidant Michael McClain — even discussing soup with his wife.
But they apparently will not hear a Madigan quip, which made headlines earlier this year, that Madigan allegedly uttered while discussing jobs his associates had landed at ComEd.
“Some of these guys have made out like bandits,” Madigan said.
Defense attorneys appear to have surprised the feds this week by objecting — successfully — to the use of the recording in the trial. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber barred the recording, prompting prosecutors to follow up and ask that he reconsider his ruling.
Leinenweber declined yesterday.
On trial are McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty. The four are accused of arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan allies in an illegal bid to sway Madigan as legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield.
The ruling over the “bandits” quote appears to be a minor setback for the feds. The trial is now in its fourth week, and prosecutors told the judge they will likely finish presenting evidence Tuesday.
A bright one ☀️
Turning 96, Chicago jazz guitarist George Freeman is still playing and about to release a new record
Old Christmas cards sit on the closed lid of a baby grand piano that Fats Waller once played.
A few feet away, a cluster of dusty music awards. And on the walls, a who’s who of Chicago jazz greats. It all feels like a shrine to a bygone era.
But then the stairs to this two-story South Side home begin to creak, and a man with fly-away hair and wearing a black warm-up suit hobbles down. He greets his guests with a wide grin and fist bumps.
It’s George Freeman, who played alongside many of America’s jazz and rhythm-and-blues greats, including Charlie Parker and vocalists Jackie Wilson and Billie Holiday. Freeman, about to turn 96, is still playing the jazz guitar — and finally getting the recognition his admirers say he deserves. He plops down on his sofa and soon, eight decades-plus of a life in music begin to spill out.
“I would slip out of the house because I had to hear me some T-Bone Walker,” Freeman says of some of his earliest musical experiences growing up on the South Side. “He could sing the blues — pretty blues. He wasn’t gut-bucket blues. I watched him put that guitar behind his neck, and the women were going crazy.”
Freeman plans to celebrate his birthday with two live shows, tomorrow and Saturday at the Green Mill, with his band of the last 10 years. He’s set to release a new album, “The Good Life” (HighNote Records), recorded in 2022 in June.
He has thoughts about the next one.
“I would love to make a record one day with nothing but violin players. I love a ballad,” Freeman muses.
From the press box
- The 2023 Masters started today at Augusta National. With several top LIV golfers playing this week, Rick Morrissey writes about Phil Mickelson, the much-criticized star who looked during the run-up to the tournament like “the need to be loved is a bigger part of him than he’d ever realized.”
- Last April, Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman was searching for his rhythm. Now he’s in a much better place, and Maddie Lee explains how he got here.
- A White Sox minor leaguer called Fernando Tatis Jr., whose PED suspension by MLB ends later this month, a “cheater” on Twitter after giving up a home run to the Padres star while he’s on a rehab assignment with Triple-A El Paso.
Your daily question☕
Say you’re touring an apartment in Chicago — what’s one of the most important things you’d check for?
Send us an email at email@example.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Yesterday we asked you: With the end of the runoff election, what’s something you think the city should focus on now?
Here’s what some of you said…
“Addressing the pension shortfall that will affect every aspect of city government and every resident for the foreseeable future.” — John Mark Stanley
“Perfecting the best Italian Beef sam’ich.” — John Sheehan
“I would like to see the plan to cut down on crime, as a first step since anyone living in the city is potentially impacted.” — Brad Betts
“Keeping the Bears in Chicago.” — Samson Simpson
“Getting the police department and mayor on the same page.” — Jonathan Kraft
“After school extra curricular activities and making every public building’s energy is self-sufficient.” — Carey Ward
“NASCAR obviously.” — Rachael P.
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