Utility shutoffs soar across Chicago area, city celebrates Lunar New Year 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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Three organizations issue findings that say Illinois has the most disconnections among states that disclose that information. ComEd is part of the report’s “Hall of Shame.”

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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.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 14 degrees and wind chill values as low as -2. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near -3 and wind chill values as low as -12. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 15 and wind chill values as low as -9.

Top story

Utility shutoffs for nonpayment soar across Illinois and the Chicago area

Chicago-area electricity and gas suppliers are among national leaders in cutting off customers for nonpayment, with the situation a sign of “utility corruption” in Illinois, according to a report issued today by three groups critical of the fossil fuel industry.

The report cited ComEd and Nicor Gas as extreme examples of ordering more shutoffs in 2022 compared with 2021. It said ComEd canceled service for 225,827 accounts through October of last year, up 27% from the same 10 months in the prior year.

Over the same period, Nicor Gas, which serves most Chicago suburbs, stopped service to 24,022 customers, nearly a 38% increase from 2021. Peoples Gas, the Chicago provider, increased shutoffs by 14.7%, to 14,859, said the report, “Powerless in the United States.”

In Illinois during 2021, utilities agreed to a ban on shutoffs through March 31 because of disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many other states also limited shutoffs that year.

The 2022 increases helped make Illinois the leader in utility shutoffs among the 30 states and Washington, D.C., that disclose that information, the report said. Its authors are staff members with the Energy and Policy Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and BailoutWatch.

Across the country, utilities are stepping up shutoffs while spending more for executive salaries and shareholder dividends, the report said. It said utilities that were most active in shutoffs from 2020 through October 2022 could have avoided all of them by redirecting just 1% of their dividend outlays.

ComEd was singled out for criticism, with the groups putting it in its “Hall of Shame” for increasing disconnections even as it campaigned for and won rate increases.

Our David Roeder has more on shutoffs and the report’s findings here.

More news you need

The mayor’s race

Chicago mayoral candidates answer 23 questions

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From left: Community activist Ja’Mal Green, Ald. Sophia King (4th), Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner, Businessman Willie Wilson, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

WBEZ and the Sun-Times asked the nine candidates running for mayor to answer 23 questions on important issues, including policing, public safety, city spending, taxes, schools and housing. The candidates answered “yes” or “no” and were also given the option to provide brief written answers that helped explain their positions. Some candidates gave only a written answer, which are categorized here as “other.”

Divide the pack by their positions on key issues — at a glance. And, read their reasons why.

You can also take our Mayoral Candidate Quiz to see how your answers compare.

A bright one

‘The Asian community in Chicago is strong’: Lunar New Year celebrations unite Chicagoans

Lunar New Year parades stepped off this weekend, starting with Uptown’s celebrations on Saturday and Chinatown’s yesterday — both bringing out crowds of residents of all ages, coming together to ring in the new year.

The events also served as a testament to resilience, as recent mass shootings weighed on the minds of many who expressed a desire to celebrate in community despite fear and hate.

“The Asian community in the U.S. is strong, the Asian community in Chicago is strong [and] the Asian community right here in Uptown is strong,” Mia Park, a member of local community group Ajumma Rising, told the cheering crowd gathered at Argyle Street and Winthrop Avenue on Saturday.

Under a steady stream of snow flurries, hundreds of revelers in Uptown watched as floats featuring colorful dragons, pandas and lanterns joined students from the neighborhood’s schools, drum lines and even a miniature CTA train all paraded west along Argyle Street.

In Chinatown, organizers estimated around 30,000 people gathered yesterday to see marching bands, dancing dragons, a bevy of politicians and more walk the parade route

“It’s nice to see everyone celebrating,” said attendee Anna Xiao, who traveled from Northwestern University with her peers for the parade.

Check out our coverage from each parade: Kaitlin Washburn has more from Uptown here, and David Struett has more from Chinatown here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What would you say is Chicago’s crown jewel? Tell us why.

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

On Friday, we asked you: How much snow needs to fall before it’s acceptable to call “dibs” on a parking space?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Dibs is never acceptable. Why not be a good citizen and let your neighbors also benefit from your good deed of shoveling the snow?” — Howard Moore

“No amount of snow! This is an antiquated practice that makes Chicago look like a city of rubes to the rest of the country. That said, if you work to clean the space in front of your house I understand it should be yours but I think dibs should be outlawed for everyone. It would then be up to the individual to clean that space or not.” — Jeff Kwit

“At least 6 inches or more. Maybe not even then — I don’t think dibs is ever acceptable.” — Robert Kastigar

“First, 3 inches. That’s about the amount when street plowing really impacts parked cars. Second, you need to earn it. Actually, dig your car out and clear the space entirely, not just pull out leaving your car’s outline and a few tread marks. Finally, when the snow melts, dibs are off. This is not a personal parking space until mid-April. This all comes from 26 years living in the city.” — Edward Schaefer

“At least 4 inches.” — John Carter Brown

“Enough snow that you actually have to work and clean out the space.” — Robert McNay

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

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