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Afternoon Edition: May 15, 2020

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

Lori Lightfoot celebrates her election as mayor on April 2, 2019. May 20 marks her one-year anniversary in office.
Sun-Times Media

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

Happy Friday! This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 70. Tonight the low will drop to around 48 degrees. Enjoy this afternoon’s weather while you can, because this weekend will be rainy: Saturday will be mostly cloudy with a high of 60 degrees, and showers and thunderstorms at night. Sunday, more rain and thunderstorms with a high near 65 degrees.

Top story

Lightfoot’s ‘helluva’ first year culminates in pandemic that will define her tenure

No matter how long it lasts or what else she says and does, Lori Lightfoot’s tenure as mayor of Chicago will be defined by the coronavirus.

Shutting down the lakefront. Cutting off citywide liquor sales. Driving around the city to personally break up large gatherings, inspiring a hilarious string of memes that softened her hard edges.

Her self-declared war on poverty made infinitely more difficult in black and Hispanic neighborhoods that have borne the brunt of the layoffs and deaths.

The stay-at-home shutdown of the Chicago economy that will blow a giant hole in her precariously balanced budget. The strike-shortened school year cut even shorter. And a Chicago City Council rebellion that gained steam during the mayor’s 29-to-21 fight for emergency contracting and spending authority.

“If she is able to guide us through this incredibly difficult time and Chicago emerges stronger, she is going to be viewed historically as one of the city’s greatest mayors,” said former Ald. Joe Moore (49th). “But, boy, it is daunting.”

Democratic political consultant Peter Giangreco said the “most important measure of any executive is to show strong leadership” during a crisis, and Lightfoot has “hit that one out of the park.”

“She’s got to keep leveling with people,” said Giangreco. “She’s at her best when she’s telling people inconvenient truths.”

Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of Lightfoot’s historic inauguration as the first African American woman and first openly gay mayor of Chicago.

“It’s been a helluva year,” Lightfoot told us. “Nobody comes into office thinking they’re gonna have to deal with a pandemic before they even hit their one-year anniversary… It’s been a humbling experience.”

“I’m not gonna say that there haven’t been days where I shed a tear. I have. I’ve wept for the loss. I’ve wept for the hardship that so many people are suffering. But I know that they rely upon me to…pick myself up and get back into the fight every single day.”

Read Fran Spielman’s look back at Lightfoot’s first year in office, which includes interviews with the mayor and the political experts watching her closely.

More news you need

  1. Mayor Lori Lightfoot hinted on Twitter today that she might be closing some streets and sidewalks so restaurants can safely reopen and residents can run, walk and play. “Stay tuned for some changes to our streets and sidewalks,“ she tweeted.
  2. Cook County has surpassed Queens County in New York as the U.S. county with the most coronavirus cases, based on our analysis of the latest public data. Caroline Hurley and Satchel Price break down the numbers.
  3. The mayor has appealed to religious leaders to not defy Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order — and warned she is prepared to “enforce the rules” if they don’t. She’s urging those leaders to continue holding virtual services rather than gathering in person.
  4. COVID-19 is now in 100 of Illinois’ 102 counties, as today marked the fourth day in a row that the state has seen more than 100 lives lost — and the 18th such day since the pandemic began.
  5. When Andrew Young was killed by two teenage gang members in 1996, his father called them “vicious, evil punks” and asked that they get the “severest possible penalty.” But nearly a quarter century later, Stephen Young believes they are sorry for the terrible crime: “I forgive them.”
  6. As a nice little pick-me-up for graduates whose ceremonies were canceled, Krispy Kreme is giving away free boxes of doughnuts to grads who show up to a store wearing their cap and gown on May 19. Here are the details.

A bright one

Chicago artist Paul Branton’s Bronzeville mural a ‘statement of being proud of who you are’

Born and raised in Chicago, artist Paul Branton says he has always seen art as a way of expressing himself. His passion developed into a career as a fine artist.

So when the Quad Communities Development Corporation approached him about creating a mural below the CTA Green Line’s 47th Street stop in 2014, he couldn’t pass it up. Though the paint has faded a bit in the years since Branton oversaw its creation, the vibrant colors are still just as loud as the L trains that rumble overhead. And the meaning behind the artwork hasn’t faded at all.

Paul Branton in front of his mural under the CTA Green Line tracks at the 47th Street stop in Bronzeville.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

“It was a statement about being proud of who you are and where you live and how you fit into that environment,” said Branton. The most significant element of the mural is the image of a little girl with a green complexion reaching for a bouquet of colorful balloons: it says she loves the skin she’s in.

“That goes back to years and years and years of people being degraded and not being able to love themselves because they were taught that the definition of beauty didn’t match how they looked,“ said Branton. “So I wanted to make sure people looked at themselves every day and saw themselves as beautiful.”

Read the full story by Madeline Kenney, and check out more photos of the mural here.

From the press box

Not even a worldwide pandemic can stop the greed in sports, columnist Rick Morrissey writes.

But while owners and players give baseball a black eye by haggling over money during the shutdown, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts got real during a virtual forum with season-ticket holders this week, telling them he wasn’t even sure if MLB will have a season this summer.

Meanwhile, Bears fans were up in arms when USA Today predicted the team would finish 3-13 this season. But our Mark Potash says that isn’t as outrageous as it sounds.

And for your Friday bonus: A little less than a year ago, Illinois basketball began to embark on what was going to be a critical stretch for the program. Our Joe Hendrickson took a look at why it was so important then and how it played out.

Your daily question ☕

How have you been spending your weekends during the stay-at-home order?

Reply to this email (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you what movie you’ve finally gotten around to watching during the quarantine, and what you thought about it. Here’s what some of you said…

“The Revenant. Glad I didn’t pay money to see it!” — Carmen Iri

“Back to the Future. Definitely dated watching this for the first time in 2020. But the cultural impact at time of release is understandable and appreciated.” — Sam Weber

“Jojo Rabbit. Terrific, funny and poignant movie about a tough time in history. Reminded me that staying at home is not as hard as spending two years hiding in an attic from Nazis.” — Teresa Prentiss

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