City misses deadline to make polling places accessible, mayoral candidates file their petitions and more in your Chicago news roundup

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

SHARE City misses deadline to make polling places accessible, mayoral candidates file their petitions and more in your Chicago news roundup
merlin_60037541.jpg

A sign marks the wheelchair-accessible entrance to a polling place in South Austin in 2016.

Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty Images file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 45 degrees. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low near 24. Tomorrow will be mostly clear with a high near 48.

Top story

City misses deadline to make all polling places accessible, 30 years after ADA became law

Chicagoans checking where to vote on Election Day may have been surprised to find that fewer than 10% of the city’s polling places were marked as accessible for people with disabilities — and a third of the city’s 50 wards had no sites considered compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners admits it has not met a deadline arising from a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that required the city to make every voting location fully accessible to people with disabilities for the last election — despite receiving a four-year extension.

“Under our agreement with the Department of Justice, we’re not at what our goal is,” said Max Bever, the board’s director of public information, “It won’t be completely equitable until that happens.”

But despite that admission, Bever insisted the majority of polling places are accessible to people with disabilities and the issue is in how the information is reported. If a site isn’t fully ADA compliant, it isn’t listed as accessible, something the board plans to change before February’s municipal elections.

“The vast majority [of Chicago’s polling places] are still usable for people with disabilities,” Bever said, noting temporary ramps and boards on sidewalk cracks are often used.

A number of issues can prevent a site from being considered ADA compliant, including stairs, no reserved parking near the entrance or a lack of bathrooms, among other things. The federal act covers both physical and mental disabilities. Bever said while the board was compiling data for this year’s election sites, officials were “quite alarmed” once they realized how few were listed as compliant.

The issue hadn’t come up during preparations for early voting, as all 52 early voting sites are listed as “fully ADA-compliant.” Since then, the board has been working to split polling places into three categories ahead of the February elections: “fully ADA-compliant, usable for voters with disabilities and inaccessible to voters with disabilities.”

“We know we need to report this information better moving forward,” Bever said. “We realized there was a lot more complexity there.”

But the planned changes aren’t enough, according to advocates for people with disabilities.

Robin Jones, director of Great Lakes ADA, a University of Illinois Chicago program acting as a resource for Midwesterners with disabilities, said more information needs to be provided, given the broad spectrum of mental and physical disabilities.

“‘Accessible’ is sort of a catch-all term, but it doesn’t give me anything in regards to what to expect,” Jones said. “The more information you provide people about accessible elements, the better. … Give me what the features are.”

Zack Miller has more on the state of Chicago’s polling places here.

More news you need

  1. O’Hare International Airport got the official federal go-ahead today for a $7.1 billion project to replace Terminal 2 with a “global terminal” intended to link domestic and international flights in one location. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was on hand, along with other officials, to announce that the Federal Aviation Administration had completed a four-year environmental study, paving the way for the project.
  2. Mayoral candidates today turned in nominating petitions of varying heft to get their names not just on the ballot, but, with any luck, up at the top. The political flexing is a Chicago tradition that’s akin to a boxing weigh-in — think signatures instead of muscles, our Mitch Dudek explains.
  3. Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most vocal critics on the Chicago City Council, dropped his mayoral bid today. Lopez said that forgoing a run would increase the chances that someone would unseat the incumbent.
  4. Family, friends and colleagues are mourning the loss of William J. Kunkle Jr., who was well known as the prosecutor in the case of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Kunkle, 81, was a stern yet empathetic man who also lived a full life outside of work, corralling friends for yearly cross-country motorcycle trips and golf outings, loved ones said.

A bright one

Christkindlmarket returns to Daley Plaza, offering holiday goods and treats

The annual Christkindlmarket opened Friday amid flurries and freezing temperatures at Daley Plaza.

The market, which started over 25 years ago, is inspired by European Christmas markets and features over 50 booths offering a variety of gifts and food. Vendors sell ornate glass ornaments, candles, hand-carved figurines, scarfs, baked goods, traditional German food and hot cocoa or mulled wine in souvenir Christkindlmarket mugs.

Pia Schulenberg, from Cologne, Germany, has been coming to the market for six years. She helps her aunt and uncle sell decorated glass candle holders, called “le vitrage,” French for glowing glass. The holders are decorated with mosaics, Christmas scenes, snowy towns or the Chicago skyline. Her aunt and uncle first started to sell le vitrage at Christkindlmarket 18 years ago. Schulenberg loves coming back year after year.

“The market is like a community, we have customers we remember, and it’s fun to go around and visit with the other venders,” Schulenberg said.

CHRISTKINDL_111922_1.jpeg

Julia Schade, 28, an employee of Gift and Candle Palace, takes a customer’s card on the first day of Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Friday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mother and daughter Lorie Ryan and Errin Kancal came straight to the market after getting off their plane from Istanbul Friday afternoon. The two were in town to visit family, and both wanted to be sure to check out the market. Kancal used to love coming to Christkindlmarket when she was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“The crisp, cool air, the winter weather makes it perfect to be out here,” Ryan said. “We’re so glad we were able to make it for the opening day.”

Christkindlmarket is open till December 24 on Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In addition to the Daley Plaza location, there are two other markets open in Wrigleyville and Aurora.

Kaitlin Washburn has more on the city’s beloved market here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s something you’ll only find at Thanksgiving in a Chicago home?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: What makes Chicago the best place to celebrate the holidays?

Here’s what some of you said...

“All the activities downtown: ice-skating in Millenium Park and Maggy Daley Ribbon, Marshall Fields Walnut Room and meeting Santa (it will always be Fields to me!) Navy Pier, shopping down Michigan Ave., Orchestra Hall Chicago Symphony, etc. I could go on and on!” — Barbara Crowley

“Christmas windows, walking down and looking at everything, the German market.” — Charlie Hasbun

“The lights and decorations are beautiful.” — Cindi Miller Brand Maloy

“Everything — but especially the memories of great Christmas past; downtown, the zoo, the snow, my family meals. I miss it.” — Judy McDowell

“Great churches with great Christmas music.” — Steve Etter

“Christkindlmarket and the holiday lights.” — Chris Rogus

“Downtown is beautiful!” — Mark Dynia

“Christkindlmarket and authentic German sausage and mulled wine!” — William Helmcke

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

The Latest
For 15 years, the Aspire CoffeeWorks program at Metropolis has offered part-time work to adults with disabilities. The partnership is a model for businesses for the benefits of opening doors to adults with disabilities.
Researchers said the doorbell cameras made by Eken Group can be controlled by a company-operated app called Aiwit and allow bad actors to view footage.
The 20 best players in the Sun-Times’ coverage area of nearly 400 schools.
Missing from this newfangled bundle are CBS and NBC, which have pretty good menus of sports programming. None of the league networks are included, either.
Renovations are underway on the former Our Lady Of Lourdes school building. Parishioners were upset by the sale and worry about the fate of the church across the street.