Afternoon Edition: Jan. 13, 2021

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

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Chicago police SUVs sit in a police station parking lot.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

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.

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with a high near 42 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 28 degrees. Tomorrow, the high will be near 39 degrees with a 60% chance for precipitation, and snow is possible in the afternoon and evening.

Developing: The U.S. House is in session this afternoon to vote on the second impeachment of President Donald Trump. Watch live coverage of the proceedings here.

Top story

Criminal justice reform bill puts Chicago FOP on the clock to cut a deal

Approval of a sweeping police reform bill in the waning hours of Illinois’ lame duck legislative session today turned up the heat on the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police to cut a contract deal with Mayor Lori Lightfoot or risk having it imposed on them.

Championed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, the 764-page bill passed the House and Senate today and is headed for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

It doesn’t eliminate qualified immunity for police officers, which would have made it easier for officers to be sued for actions they take on the street. But the other reforms in the bill will dramatically strengthen Lightfoot’s hand in negotiations with the union representing rank-and-file Chicago Police Department officers, whose contract expired nearly four years ago.

Police officers would need to be licensed by the state. No longer would police disciplinary procedures or protections be the subject of collective bargaining. Negotiations would effectively be confined to wages, benefits and working conditions.

Body cameras would be mandatory for all police officers in Illinois and cops would be held accountable for turning them on, along with the audio. 

The bill also includes a host of other criminal-justice reforms, including ending cash bail. In 2017, Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans reformed the county’s bail system by encouraging judges to set bond as low as possible, but the legislation goes far beyond that push.

Under the bill, criminal defendants will no longer be required to post any cash bail to be released before trial. The only exceptions would be those defendants whom judges deem a risk to public safety or a risk to flee before trial.

Read more from Fran Spielman and Frank Main on the criminal justice bill passed by the Illinois House and Senate today.

More news you need

  1. The Illinois House elected a new speaker today: Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who takes over the job after Mike Madigan’s nearly four-decade tenure. Welch, the first Black person to hold the position, earned 70 votes to defeat House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who received 44 votes.
  2. Lawmakers also pushed forward a bill today focused on improving social equity in the state’s cannabis licensing process, which has been slowed by the pandemic. The bill would create two systems for the licensing lottery — tiered and qualified — to determine who might receive a dispensary license.
  3. Chicago Public Schools employees who’ve been locked out of their school-related accounts set up remote classrooms outside the home of Miguel del Valle, the head of the city’s Board of Education, this morning. One teacher said he’s concerned about passing COVID-19 on to his wife, who, he said, has underlying health conditions.
  4. An Elk Grove Village man was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison today for the attempted murder of a USPS employee. Cameron Ruebusch, 25, allegedly came up to a mail carrier inside their unmarked vehicle, tapped on the window and fired shots from a handgun as the carrier drove away.
  5. Payroll fraud is pervasive in the construction industry in Illinois and the upper Midwest, according to a report from labor-supported research groups. Factoring in lost wages and benefits, the cost in state tax revenue was $186 million in 2018, researchers said.
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A bright one

You can check in: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’-inspired hotel room features chess pieces on the ceiling

Anyone who has watched the popular Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” (all 62 million of you and counting) know it’s loaded with references to Lexington, Kentucky.

The popularity of the show — which is set in Lexington but wasn’t filmed in the Bluegrass State — has not been lost on the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

Seizing on that interest, VisitLEX jumped on the idea to create “The Queen’s Gambit Guide to Lexington,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.


Netflix via AP

The self-guided driving tour includes nine locations for fans to visit and reminisce about the story of an orphan chess prodigy, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), and her quest to become the world’s greatest chess player while struggling with emotional problems and drug and alcohol dependency.

One of the city’s hotels, The Harmon Room, also turned one of its rooms into a time capsule inspired by the show, including chess pieces suspended from the ceiling so you can lie back in bed and feel as if you’re experiencing one of Beth’s drug-induced chess game hallucinations.

Read the full story here.

From the press box

The Bears made it official this morning that they’re sticking with head coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace for the 2021 season, even though team chairman George McCaskey admitted the decision may not be popular with many fans.

Part of the Bears’ problem seems to be that they’ve mistaken good culture for a good team. “Just know that by singing the same song over and over, the Bears are telling you how dumb they think you are,” Rick Morrissey writes of today’s news conference.

Your daily question ☕

What do you think of the way Chicago Public Schools is handling reopening?

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

Yesterday, we asked you: Do you agree with the proposed ordinance to remove the massive Trump Tower sign along the riverfront? Here’s what some of you said...

“I would think that there are more important things for the City to be concerned with after everything that has happened in the last year. Put your efforts and resources into what matters. Plus it is a private business so as long as it is up to code, who cares.” — Vicki DeFord

“Yes. Buildings have their names changed for all sorts of reasons. I support any effort to change the sign.” — Carmie Daugird Callobre

“Of course! Get rid of the black eye in a spot that’s so beautiful otherwise.” — Steve Millar

“I despise what the man stands for, but no, unless the business is getting kicked out too. Getting rid of the sign doesn’t get rid of his ownership and profiting off of the property ... Just removing a sign feels like hypocritical, meaningless action.” — Amanda Hamilton

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

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