Little Village mall vendors weigh uncertain future, FBI records detail dropped case against influential union and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Agus Landa stands next to her toy shop in the Discount Mall, in Little Village on Wednesday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be cloudy with snow showers and a high near 31 degrees. Similar weather will continue into tonight with a low near 25. Tomorrow will see isolated snow showers and a high near 29. Sunday will be mostly sunny with a high near 27.

Top story

Is this Christmas the last for the Little Village Discount Mall?

For decades, Marta Torres has worked at the immigrant-run Discount Mall in Little Village, helping manage it as it became one of the area’s busiest shopping centers, but now preparing for what appears to be its last Christmas in business.

The mall “gave life to the community,” said Torres, who co-managed the mall for 31 years. “... We wish to stay, but only they know what will happen,” she said, referring to the owners of the mall.

Since opening in 1991, the Discount Mall at the intersection of 26th and Albany streets, near the iconic “Bienvenidos a Little Village” arch, has become a destination for Mexican and Latino shoppers around Chicago.

But the 100 or so vendors are bracing for the worst with the mall’s lease set to expire next month. The property’s owner, John Novak, has revealed few concrete details about the future of the mall or the larger six-acre Little Village Plaza where it is located, which he bought in 2019. Novak, who is president of Novak Construction, has promised to honor the tenants’ lease but in the past cast doubt on keeping the mall open and said he planned to eventually bring in national retail chains. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Vendor Iraís Miranda said the mall is an ecosystem that attracts shoppers from out of town, usually from Midwestern states that lack Mexican businesses, and those shoppers then venture onto the 26th Street commercial corridor.

Closing the mall “would be like disrupting the nucleus of the community,” he said. “And some of us can’t go out and afford a commercial rent on 26th.”

Michael Loria and Jackie Serrato have more on the mall’s future here.

More news you need

  1. Chicago Police Officer James Hunt is facing dismissal for allegedly beating a woman with a baton and wrongfully arresting her during a protest that followed the police killing of George Floyd. The recommendation from police Supt. David Brown comes as Hunt faces nine separate charges related to the alleged beating and wrongful arrest.
  2. Federal prosecutors say recent FBI surveillance of Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) undermined her claim that she is medically unfit to stand trial on public corruption charges. Our Jon Seidel has more on what the feds claim they saw when they followed Austin here.
  3. Recently released FBI records detail the dropped investigation of the clout-heavy, Chicago-area union Operating Engineers Local 150. Our Robert Herguth breaks down what the documents reveal here.
  4. The Chicago Police Board yesterday voted to fire an officer nearly two decades after he became embroiled in one of the Chicago Police Department’s biggest scandals. Officer Thomas Sherry, a former member of the disgraced and disbanded Special Operations Section, was found guilty of submitting false reports after two raids by the SOS on July 27, 2004.
  5. CPD’s deep staffing and personnel issues continue to hinder its court-ordered reform efforts, according to a progress report released yesterday. The new report decried the “consistent turnover” among employees managing reforms, noting that nearly half the civilians working in that capacity had left their positions during the first six months of the year.
  6. Surveillance video released yesterday shows a member of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security detail breaking up a robbery last month in Logan Square, shooting out the window of the getaway car during an exchange of gunfire. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability said it is still unclear whether any of the suspects were shot.
  7. Flickers of opposition to a comprehensive assault weapons ban in Illinois began to appear in the second of three planned Illinois House committee hearings in Chicago yesterday. Our Tina Sfondeles has the key moments from the hearing here.
  8. Workers at six Chicago-area Starbucks are planning strikes lasting several hours this weekend. The walkouts are planned at stores whose staffs have voted to unionize, protesting Starbucks’ closures of several stores around the country, including one in Chicago.
  9. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, which the Senate passed last night, includes a provision by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that bolsters Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline. It also clears the way for local players to determine the future restoration of the historic Promontory Point, our Lynn Sweet reports.
  10. Lastly, we’re joining our colleagues at WBEZ and Vocalo in sponsoring an art contest, seeking original artwork from Chicago-area students — kindergarten through high school. The winning entry will be converted into a giant mural outside The Salt Shed. We’ve got more info and how to submit here.

A bright one

Story time at Field Museum lets youngsters explore the world of dinosaurs

“A paleontologist!” 4-year-old Mosiah Thompson answers proudly during the Field Museum’s storytelling presentation in the Hall of Dinosaurs yesterday.

Librarian Megan McFarlane had kicked off her reading of “Bones, Bones, Bones” by asking the group of 10 kids what people who study dinosaur bones are called. The youngsters ranged from babies to around age 10. Mosiah — clad in a Tyrannosaurus rex sweatshirt — was enthusiastic with his answer and very attentive throughout the hour-long storytelling and tour event.

After finishing “Bones,” McFarlane used a dinosaur puppet that brought the kids to their feet to run through a song about a dino’s body — to the tune of “Hokey Pokey.”

Mosiah Thompson, 4, looks at a dinosaur fossil during a tour of the Hall of Dinosaurs, which is part of a storytelling event at the Field Museum on Thursdays.

Mosiah Thompson, 4, looks at a dinosaur fossil during a tour of the Hall of Dinosaurs, which is part of a storytelling event, at the Field Museum.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The afternoon at the Field Museum was in partnership with the Chicago Public Library to give kids the chance to explore potential interests. More upcoming Chicago Public Library partnerships with other local institutions are scheduled for the future.

Dino expert and tour guide Jeff Schroder offered guessing games, factoids and stories about the massive prehistoric creatures on exhibit in the hall. Schroder said the storytelling and tour combo is crucial to the magic of the event.

“So the story engages,” he said. “It gets their little brains going and thinking about this stuff, gets them interested, and then hopefully curious, because curiosity is so huge. Once they’re thinking about that, those little brains are primed to learn more and actually see the real deal.”

Mariah Rush has more on story time at Field Museum here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s the best part about winter in Chicago?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Should parents tell their kids Santa isn’t real? Tell us why or why not.

Here’s what some of you said...

“I tell my kids the truth: Other kids who say Santa isn’t real are on the naughty list, and their parents just buy them gifts so they don’t find out!” — Kristina Buchthal

“If they are old enough to ask the question, they are old enough for the truth.” — Kapra Fleming

“No. Lying as a parent about Santa teaches kids to be wary of people in authority who act like they know what they are talking about. It’s an important lesson for later in life — be skeptical and question supposed truths!” — Joe Kimmell

“Not if it makes the kid happy, give the kid a chance to be a kid. He/she will grow out of it. Why ruin it for them?” — Tony Williams

“I wouldn’t. Let the kids have fun in knowing there is.” — Jackie Waldhier

“Let them have the fantasy for as long as it lasts. I think the parents love it when they see the sparkle in their children’s eyes when they believe. At least I did.” — Carol Wortel

“I waited until my youngest came to me to tell me Santa wasn’t real. I would never intentionally tell her there was no Santa and kill her spirit.” — Virginia Torrentt

“I never told my kids Santa wasn’t real. Yet, they figured it out on their own. They knew Mama went shopping for their gifts, and Santa never brought anything extra.” — Tiffany Jones

“If my daughters really wanted to know, they would ask Alexa.” — Scott Falconer

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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