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Afternoon Edition: Sept. 9, 2020

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

Licenses for new pot shops will be doled out in a lottery soon — but lawmakers want to slow down the process.
AP Photos

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.

It’s a cool and rainy afternoon, with a high near 65 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 58 degrees. Tomorrow, more gray skies are in the forecast, with a high near 66 degrees expected.

Top story

Pritzker urged to halt lottery for new marijuana licenses, address ‘orchestrated injustice’ in application process

A pair of state lawmakers joined a group of losing pot shop applicants yesterday calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to halt an upcoming lottery to determine the winners of 75 long-delayed licenses and review the application grading process, which they claim was tainted to benefit clouted firms.

“We are under the weather from this oppressive system, this rigged system, in which the state representatives and the state senators were lied to,” Rickey Hendon, a former Democratic state senator from Chicago, said during a news conference, noting that the “legislative intent” of the legalization law was to increase minority and local participation in the booming weed industry.

State law offers additional points on applications from groups and individuals deemed social equity applicants. Criteria includes living in an area disproportionately impacted by drug enforcement and having a past cannabis offense.

A total of 937 groups applied for the next round of dispensary licenses, but only 21 applicants moved onto the lottery last week after receiving perfect scores on their applications, which were graded by the global accounting firm KPMG. All of the applicants in the lottery are considered social equity candidates, who were given a leg-up in the process in an effort to bolster minority participation in the overwhelmingly white pot industry.

Hendon said many eligible applicants are “suspect” over the process, noting that an individual who’s part of one of the applicant groups works for KPMG and has partnered with former Chicago police Supt. Terry Hillard. The small pool of finalists also includes groups involving well-known Chicago restaurateur Phil Stefani, Lucky Lincoln Gaming president Jeff Rehberger and existing players in the pot industry.

State officials have said seventeen of the qualifying applicants have at least one minority owner, while 13 are majority-owned by people of color. Sixteen have at least one owner who’s a woman.

Prior to attending the news conference, State Reps. La Shawn Ford, D-8th, and Kathleen Willis, D-77th, penned a joint letter to Pritzker raising a list of concerns.

“The implementation of this law does not seem to meet the true social equity results the General Assembly intended when we passed this bill. We believe the administration should have an opportunity to explain what happened and what is being done to fix the situation,” they wrote.

The letter to Pritzker follows a similar appeal last week from members of the Black and Latino caucuses, who called on the governor to halt the issuance of all upcoming cannabis licenses so these concerns can be addressed.

The letter from Ford and Willis includes a series of questions asking, among other things, why KPMG was awarded a no-bid contract, when information about the scoring process will be released and whether there’s “still time to stop the lottery.” Ford and Willis will also hold a virtual town hall this afternoon “to hear the concerns from teams that applied and other key individuals worried about social equity.”

Read Tom Schuba’s full story here.

More news you need

  1. Attorney General William Barr was in Chicago today, trumpeting the success of Operation Legend, an initiative President Donald Trump expanded in July to send additional federal agents here. By “taking chronic violent criminals off the street, we will force crime rates down,” Barr said.
  2. Four months ago, Woodlawn residents fearful of being displaced by the Obama Presidential Center staged a day-long sit-in outside the mayor’s office to pressure Mayor Lori Lightfoot to deliver the community benefits ordinance she promised during the campaign. Today, the City Council delivered protections falling far short of those demands.
  3. Students who have computer or internet problems won’t be penalized if they have trouble connecting to a virtual class at the start of the school year, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said. The district promises to be lenient as technology woes are sorted out.
  4. Public health officials announced another relatively low batch of 1,337 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 statewide today. The numbers offer some rare signs of optimism toward the end of a resurgent summer.
  5. As Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the board grapple with how to pay for services with drastically depleted funds, a group of activists say they know a good place to start: Slash funding for Cook County Jail.
  6. NorthShore University HealthSystem is informing about 348,000 people that some personal information might have been exposed by a data breach earlier this year. The ransomware attack on a vendor to NorthShore’s foundation did not access medical records, officials said.
  7. The Windy City Times — a newspaper that bills itself as the voice of the city’s gay, lesbian, bi, trans and queer community — announced today that after 35 years of publishing a print edition, it will be moving to a digital-only platform at the end of the month. The paper blamed the pandemic for the decision.

A bright one

Welz Kauffman looks back on 20 years at Ravinia Festival helm

“I fell in love with the city,” Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman says of his first visit to Chicago in the late 1980s. In town to visit a close friend, Kauffman, who at the time was living and working in Los Angeles, braved a cold February morning to explore Chicago.

“I got up early one morning and borrowed his bike. He was living just west of the Park West and I rode his bike down to the Gold Coast. And I just fell in love with the architecture immediately. I took pictures of apartment buildings I wanted to live in. Who does that?“ Kauffman laughed. “I just wanted to move there. … From that moment on I knew that at some point I would work in Chicago.”

A decade later, Kauffman did return to the area, this time to Highland Park and the Ravinia Festival, where he would spend the next 20 years of his life at the helm of the oldest outdoor music festival in North America. He is exiting his post on Sept. 30, with plenty of fond memories and a trove of accomplishments — but no official final season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kauffman’s season programming of Ravinia over the years has been part wish list, part reflection of the times, plus a strong desire to increase community outreach, he said. Once heavily resplendent with classical music and jazz, the festival during Kauffman’s tenure emerged with a lineup boasting everything from pop, rock and hip-hop to blues, country and New Age.

Lady Gaga, Common, Bob Dylan, John Legend, Duran Duran, Norah Jones, Diana Ross, ZZ Top and 50 Cent are among the diverse artists Kauffman brought to Ravinia’s stage, broadening the scope of the festival’s music genres.

“I did OK,” Kauffman said succinctly when asked to sum up his Ravinia career. “Just from a diversity of audience standpoint — gay, straight, Black, white, old, young — Ravinia truly has something for everyone.”

Read Miriam Di Nunzio’s full story here.

From the press box

The Bulls’ coaching search took a new turn yesterday when the Oklahoma City Thunder parted ways with Billy Donovan. His experience and success should push him to the front of the line of Bulls coaching prospects, writes Joe Cowley.

Manager Rick Renteria has been a steady hand during the White Sox’ years of rebuilding. Now that the team is within sight of its first playoff berth since 2008, Steve Greenberg wonders if Renteria deserves AL Manager of the Year consideration.

And for better or worse, the Bears have settled on their roster. Now the focus falls on coach Matt Nagy to deliver results. Mark Potash runs it all down.

Your daily question ☕

How would you describe your typical work-from-home wardrobe?

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 you: How did the first day of school go for you and your kids? Here’s what some of you said…

“Pretty good. I encouraged him to get up in between classes to stretch his legs. It was a bit more difficult to get him back in his seat afterwards.” — Shelly Rachal Estrada

“No real issues, but very stressful, impossible to work from home at the same time, especially with 4 kids having to be logged in and on camera at the same time. Luckily I had my dad here to help but not sure how long that will last.” — Joey Lynn Battaglia-Pinaglia

“My 3rd grader had no problems thank god! I had so much anxiety about it but everything went smoothly.” — Lori Brown

“Stressful. I work at a learning center. I had 3 students, 3 different age groups, 3 different schools, 3 different electronic devices, 3 different portals/apps. Most links worked. Others didn’t. Im emotionally drained.” — Jennifer Landin Hurt

“3 kids, I’m working remote and I only got interrupted once by my fourth grader. I call that a success.” — Bri Yount

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

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