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Afternoon Edition: July 1, 2021

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

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) chats with another alderman during a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Friday afternoon, June 25, 2021.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) chats with another alderman during a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Friday afternoon, June 25, 2021.
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.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 76. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low around 59. Tomorrow will also be sunny with a high near 75.

Top story

Lightfoot said she didn’t want a rubber-stamp City Council — and aldermen are taking her at her word, floor leader says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot “empowered people to have freedoms” by saying she didn’t want a rubber-stamp City Council and aldermen are taking her up on it, the mayor’s floor leader said today.

“I don’t see it as a rebellion. … I see aldermen being much more aggressive about what they want, how they want it and when they can get it,” said Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).

“Plain and simple, the mayor is on the record as saying that she doesn’t want a rubber-stamp City Council. When you give people the freedom to take their rights and use their rights to get what they need for their community, they are going to do that. The mayor has empowered people to have freedoms.”

Tension between the mayor and Council has been building ever since Lightfoot used her inaugural address to denounce the Council as corrupt, shamed aldermen into joining her and the Wintrust Arena crowd in a standing ovation for reform, and then that same day signed an executive order stripping aldermen of their “prerogative” over licensing and permitting in their wards.

She has promised to do the same for their unbridled control over zoning. But that would require a Council vote — one she is destined to lose.

That outcome was never more clear than it was last week, when Lightfoot suffered her first Council defeat.

By a 25-24 vote, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) succeeded in blocking part of the mayor’s pandemic relief package that invaded aldermanic turf; it would have required a separate ordinance be approved for every sign over the public way.

Lightfoot has not given up that fight. But she may have no choice, Harris said.

Fran Spielman has more on City Council’s contentious relationship with Lightfoot here.

More news you need

  1. Halfway through the year, more people have been shot and more people have been killed in Chicago than this time last year — when violence reached levels not seen since the mid-1990s. Chicago has seen at least 336 homicides for the first six months of the year, just two more than at this point in 2020, according to a Sun-Times analysis.
  2. A Chicago man set a police SUV on fire during the May 2020 protests downtown after seeing CPD brutally abuse protestors, his attorney said in a court filing today. His sentencing hearing this month may be the first in Chicago’s federal court to directly address the downtown protests.
  3. Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, which was closed much of the spring, will be idle for almost all of July as the company deals with a semiconductor shortage that has limited auto production. The automaker said the plant will be down for four weeks beginning Monday.
  4. Lithium batteries exploded loudly overnight inside a burning former paper mill in Morris thought to be long abandoned. Officials have decided to let the blaze burn out because they fear trying to extinguish it could trigger more explosions.
  5. Vlasta Krsek, who was known as the International Queen of Polka and appeared in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” died last August at 83. Maureen O’Donnell honors Krsek and her journey from World War II refugee to international fame here.

A bright one

South Side flower shop offers jobs, training for at-risk youth

At 17, Eric Sanders already has a pretty interesting job: He travels across the South and West sides to formerly abandoned lots, where he harvests, cleans and stores flowers.

Eric landed that job through a program run by Chicago Eco House, which turns empty lots in Englewood, Woodlawn, Washington Park and West Garfield Park into flower farms.

Eco House is a non-profit organization that helps at-risk youth ages 16 to 24.

Last year, it opened a store, Southside Blooms, that operated out of the Eco House headquarters, 6439 S. Peoria St. The store sold flowers grown at those farms across the city, and it provided training and jobs to some of the young people the group serves.

But today, Southside Blooms opened its own brick-and-mortar shop at 6250 S. Morgan St.

Youth employees with Southside Blooms can become floral assistants after training, harvesting flowers from the shop’s farms across the South and West sides to make bouquets.
Chicago Eco House/Southside Blooms

“The impetus behind (Southside Blooms) was really just this dogged belief that we can come up with some solution to really stem a lot of out-of-control violence and poverty that the South and West sides have come to be known by,” said Quilen Blackwell, founder of Chicago Eco House.

Last year, Chicago Eco House reached out to youth through schools or block clubs on the South and West sides, like Crushers Club, to let them know about Southside Blooms.

This year, the shop partnered with Cook County Juvenile Probation to connect with more at-risk youth. Blackwell said the partnership will create “a pipeline for youth who are incarcerated … [to] get back on their feet.”

Read Cheyanne M. Daniels’ full coverage of the new addition to Englewood here.

From the press box

Before their 13-3 victory last night, which included six home runs, the White Sox lost relievers Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall to injuries. Somehow, someway, the Sox have managed to stay in first place for 56 days this season and every day since May 7, despite a mounting list of injuries, Daryl Van Schouwen explains.

The Blackhawks are considering a trade involving veteran defenseman Duncan Keith, according to a report today. Keith, who will turn 38 on July 16, has spent his entire NHL career with the Hawks.

The Cubs blew a seven-run lead yesterday, suffering their worst loss of the season and closing out a brutal June for the team. If the goal is giving yourself the best chance to win on a nightly basis, right-hander Jake Arrieta isn’t doing that for the Cubs right now, writes Russell Dorsey.

Your daily question ☕

With the Fourth of July weekend almost here, we want to know: What will you be cooking this holiday?

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: What would you like the city to do for your neighborhood? Here’s what some of you said…

“Stop renaming streets and use that money in poor and middle-class communities to enhance and give skills to young adults.” — Patricia Jones

“Instead of liquor stores and churches on every corner, add some trauma centers because the urban communities are in dire need of healing. Englewood, Roseland, North Lawndale, etc. are so dark — why is it so dark? Put some lights in these areas, please. The majority of the vacant houses, buildings, etc. in most of these areas are not on the market for the local residents to buy. Why?” — Kashmir Bonner

“Build a sports center, a pool, skating park or a woodshop. Have a service kitchen that can be rented out to help non-store front food vendors prepare their foods.” — Maria Guerrero-Suarez

“Fund our school correctly, make the lights brighter on the street and cut the vacant lots. I live in Chatham.” — Carol Smith

“Build us a library because we haven’t had one in the Avondale neighborhood ever! Make it a multi-use center with a library, a senior community center and affordable housing. It’s been done so there is precedent.” — Zoby Soto

“Add grocery stores or a business district in the Clearing, Garfield Ridge/Midway area.” — Valentin Galvan

“Living wage jobs for workers. Skilled worker training programs for youth not going to college. Incentivize home ownership and finance business ownership within impoverished communities. Train and develop youth from at-risk communities to become law enforcement in their own communities. Sensitivity training for police with police settlements coming out of their personal pensions and insurance instead of taxpayers pockets.” — Dion Williams

“Reduce the width of car lanes to promote slower/safer driving and with this new space, develop protected bike lanes on every major street or increase the outdoor space a business can operate in front of. Give the streets back to the people!” — Ethan Robert.

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