Afternoon Edition: April 2, 2021

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

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Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (left) and former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis both gave up their offices and have started taking government pensions even as federal authorities have been investigating their actions.

Sun-Times files

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 50 degrees and wind gusts as high as 20 mph. Tonight’s low will be around 38 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny and breezy with a high near 67 degrees, while Sunday will be mostly sunny with a high near 70.

Top story

Under federal scrutiny, Madigan, Solis collecting lucrative government pensions

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who resigned amid an ongoing federal investigation, just collected his first pension check — the initial payment in what could become one of the richest retirement payouts to any Illinois legislator.

Disgraced former Ald. Danny Solis has gotten nearly $170,000 in retirement pay since he quit the Chicago City Council two years ago after we revealed he’d been an FBI mole, secretly recording conversations with now-indicted Ald. Edward M. Burke and others at City Hall as part of a widespread investigation into government corruption.

They and others who are under federal scrutiny — caught up in ongoing federal grand jury investigations involving government officials in the city and suburbs — are facing jeopardy that goes beyond what any of them might face from the courts. If the investigations lead to criminal charges and convictions, that also could jeopardize the lucrative pensions they expected to collect for the rest of their lives.

Many of the others have resigned from office and put in for their pensions, knowing those checks will be cut off if they are convicted of felonies related to their official duties.

If that were to happen, they’d get a refund of the money that had been taken out of their paychecks over the years as their contributions toward their pensions. But that would be the case only if the amount they collect in retirement pay hasn’t already exceeded their own contributions — something that usually takes a couple of years.

Here’s a look, based on records from government retirement funds, at the pension status of a dozen retired and current officials, all Democrats, who have been caught up in the federal investigations involving City Hall, Cook County and the state of Illinois.

More news you need

  1. A Hazel Crest mother and her three kids are shaken after 20 bullets aimed at their home shattered windows on Tuesday, just minutes after one daughter, 13, had walked through the door. And the Hazel Crest police station was about a block away. “Me and my children could have been dead and gone. It was nothing but God’s grace and mercy,” she said.
  2. More than 6 million COVID-19 vaccinations have now gone into Illinois arms, public health officials announced today. But cases are still rising: The average statewide testing positivity rate is at a two-month high of 3.5%.
  3. On March 22, Evanston became the first U.S. city to approve a plan to make reparations available to Black residentsto address the harm they suffered as a result of the city’s past discriminatory housing policies.Our Stefano Esposito interviewed Ald. Robin Rue Simmons, the driving force behind the reparations effort.
  4. Gov. J.B. Pritzker yesterday commuted the life sentence of Gerald Reed, who was convicted of a double murder in 1990. Reed is expected to walk out of Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet today, where his mother is waiting: “Mr. Governor, I want to say God bless you and happy Easter,” she said.
  5. The CTA announced today that six prototype electric buses are officially out on the roads, carrying passengers between the Austin neighborhood and Navy Pier on the #66 Chicago route. If the buses perform well on the road, the CTA said it will approve an additional 17 electric buses for use along various routes.
  6. A new documentary series on Ernest Hemingway by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick delivers the definitive biography of arguably the most famous, accomplished and celebrated writer of the 20th century, writes our film critic Richard Roeper. Read his full review of “Hemingway,” premiering on PBS Monday.
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A bright one

In Back of the Yards, Chicago artist’s mural features characters he sketched in high school

A few blocks from the Western Avenue L stop in the Back of the Yards, an artist has taken doodles that he scribbled in a high school art class and used them in a mural that adorns a viaduct.

They’re part of a 50-feet-wide, 14-feet-high mural that transformed the viaduct at 49th Street and Damen Avenue into something the artist hopes will inspire kids in the Southwest Side neighborhood.

It includes images of a diverse group of kids and one bulldog and a banner unfurled above their heads that says “light the way forlos niños.”

The artist — who goes by the name FRILLZ — says someone who lives in the neighborhood who didn’t like the way the viaduct had been spattered with graffiti approached him about painting a mural there.

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This mural, titled “Light the Way for Los Niños,” was completed last year by a local artist who goes by FRILLZ at 49th Street and Damen Avenue.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The cartoon-like appearance of the characters reflects the artist’s style — especially his signature bulldog.

But that’s also an artifact of the characters’ origins. FRILLZ, who’s 21, says he was always artistically inclined but didn’t start doing street art till his teachers asked him during his sophomore year at Schurz High School to help design a school mural. He says he “did a bunch of quick sketches” of his school’s bulldog mascot.

A few years later, doodles like those that he once drew in class ended up on stickers and murals across Chicago as his career as an artist took off.

Keep reading Rylee Tan’s story here.

From the press box

Bears coach Matt Nagy said he will resume play-calling duties next season. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor took over those duties for the last seven regular-season games last season, with generally positive results. The Bears scored 30 or more points in four straight games in December, winning three of them, Patrick Finley writes.

The Cubs had a disappointing 2021 debut, but new Marquee Sports Network announcer Jon “Boog” Sciambi was a hit in calling his first regular-season game. Jeff Agrest has the story.

The Cubs continue their series against the Pirates this weekend, and the White Sox remain on the West Coast to face the Angels.

Your daily question☕

What do you want to get done or achieve before things get back to normal?

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: What’s the best April Fools’ Day prank you’ve ever pulled or had pulled on you?Here’s what some of you said…

“Saved the daily newspaper from one year ago and gave it to my husband in its plastic delivery sleeve as if it had just been delivered. His expression and remarks were priceless.”— Anne Grogan

“I checked the lottery numbers! Got excited, told my boys that we had matched all the numbers! They got so excited, ran into the bedroom to wake their dad who worked nights. I said April Fools’! Dad was not happy, neither were the boys.”— Maxine Henry

“I went to an all-girls high school. My mom warned me that my socks were out of uniform, so I had my teacher write me a fake detention. Mom’s reaction was priceless… we still have it from 1998!”— Shannon Bracken

“It was a week after Easter and I dyed a regular egg and gave it to a friend at lunch telling her it was hard-boiled… what a mess. It was at work and everyone yelled at me!”— Melinda Vaughn

“I sent a photo of two hands with wedding bands to my mother and told her I decided to get back with my toxic ex, and that we’d gotten married.”— Erik Raymond

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