Lightfoot Monuments Committee Advises No Columbus
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s thirty-member Monuments Committee has recommended that statues of Christopher Columbus in Grant and Arrigo Parks be permanently sidelined and that the Balbo Monument in Burnham Park has to go, reports the Sun-Times. Italian-American committee member Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) “said the outcome was pre-determined by the fact that its members were, as he put it, ‘twenty-seven lefties and three righties’ including himself. Sposato and Ron Onesti, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian-Americans, are demanding that Lightfoot ignore the advisory recommendation and honor her promise to return the Columbus statues to their pedestals in Grant and Arrigo Parks, along with the Columbus monument near 92nd Street and South Chicago Avenue in South Chicago. They also want the Balbo monument—a gift from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini—to remain in Burnham Park.”
Humboldt Park Puerto Rican Flags May Become Chicago Landmarks
“The Chicago Commission on Landmarks on Thursday unanimously approved landmark designation for the towering steel flags [built in 1995] that bookend the half-mile stretch of Division Street between California and Western avenues known as Paseo Boricua, the center of the neighborhood’s Puerto Rican community,” reports Block Club Chicago.
Reimagining Lakeside Center
Blair Kamin points to a small proposal at the Trib: “Should the Lakeside Center, a powerful work of architecture that’s an urban design disaster—the Berlin Wall of Chicago’s lakefront—be transformed into a new use? The late Helmut Jahn’s longtime associate Phil Castillo makes the case.” Writes Castillo: “Helmut Jahn, who with Gene Summers designed McCormick Place’s Lakeside Center, which was completed in 1971, spent many years asking… questions about the building. Lakeside Center represented an evolutionary outgrowth of the modernist principles Jahn and Summers honed together—executed on an unprecedented scale. The structure is undoubtedly an important piece of twentieth-century architecture, but Helmut and the team of architects he led at JAHN until his passing… revisited the building, exploring ways to unlock its untapped potential and incorporate the latest technology… Helmut and I embarked on a significant design exercise for Lakeside Center [in 2011], and we arrived at a solution… turn the building into a year-round hub for athletics and recreation that emphasizes public access and sustainability. Under our conceptual plan, the massive exhibition hall would accommodate an Olympic-sized indoor pool, speed skating rink, sports museum [and] go-cart circuit… A new winter garden—perhaps more compelling now that Navy Pier’s is gone—would contain restaurants and retail set among lush landscaping. A ‘sky terrace’ projecting above the roofline would provide unbeatable views of Lake Michigan and the downtown skyline.The building’s architectural profile—with its Miesian grid system and broad Prairie School-influenced overhanging eaves—would be preserved but updated to reflect its new use.” More here.
Four Scooter Companies Will Buzz City
Chicago has picked four companies to operate shared scooters, a total of 3,000 of the electronic devices, with Lyft adding a thousand more Divvy-branded vehicles downtown, reports Block Club Chicago. (Divvy has the downtown exclusive.) “The Lime, Spin and Superpedestrian scooters will be spread across the city, with at least fifty percent deployed to Equity Priority Areas, many of which are on the South and West sides… They will not be allowed on the Lakefront Trail, The 606, the Riverwalk or at Navy Pier. Those scooters will have cable-locking technology and software that detects if someone is riding on a sidewalk and stops it, helping to reduce scooter use and clutter on the sidewalks.” Adds WTTW: “Both the 2019 and 2020 pilot programs banned scooters from the Central Business District, which includes the Loop and Michigan Avenue. Only Divvy scooters from Lyft will be allowed downtown at first, and riders will be charged extra if they do not return them to a Divvy dock.” Active Transportation Alliance notes prices will rise in some neighborhoods: “Divvy is rolling out a new pricing structure for its scooters, e-bikes, and traditional pedal bikes… Divvy members will continue to receive unlimited free unlocks, free rides up to forty-five minutes on classic blue bikes, and significantly discounted per minute and out-of-station parking fees for e-bikes and scooters through their existing memberships. Lyft is eliminating the equity zone pricing that previously applied to e-bikes, which made e-bikes more affordable for people riding in lower income neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.”
DINING & DRINKING
Cook County Land Bank Authority Kept Josephine’s Cooking From $500,000 Property Tax Tab
“Josephine’s Cooking is a South Side institution, popular among soul food fans and politicians, but records show it hasn’t paid its property taxes in twelve years,” reports the Sun-Times. “Altogether, the owners—’Mother’ Josephine Wade and her son Victor Love—owe more than $500,000 in taxes and penalties. As a result, they’ve risked losing the property to real estate speculators, who could pay the outstanding taxes and take ownership of the building, potentially evicting the restaurant. But, for years, that was blocked from happening by the Cook County Land Bank Authority, a county government agency that was established to wipe out delinquent taxes on vacant and abandoned properties to make it easier for them to be bought and redeveloped. The land bank kept putting in claims for the building, though it never followed through by taking ownership of the property or erasing the property taxes, and it kept dropping its claims.” Further investigation here.
Starbucks In Edgewater Joins Union Drive
While in 2021 there were an estimated 8,947 company-operated and 6,497 licensed Starbucks stores in the United States, vigorous anti-union actions by the corporation suggest they fear a wave of unionization. Chicago’s latest vote is at 1075 West Bryn Mawr, reports David Roeder at the Sun-Times. “Employees at a sixth Chicago-area Starbucks store have joined a union organizing campaign that supporters said has spread to more than 180 of its coffee shops throughout the United States. Meanwhile, union representation votes have been scheduled for two Starbucks outlets in the Chicago suburbs… The Workers United effort marks a rare incursion by unions into chain-store food and beverages and could become a template for other restaurant campaigns… The union has won ten of eleven elections that have occurred at Starbucks, all at stores outside of Illinois.” Meanwhile, Howard Schultz took questions in a “whiteboarding session” with Starbucks employees: “Tensions flared during a meeting between Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and workers in Long Beach on Friday, closing out a tumultuous first week for the returning executive. Madison Hall, a twenty-five-year-old barista and union organizer, says that the sixty-eight-year-old billionaire repeatedly bristled at and cut off their questions about Starbucks’ handling of the growing union movement within the company. ‘If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?’ Schultz told Hall… ‘You are constantly telling us that you are not anti-union, you’re constantly saying that you respect our right to unionize,’ Hall says they told Schultz. ‘We’re not going to talk about that,’ Schultz replied.”
Bill Ball, Owner Of Bronzeville’s Abundance Bakery, Was Seventy-Four
Gargantuan Whole Foods Opening Across Street From Holy Name Cathedral
“Amazon-owned grocery giant Whole Food announced plans,” reports Eater Chicago, “to open a nearly 66,000-square-foot store with a bar and extensive alcohol selection” on April 27 inside the One Chicago high-rise at 3 West Chicago. The nearby Huron Street outpost will close to make room for the juggernaut, with “more than 300 craft beers and 600 wines, plus two sommeliers to educate patrons.”
Congress Investigates Nationwide School Book Banning
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties marked National Library Week last week with a three-hour hearing to discuss the spike in book bans in school classrooms and libraries, reports Publishers Weekly. “While the speakers were sincere in relating their personal experiences with book banning and its impact upon them as students, teachers, librarians, parents, the proceedings at times veered into political theater, with subcommittee members springboarding from book bans to Hunter Biden’s laptop [and] the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
Banned Book List Banned In Hong Kong
Via Hong Kong’s The Standard, a standard that American book banners will surely note: “The list of books removed from the shelves of public libraries due to suspected violation of national security law will not be disclosed, as it may be widely circulated among public with ‘malicious intent.'” Acting Secretary for Home Affairs Jack Chan Jick-chi “explained that disclosing the list, if there is any, ‘may lead to wide circulation of such library materials with malicious intent by other parties or organizations and is thus unfavorable to safeguarding national security.'”
WGN Weather’s Jim Ramsey Was Sixty-Nine
WGN weather producer Bill Snyder passes along news of the death of his WGN colleague, Jim Ramsey. “I had the pleasure of working with Jim for twenty years. He was a class act, and we shared many laughs [and] stories over the years.” The Sun-Times: “Ramsey worked weekend broadcasts and backed up Tom Skilling for thirty years… ‘When you do weather for a living, and I think Tom Skilling would back me up on this, people really do tend to feel a kinship to you,’ he said during the final seconds of his farewell broadcast in 2017. ‘I’ve been touched by that. I’m here in large measure because I love Chicagoans.'” Tom Skilling on Facebook: “I’m heartsick… I’ve just learned my longtime WGN colleague and one of the nicest people with whom anyone could possibly hope to work Jim Ramsey has passed away… Jim and I would talk in the office as we were preparing our shows and something would hit us funny as we worked. We’d start chuckling–then laughing. It was the sort of laughing that would have tears running down our faces in short order and we’d find ourselves still laughing an hour later. How I loved those moments. We’d comment to one another that if anyone passed the office and saw the two of us, they’d think we’d have lost our minds. I suspect they’d be laughing with us not long after seeing the two of us.”
New Philharmonic Announces Season
New Philharmonic, the professional orchestra in residence at the McAninch Arts Center (MAC), has announced its 2022-2023 season. The season begins with “Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto” with Filipino American Steinway piano artist, Victor Santiago Asuncion (September 24-25). It continues with “Halloween Spooktakular–Haunting Classics” (October 22-23), a sequel to last season’s Halloween-themed concert and three New Year’s Eve Concerts (December 31). The New Year brings “Korngold’s Hollywood Concerto” featuring sixteen-year-old violinist Esme Kim Arias (January 21-22). “Broadway In Concert,” an evening of musical theater works, completes the season (April 15-16). Tickets and more here.
“Cello For Peace” Supports Ukraine
Cellist, composer and multilingual vocalist Ian Maksin returns to Chicago’s Epiphany Center for the Arts for “Cello for Peace,” a concert to support peace in Ukraine on May 7. Joined by Ukrainian pianist and vocalist Sofi Fraser and other musicians, Maksin will play his cello and sing folk and popular songs in Ukrainian, Polish, French, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Armenian, English and other languages. Maksin and his band will share their renditions of popular hits such as “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, “Russians” by Sting and “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. He will also share original instrumental music from his latest release “The Alchemist,” along with new, as-yet unrecorded compositions. More here.
Seven-Decade Chicago Actor Tony Mockus, 92, Directed First Goodman “Christmas Carol”
“Tony Mockus, a Chicago actor for seven decades, helped start a holiday tradition that has entertained an estimated two million theater-goers and this year will mark its forty-fifth anniversary. In 1978, he directed the first production of Goodman Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol,'” reports Maureen O’Donnell at the Sun-Times. “He also starred in countless plays, made appearances on shows including ’21 Jump Street,’ ‘Chicago Fire’ and ‘Boss’ and had movie roles as a fire chief in ‘Backdraft,’ a gavel-pounding judge in ‘The Untouchables’ and a marrying minister in ‘She’s Having a Baby.’ …Onstage, he conjured warmth and authority.”
Muntu Dance Theatre Celebrates Fiftieth Anniversary Season
Muntu Dance Theatre announces its fiftieth anniversary season in 2022, with concert performances, special events and workshops, including the return of the DanceAfrica Chicago festival. Founded in 1972, Muntu Dance Theatre is one of the oldest Black dance companies in the nation. Dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the African aesthetic and its influence on world cultures, Muntu Dance Theatre has presented authentic and progressive interpretations of contemporary and ancient African and African-American dance, music and folklore in Chicago and around the world. “We are pulling out all the stops for the return of DanceAfrica Chicago and our fiftieth birthday,” Regina Perry-Carr, Muntu Dance Theatre’s artistic director says in a release. “I am so excited to partner with the amazing artists of this city to showcase our community’s talent and welcome artists from around the world to create and celebrate with us.” Details here.
ARTS & CULTURE
2022 Guggenheims Announced
The Guggenheim Foundation has announced its 2022 Fellows. “The Board of Trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation approved the awarding of Guggenheim Fellowships to a diverse group of 180 exceptional individuals across fifty-one fields. Chosen from a rigorous application and peer review process out of almost 2,500 applicants, these successful applicants were appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise,” reports the foundation. Those honored from Chicago: Applied Mathematics, Lek-Heng Lim, Professor, Department of Statistics, University of Chicago; Biology, Manyuan Long, Edna K. Papazian Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolution and the College, University of Chicago; Fiction, Rebecca Makkai, Writer, Lake Forest and Artistic Director, StoryStudio Chicago; Fine Arts, Maria Gaspar, Artist, Chicago and Associate Professor, Department of Contemporary Practices, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Fine Arts Research, Shawn Michelle Smith, Professor of Visual and Critical Studies, Interim Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs, School of the Art Institute; Photography, Kelli Connell, Photographer, Chicago and Professor of Photography, Columbia College Chicago.
Ricko The Rhino Was Twenty-Five
“Ricko, a 25-year-old eastern black rhinoceros, died Friday at the Lincoln Park Zoo,” reports the Sun-Times. “Ricko arrived at the zoo in 2009 from a zoo in Birmingham, Alabama.”
Begin The Penguine
The Shedd’s set meet-and-greets with some of its most well-dressed friends. Shedd Aquarium will host an after-hours celebration, “The Great Penguin Party,” “where nearly a thousand animal enthusiasts will come together to waddle, dance and swing with the penguins. Throughout the event, partygoers can come face-to-face with penguins and other aquatic life, experience an Animal Spotlight in the Oceanarium and enjoy the Alan Gresik Swing Orchestra of the Green Mill. While the penguins will be in their ‘tuxes’ as always, guests are encouraged to dress how they like. Nosh on light bites, sip on an open bar of beer and wine and enjoy exclusive entertainment during this adults-only, after-hours event.” Friday, May 13, 6:30-11pm; tickets $100-$175 here.
Promoter Of Chicago Marathon And World’s Largest Block Party With Love Of Rolls-Royces Lee Flaherty Was Ninety
“Runners had a seedy reputation in the mid-1970s. At least among old guard gatekeepers like Chicago Park District Supt. Ed Kelly, who wasn’t about to permit thousands of joggers to stampede through his parks,” writes Neil Steinberg in vivid memories at the Sun-Times. “So those passionate about creating a marathon in Chicago turned to Lee Flaherty, whose Flair Communications did marketing work for the city…He was a pioneer in redeveloping River North, opening Flair Communications on Erie Street in 1964 when the area was downtrodden. He also helped create, in 1984, the World’s Largest Block Party… The Chicago Marathon, River North and the World’s Largest Block Party all were valuable contributions to the city. But, as someone who knew Lee Flaherty for almost twenty-five years, those achievements always seemed sidelights to the general splendor of the man: an exuberant bon vivant, old school ‘Mad Men’-style sharpie who rode around town in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, had epic martini lunches and was always deeply tanned and immaculately dressed with his French cuffs and tailored Pucci suits.”
Neighbors Say Rivers Casino Proposed For The 78 Too Close To Schools, Will Enable Gambling Addiction
In the third of three public hearings near proposed locales for Chicago casinos, response was negative, reports Block Club Chicago. “Hundreds showed up to hear Related Midwest and billionaire Neil Bluhm’s Rush Street Gaming sell their plan for a Rivers Casino at The 78 megadevelopment at town hall Thursday.” The local alderman “has already said he can’t support a casino at the site and a community advisory council’s survey found neighbors also overwhelming oppose the plan. Neighbors who staged a protest before the meeting and about two-thirds of those who spoke at it said they don’t want a casino nearby. The $2 billion Rivers Casino on the south branch of the Chicago River… would feature a riverfront venue and plaza, a 300-room luxury hotel and eight restaurants, bars, cafes and lounges. There would be 2,600 slots and 190 table games.” Comments Blair Kamin: “The Catch-22 underlying Chicago’s 3 casino finalists is evident at NIMBY town halls: The gaming industry wants the casino near downtown to maximize $$$. But downtown residents don’t want the casino in their backyard, fearing more traffic + crime. Odds for a happy ending: 100-1.” Gambling’s big players “previously turned thumbs down on several off Loop sites because they wouldn’t generate enough revenue to offset city’s hefty take. So the gaming industry drives this, not goal of equity associated with off Loop sites, many of which were on South Side.”
Weed Powerhouse Cresco Intends To Become Nation’s Largest Cannabis Purveyor With $2 Billion Acquisition
“After nearly a decade in the marijuana business, Cresco Labs is poised to surpass its rivals with a $2 billion acquisition that would give it the largest company in the U.S. market,” reports Crain’s. “The proposed acquisition of Columbia Care also would solve some strategic problems that have been nagging Cresco. Buying the industry’s No. 6 player would give Cresco a pathway into large new markets for recreational marijuana that are set to open in New Jersey and Virginia, while adding scale and efficiency….” Cresco would “reach the top of an industry that’s primed for explosive growth if Congress legalizes pot nationwide… Columbia Care is the second-biggest acquisition in industry history, but also the most complicated. Overlap between the companies in markets such as Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio and Florida will require divestitures because of ownership limits in each state.” The deal would increase Cresco revenue to about $1.3 billion and double its store count to over a hundred. “Since winning its first license in Illinois in 2015, Cresco quickly expanded into other markets and became one the largest multistate operators, alongside other Chicago-based companies such as GTI, Verano and PharmaCann.”
Only One African American Staked In Illinois Cannabis Dispensaries
A state report “showed that only one African American had an ownership stake in a dispensary over the past two years,” Tom Schuba at the Sun-Times “writes in his latest look at how the IL cannabis biz really works,” Mick Dumke analyzes. “The tally: Black dispensary owners in 2021: one; Hispanic: four; Asian: twelve; White: 209.”
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