Afternoon Edition: Jan. 15, 2021

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

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Cabs that were part of Symon Garber’s taxicab empire sit idle at his Chicago Carriage Cab Co. headquarters at 2617 S. Wabash Ave. He has sold the property to a developer, and no one is even answering the phones there any longer.

Anthony Vazquez/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.

This afternoon will be cloudy with some scattered snow showers and a high near 35 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 30 degrees. More snow is in the forecast for this weekend, too: about 1 to 3 inches is predicted to fall on and off until Sunday. Saturday’s high will be 37 degrees, while Sunday’s high will be closer to 34 degrees.

Top story

Chicago taxicab king no more: Empire of mogul linked to Daley son, ex-Trump fixer has crumbled

After befriending the son of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley nearly two decades ago, Symon Garber built the city’s largest fleet of taxis.

He became Chicago’s taxicab king, at one point operating 800 cabs. But today he appears to be out of business.

No one answers the phone at the offices near McCormick Place, where his fleet of maroon-colored cars sits idle inside a fenced property he recently sold to a developer who plans to build an arena across the street for esports competitions.

A judge has ordered Garber to pay $47.6 million to settle one of many lawsuits his lenders have filed to collect the millions in loans they gave him based on the soaring prices of his taxi medallions — the embossed pieces of metal issued by the city of Chicago that confer the right to operate a cab and which are bought and sold for whatever price the market might bear.

Garber’s rise and fall was part of a takeover of the taxi industry in Chicago by out-of-town investors who caused the price of medallions to soar, then used them as collateral to get millions in loans that financed their high-flying lifestyles. All of that collapsed with the advent of ride-sharing and later the coronavirus pandemic. For most Chicagoans, the only sign of any of this was seeing fewer cabs on the streets.

Garber is among a group of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who operated taxis in New York City, then ended up dominating the market in Chicago, where they helped drive up the price of a cab medallion to $375,000 in 2012. That’s the year City Hall began allowing ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, which face fewer regulations than cabs, to operate in Chicago.

Garber and other taxicab moguls saw medallion prices plummet, and they stopped repaying their loans, just as many homeowners did during the national housing crisis when they found their homes were worth less than the mortgages they had on them.

These days, a Chicago taxi medallion can be had for $25,000, a fraction of its peak cost, according to a recent sale, just a week before Christmas.

Garber and the others who came to the United States from what was then the Soviet Union and gained control of hundreds of Chicago’s medallions have more than that in common. They also have all been business partners with Michael D. Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer, who lost millions when he was forced to sell his 22 Chicago taxi medallions while he was in prison over a scheme related to hush-money payments made to a porn star. And like Cohen, Garber and most of the others have lived in buildings Trump developed in New York City.

Read the full Watchdogs report from Tim Novak & Stephanie Zimmermann.

More news you need

  1. Researchers have found the first Illinois case of the new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus initially identified in the United Kingdom, health officials announced today. The person who tested positive for the new strain had traveled to the UK and the Middle East in the two weeks prior.
  2. Illinoisans who are 65 and older or essential workers like teachers and first responders are expected to start getting the coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 25, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced today. About 3.2 million residents will be eligible for vaccine doses in “Phase 1B” of Illinois’ vaccine distribution plan.
  3. Illinois’ cash-starved bars and restaurants will be allowed to welcome customers inside sooner than originally ordered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, but that reopening is still a ways off for Chicago. Pritzker said indoor service can resume when regions improve to Tier 1 mitigations, and Chicago isn’t there yet.
  4. Former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno was granted $5,000 bail today, roughly a week after he was sent to Cook County Jail for violating conditions of his bond in a pending felony case. While out on bond, Moreno must abstain from alcohol and has to undergo alcohol abuse treatment, the judge ordered.
  5. The number of police officers retiring in Chicago and other cities has soared amid a chorus of anti-police rhetoric that’s become increasingly loud over the past year. Chicago police retirements were up 15% last year over 2019.
  6. Chicago plans to activate its Emergency Operations Center during Joe Biden’s inauguration next week as law enforcement agencies nationwide prepare for potential violence. Although the city is not aware of any planned activity in Chicago, the center will be used to coordinate any potential response.
  7. From delivering personal protective equipment to seniors to attending virtual performances and panels, there are many ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Chicago this year. We rounded up some meaningful options.
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A bright one

Chicago’s Fall Out Boy, other big acts to play for Biden inauguration donors

Fall Out Boy, the Chicago band that owes its existence to Joe Biden, will repay the favor by performing Sunday at a virtual concert for donors to the president-elect’s inauguration.

The “We the People” show also will feature music from Carole King, Will.I.AM, James Taylor, Michael Bivins, Ben Harper and AJR. Second City alum Keegan-Michael Key and “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing will host, and actors Connie Britton, Sophia Bush, Jaime Camil and Kal Penn also will make appearances.

Tickets are available to those who make a donation of any size at the inauguration website.


Patrick Stump (left) and Pete Wentz play at a 2018 Fall Out Boy concert at Wrigley Field.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Now, back to Wentz: The Fall Out Boy bassist and co-founder, who grew up in Wilmette and attended North Shore Country Day School and DePaul University, has a long history with Biden. His parents met when they both were working for Biden during his first senatorial term, and their subsequent marriage produced a child who would go on to co-create one of the key pop-punk bands of the early 2000s.

In a now-deleted 2008 blog post, Wentz shared a photo that has been circulating ever since, showing him as a little boy in the arms of the future vice president.

Read Darel Jevens’ story here.

From the press box

Bears chairman George McCaskey knew keeping general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy would not go over well with fans: “Sometimes you have to take the route that you think is best, even when it’s not the most popular decision,” he said.

With Nagy and Pace needing to make major changes, it seems even more likely that quarterback Mitch Trubisky has played his last game as a Bear.

One that might stick around for a while? Bulls rookie Patrick Williams, according to one NBA voice. The Lakers’ LeBron James praised Williams after the teams played earlier this week.

The Bulls and Blackhawks are both on the road this weekend. The Bulls are in Oklahoma City tonight (7 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago Plus) and in Dallas on Sunday (2 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago).

And the Blackhawks are in Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight (6 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago) and the Florida Panthers on Sunday (6 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago).

Your daily question ☕

How do you plan on spending this very snowy long weekend?

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

Yesterday, we asked you: What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Here’s what some of you said…

“After Thin Mints? The Toffee-Tastics. They’re great with a spot of tea while reading.” — Nancy Yetter Schultz

“Peanut Butter Patties… but they are way too expensive these days!” — Dawn Sherman

“Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.” — Katy Stevens

“Tagalongs.” — Rahmaan Adedoyin

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

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