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Afternoon Edition: Nov. 12, 2021

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

Some of the Chicago Park District IDs that Eric Fischer had over the years. He was fired Nov. 2 from his $100,000-a-year job as the district’s aquatics boss, accused of ignoring a teenage lifeguard’s complaint about abusive behavior that named his daughter among her hazers. 
Brian Ernst/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.

This afternoon will see rain and eventually intermittent snow showers, with temperatures steady around 37 degrees. Scattered snow showers are expected tonight, mainly before 8 p.m., with a low around 33. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy with a high near 40, and Sunday there’s a 70% chance of rain with a high near 39.

Top story

For parks aquatics boss, firing over Chicago lifeguards scandal a hard fall from the family business

The man at the center of a Chicago Park District scandal over complaints by lifeguards of abusive behavior and sexual harassment by more senior lifeguards started his career with a little lie.

The son of a popular Southwest Side lifeguard, Eric Fischer fudged his age on an application to be a lifeguard in 1983, saying he’d already finished two years at St. Laurence High School when actually he was just 13 years old.

For his first assignment, he lucked into a glamor gig, working at Oak Street Beach, where his father also had worked.

For Fischer, who rose to captain of the Oak Street lifeguards before moving up to head all park district aquatics programs, lifeguarding has been the family business. Besides his father, his children also landed coveted gigs at Oak Street Beach.

Fischer, 51, was fired Nov. 2 from his $100,000-a-year job, accused of ignoring the complaint by a teenage lifeguard, who named his daughter among her hazers and said she’d been shoved into a wall, called profane and sexually degrading names by coworkers and left alone for hours at her post for refusing to take part in their drinking parties and on-the-job drug use.

Also booted were Adam Bueling, the aquatics manager who inherited Fischer’s former post as beaches and pool manager, and Alonzo Williams, Fischer’s boss.

The high-level terminations came after the release of a 43-page report by a former federal prosecutor hired to investigate whether parks managers protected lifeguards who reported abusive treatment of lifeguards by their more senior colleagues.

Lauren FitzPatrick has more on Fischer and the toxic culture of the parks department here.

More news you need

  1. For years, Chicago leaders turned the city’s water supply into a revenue stream. Now, tens of thousands can’t keep up with the rising costs. Read WBEZ’s investigation into Chicago’s water bill crisis and the toll it’s taken on many of the city’s homeowners here.
  2. After finding out a California sexual abuse complaint against the Rev. Timothy Keppel was credible, a Catholic order moved Keppel next to two Chicago-area schools — without informing administrators there. The order also has had other credibly accused clerics living in Chicago, Robert Herguth reports.
  3. A Chicago police officer is among nine people facing federal charges for defrauding a low-income food program for women and children. A 16-count indictment alleges owners and workers at several Chicago-area convenience stores accepted checks from the Women, Infants and Children program for ineligible items at the stores, often at inflated prices.
  4. Mayor Lori Lightfoot today denounced the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s decision to release a report recommending a three-day suspension for slain Chicago Police Officer Ella French as the “height of tone-deafness.” The COPA report accused French of failing to wear a body-worn camera when she showed up at the botched raid on the home of a social worker and failing to fill out the required form.
  5. For “Vaccine Awareness Day,” Mayor Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, got their COVID-19 booster shots alongside several newly vaccine-eligible children. However, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady also confirmed that COVID-19 cases are on the rise.
  6. A man who paid thousands of dollars in bribes to two Chicago police officers was sentenced today to one year behind bars, but a judge said he won’t have to report to prison until next spring. Richard Burton, who pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy in June 2019, admitted at the time that he paid the two officers for early access to information from traffic crash reports.
  7. For decades, a large pond along the Lake Michigan shoreline on the Southeast Side has been the dumping area for massive volumes of materials — a sizable amount of it toxic — dredged from the bottom of the Calumet River. While many residents believed the area would one day be converted into a park, the Army Corps and the city of Chicago are advancing a plan to turn it into a bigger dump.
  8. Cinespace, the studio that is home to Chicago-based film and TV productions including “Chicago Fire,” has been sold to the real estate arm of a buyout firm based in Texas and California. The deal, reportedly valued at $1 billion, means the Pissios family of Chicago will no longer control the studio space they founded in 2010 with the aid of millions of dollars in state grants.

A bright one

Now 80, Caryl Yasko restores iconic 1975 mural honoring Lemont quarries, stone-cutting past

Caryl Yasko was 34 and working as an artist in Chicago when she created the iconic mural titled “Lemont Quarry Workers” in Lemont in 1975.

The mural — also known as “The Stonecutters” — honors the labor of limestone workers in the 19th century, many of them immigrants. It became an instant artistic centerpiece in the suburb about 30 miles southwest of Chicago.

The buff-colored Lemont dolomite limestone laid the foundation for Lemont — physically and economically. And it was used to build such Chicago architectural icons as the Water Tower and Pumping Station and Holy Name Cathedral.

In 1993, the mural having weathered, village officials again turned to Yasko. Then living in Wisconsin, she came back to restore the wall.

This mural, titled “Lemont Quarry Workers,” was painted in 1975 by Caryl Yasko when she was 34. She came back this year at 80 to again refurbish the mural honoring the southwest suburb’s limestone-cutting history.
Village of Lemont

She did it again in 2000. Then 59, Yasko used a pneumatic chisel to blast all of the paint off the 1,000-square-foot, concrete-block wall and recreated in acrylic paint what she’d done a quarter century earlier in enamel.

Each time, Yasko says, she stuck around for a couple of months and became involved in the life of the community.

Recently, Yasko returned for a third refresh. She and her assistants moved into an inn and started work on the wall in early September. By the time they left in early October, its once-vibrant reds, blues and yellows popped out again.

And, even at 80, she climbed the scaffolding like someone a fraction her age.

“I’m relishing this one partly because of my age,” says Yasko, wearing paint-splattered white overalls, as she took a break on a gorgeous fall afternoon. “I’ve just decided I’m going to totally enjoy this project. But I did train for it. It’s a physical job. I would not do any heroics.”

Jeff W. Huebner has more on Yasko and her mural here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

Which of Chicago’s expressways needs improving the most? Tell us why.

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: As Chicagoans, what are some ways to support neighbors and communities who’ve experienced a tragedy?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Just being a decent human being usually goes a long way.” — Ryan K. Miller

“Prayer!” — Shell Harris

“Just listening.” — Jackie Waldhier

“Give them things they need — tangible things like food, clothes, appliances, bedding and furniture. And intangible things like information, access to resources, access to friends and people we know that can help them.” — Tanya Glover

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