Afternoon Edition: Aug. 7, 2020

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

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The lots at 645 and 647 N. Cicero Ave. that Obed Ornelas bought from the Cook County Land Bank Authority.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

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.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

Happy Friday! We’re kicking off the weekend with some great weather: this afternoon will be sunny, with a high near 83 degrees, and tonight’s low will be around 65 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny, and a bit hotter, with a high near 87 degrees, and temperatures will continue rising on Sunday with a high near 90 and the possibility for rain and thunderstorms to go along with it.

Top story

Cook County Land Bank Authority sold vacant lots to a drug dealer

Two years ago, the Cook County Land Bank Authority sold two West Side lots to a convicted drug dealer who at the time was free on bail and required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet while awaiting trial in another drug case for intent to distribute a kilo of cocaine.

Obed Eli Ornelas paid $22,602 for the adjacent lots in the 600 block of North Cicero Avenue in West Garfield Park, north of his existing used-car business, Xclusive Automotive LLC.

Together, the vacant lots had amassed nearly $10,000 in unpaid taxes when Ornelas signed a deal with the county agency in August 2017 to buy the properties, with plans to expand the business he shared with a partner to now also sell secondhand luxury cars, he told state regulators.

The land bank is now under scrutiny by Cook County’s inspector general, who opened an investigation of the agency after we reported in November that Chester Wilson, chief of staff to Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), donated a dilapidated building to the land bank. That wiped out Wilson’s debt for unpaid property taxes, penalties and interest totaling more than $200,000. At Wilson’s recommendation, the land bank then sold the building to his onetime business partner.

Following our report, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ordered an audit by an outside firm of the agency created in 2011 to redevelop abandoned buildings in distressed neighborhoods. The auditors’ recommendations included requiring the land bank to document its research into potential buyers of properties it has bought or seized.

At the time Ornelas took the first steps to buy the vacant lots from the land bank, he was on parole after being convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in a case where the police raided his Gary home after his electric bills skyrocketed in 2010, and found almost 500 marijuana plants growing inside.

Ornelas and the land bank were in the process of finalizing his purchase of the vacant lots in June 2018 when federal agents arrested him and 56 others as part of a massive drug bust. Federal authorities said he had bought a kilo of cocaine from a co-defendant in a deal that took place in his Ford Mustang a few months earlier. When officers tried to pull him over, they said he tossed the cocaine out of the driver’s-side window of the car.

Released on bail, Ornelas was ordered confined to his home on an electronic monitoring device. On Nov. 20, 2018, while he was on home confinement, the land bank wiped out the $10,084 in unpaid taxes on the lots and finalized the sale, turning over the properties to Ornelas free of the tax debt.

Land bank officials say they don’t do background checks on buyers and didn’t know Ornelas was a drug dealer.

Read the full story, from watchdogs Tim Novak and Lauren FitzPatrick, here.

More news you need

  1. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing new rules that would offer local officials more leeway to issue warnings and reprimands for businesses that run afoul of the state’s public masking and social distancing guidelines. If implemented,businesses could face a misdemeanor charge or fines of up to $2,500 for ignoring safety protocols.
  2. In a wide-ranging interview with Sun-Times reporter Frank Main, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx reflected on the friend she lost to gun violence as a kid, called for more aggressive prevention of retaliatory shootings and pushed back on criticism that her office goes too easy on gun crimes. Read the full Q&A.
  3. Faced with online schedules and strict COVID-19 protocols, some students across Chicago realizing they won’t enjoy a traditional college campus experience are choosing to live at home or defer their education altogether. Clare Proctor spoke to some of those students, who say they’re “devastated” to be missing out on a rite of passage.
  4. Less than a week after her son was killed, the mother of slain Chicago rapper FBG Duck went to the scene of the murder to plead that there be no retaliatory shootings in his name. FBG Duck — whose real name was Carlton Weekly — was shot and killed Tuesday while shopping in the Gold Coast.
  5. The leader of one of Chicago’s oldest and largest gangs could have been killed in connection with a load of drugs supplied by the Gulf Cartel, a Mexican drug cartel, according to an FBI court filing. Lawrence “Big Law” Loggins was shot to death last year in a parked car in Englewood.
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A bright one

‘Chivalry will come back’: Pandemic could shift dating trends away from hook-up culture

Many single Chicagoans took a hiatus from dating when the pandemic hit in mid-March, anticipating a return to the status quo in a matter of weeks. But weeks turned into months, shifting what’s considered normal in how people meet and date.

Zoom calls, socially distanced picnics and straying from “hook-up culture” characterize dating in a pandemic. Video calls on Bumble are up 70%, and people are having longer messaging conversations on Tinder, according to representatives from each app.

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Zoom calls, socially distanced picnics and straying from “hook-up culture” characterize dating in a pandemic.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Experts say some of these shifts are here to stay. Bela Gandhi, owner and founder of Smart Dating Academy in Chicago, describes it as a “throwback to the ‘50s.” Instead of rushing into physical intimacy, people are getting to know each other more deeply before meeting in person.

Gandhi’s clients — which have doubled this year — have virtually cooked recipes together or done a “show and tell” of their most meaningful objects: “You can tell 99% of person by doing a video chat,” she said. “It makes dating better, more efficient, cheaper and safer for people, especially for women.”

New dating criteria include whether someone social distances, wears a mask and prioritizes sanitization. Stef Safran, owner of Stef and the City, a Chicago date coaching and matchmaking service, said she’s heard stories of people ending relationships immediately because someone didn’t have soap or hand towels in their home.

Read the full story from Clare Proctor.

From the press box

MLB postponed tonight’s Cubs-Cardinals game in St. Louis after another Cardinals player tested positive for COVID-19. The Cards haven’t played since July 29, when 13 players and staff tested positive for the virus. 

Bears linebacker Roquan Smith is not only healthy, but noticeably improved physically after rehabbing from a torn pectoral muscle, writes Mark Potash.

The Blackhawks, who weren’t even supposed to be in the postseason, are one win away from eliminating the Oilers and advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tonight’s Game 4 is at 5:45 p.m. on NBCSCH. Game 5, if necessary, will be tomorrow.

The White Sox play a three-game series against the Indians this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field. Tonight’s game airs on NBCSCH+ at 7:10 p.m.

The Sky play the Sun at 4 p.m. tomorrow on WCIU-26.2.

And the remaining Cubs games, if they do play, will be Saturday at 7:15 p.m. on Marquee Sports Network and Sunday at 6:05 p.m. on ESPN.

Your daily question☕

What’s the funniest thing your pet has done recently?

Email us(please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked what you think about Chicago Public Schools going fully remote this fall.Here’s what some of you said…

“This is the safest decision that can be made at this time. We absolutely cannot take any risks that would affect the safety of our children.”— Jim Leitner

“Not a good idea. Kids need to be taught by teachers and they need socializing with other kids. Parents don’t have the skills to be teachers for such a long time!”— Regina Bencak

“Things are getting worse so the best thing is to keep kids at home.”— Beatriz Ramos

“It sucks for everyone involved, and it is also the right and reasonable thing to do.”— Julia Harris

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