Afternoon Edition: March 5, 2021

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

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Amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, Magnificent Mile stores Columbia Sportswear, Uniqlo, H&M and Verizon are all closed in March 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/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 sunny with a high near 48 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 27 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny again with a high near 42 degrees, and Sunday’s high will be near 51 degrees.

Top story

When the COVID pandemic hit, Illinois sales tax revenues plunged in one place worst of all

After Illinois shut down last March to slow the spread of COVID-19, businesses closed, people stayed home, and sales tax revenues that governments rely on plummeted — nowhere more dramatically than in one small but extremely high-profile part of Chicago:

The 60611 ZIP code that takes in the Magnificent Mile shopping district of North Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier, one of the state’s biggest tourist magnets.

That ZIP code accounted for the state’s most dramatic plunge in sales tax collections, our analysis of state tax revenues shows — a $68 million drop in those taxes that Illinois collected from the city compared to a year earlier. That’s about one-quarter of the city’s $290 million portion of those sales tax losses.

Also hard hit, though on a smaller scale, were other places that rely on retail sales and tourism to fund municipal services, including mall-dependent towns like Schaumburg, Rosemont and Skokie and the Chicago ZIP codes that take in the Loop and O’Hare Airport, the analysis found.

“Where you see the big drops, those are large tourism areas, and we know tourism was significantly impacted, so you see your big drops match where you’d see a big piece of tourism,” says Ben Dieterich, deputy budget director for the city of Chicago.

“If you’re seeing increases, people were staying home and not venturing far from home to make purchases,” Dieterich says.

Read the full story from Tim Novak, Lauren FitzPatrick and Caroline Hurley, and use our search tool to check the impact on you ZIP code, here.

More news you need

  1. Illinois set another COVID-19 vaccination record yesterday with 131,882 doses administered. Nearly half of all citizens 65 and older have been vaccinated so far, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
  2. Ald. Maria Hadden is accusing Mayor Lori Lightfoot of “going her own way” or “putting up roadblocks” on four issues pivotal to progressive voters — civilian police review, search warrant reform, police spending and an elected school board. Listen to her full interview with Fran Spielman here.
  3. Political operative Roberto Caldero pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and bribery charges during an arraignment this morning. Prosecutors last week revealed a 20-page grand jury indictment against Caldero, whose case involves former Ald. Danny Solis.
  4. Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, the subject of our “Motive” podcast, has lost a bid to get the Illinois Appellate Court to throw out his attempted-murder case stemming from a 2015 shooting that was caught on video. Jimenez argued the charges should be dropped because he already was convicted of a federal gun charge related to the same incident.
  5. Customs agents at O’Hare Airport this week seized a shipment of 65,000 counterfeit N95 masks purporting to be from the manufacturer 3M. The shipment, potentially worth over $400,000, was en route from Columbia to a company in Virginia.
  6. Jane Nye, a Chicago barber who cut and colored generations of punk, Goth, rock and glam hairstyles, died last month at age 65. “She has been an icon in the Chicago music scene,” her friend Jody Cox said.
  7. After all these years, the land of Zamunda is still the world capital of comedy. Read Richard Roeper’s review for the heavily hyped sequel “Coming 2 America,” which is now available on Amazon Prime Video.
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A bright one

Drop dead gorgeous: Rogers Park resident displays home-grown corpse flower in full bloom

If you walked past Jarvis Avenue in Rogers Park yesterday, you would’ve seen passersby stopping to take selfies with a near-7-foot-tall smelly plant.

Dale Wheeler, a Rogers Park resident, bought a handful of Amorphophallus titanum bulbs nearly a decade ago — better known as the “corpse flower.” The flower currently on display outside of his building has taken about seven years to bloom, he said.

Corpse flowers are named so because they exude an odor that smells like a rotting corpse.


Dale Wheeler looks inside a blooming corpse flower that he grew in his Rogers Park home.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Wheeler started gardening 16 years ago, when he took out the front yard of his building, ripped out the grass and planted perennials and prairie plants native to the area. Now, his blooming corpse flower stands tall on the lawn for all his neighbors to see.

“When I cut this one off, I thought, ‘I’ll stick it out in the front yard for all my neighbors that walk by all the time.’ They’ll know immediately what it is because I’ve described it to them,” Wheeler said. “That’s where it kind of went crazy on Facebook.”

Wheeler actually owns three corpse flowers, but he said the stalk of the one on display started to stink up his building. White beads have already started to form on the stalk, which are the part of the flower that puts out the smell.

Read Isabelle Sarraf’s full story here and take a look at our 2018 story about a corpse flower at the Chicago Botanic Garden that brought in over 75,000 visitors.

From the press box

Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook announced his retirement from the NHL this morning after 15 seasons. Injuries ended up spelling the end for the three-time Stanley Cup winner, who said he’s reached the point where “it will not be possible for me to continue playing hockey.”

The Hawks are also moving toward buying the Rockford IceHogs, Ben Pope reports, which would give the franchise full control of its AHL affiliate.

Your daily question ☕

What’s your favorite memory from Brent Seabrook’s storied Blackhawks career?

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: Do you agree with the NBA’s decision to hold an All-Star Game this weekend? Tell us why or why not. Here’s what some of you said...

“Not during a global pandemic! No fans? Not the same vibe at all!” — Erroll O’Neil

“As a fan, we understand if there wasn’t an All-Star game this year due to Covid. The NBA should’ve given the players the weekend off to enjoy time with their families, especially when most of them had to participate in the bubble last year, away from their families.” — Tirso Olivares

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