Lightfoot disputes feds’ environmental racism claims, Sen. Emil Jones III pleads not guilty 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 Lightfoot disputes feds’ environmental racism claims, Sen. Emil Jones III pleads not guilty and more in your Chicago news roundup
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A few dozen protesters rally outside City Hall, Feb. 23, 2021, demanding that the city stop the relocation of a General Iron metal shredding plant to the Southeast Side of Chicago.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

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 cloudy with a low near 64 degrees. Tonight will be cloudy with scattered showers and a low near 53. Tomorrow will be cloudy with a chance of showers and a high near 73. Sunday will be partly sunny with a chance of showers and a high near 69.

Top story

Lightfoot to Biden administration on environmental racism claims: See you in court

Amping up her fight with the Biden administration, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is trying to discredit a federal finding that the city has been violating the civil rights of its residents through policies that amount to environmental racism.

Millions of dollars a year in federal funding that helps provide a lifeline for vulnerable Chicagoans — money that comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development — could dry up if Lightfoot doesn’t back down.

The dispute involving the Democrat mayor and Democrat president’s administration is over the findings in July of a federal civil rights investigation concluding that Chicago zoning, planning and land-use policies have long been discriminatory.

That investigation was prompted by a complaint filed with HUD in 2020 related to the then-proposed move of General Iron’s automobile-shredding operation from heavily white, wealthy Lincoln Park to a Latino-majority Southeast Side community surrounded by largely Black neighborhoods. It was a plan Lightfoot’s administration helped steer.

The proposed opening of a scrap-metal operation at East 116th Street along the Calumet River led to protests, including a hunger strike, as some South Side residents complained that they can’t take any more pollution in an area where the air quality already is poor.

In a letter to HUD responding to its July report, Lightfoot’s law department called the agency’s findings “a fundamentally flawed factual and legal analysis.” Asking HUD to reconsider its findings, City Hall lawyers told federal officials “the city is confident that it would prevail against enforcement in a court proceeding.”

Any municipality that gets funding from HUD has to agree to follow federal law and to not discriminate against its residents.

City Hall denies that its policies are discriminatory and, in the recent letter to the agency, pointed out that it ultimately denied a permit that the relocated General Iron needs.

A HUD spokeswoman says the agency will “seek to resolve these matters as quickly as possible. . . If a voluntary resolution can’t be reached, HUD may initiate administrative proceedings or refer this matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.”

And Lightfoot’s fight with HUD could grow even larger in the coming weeks, when the agency’s investigators are expected to release their findings regarding another civil rights complaint. This one asserts that Chicago City Council members have used so-called aldermanic prerogative to keep affordable housing out of some wards. That investigation was opened two years before the inquiry triggered by the General Iron fight.

Brett Chasehas more on the Lightfoot-Biden administration clash here.

More news you need

  1. A 29-year-old man has died after an explosion earlier this week inside an apartment building in Austin. He was one of eight people injured in a blast Tuesday morning that fire officials say was caused by the “ignition of natural gas.”
  2. Joseph Kromelis, known as “The Walking Man,” has been released from the hospital about four months after he was set on fire while sleeping on Lower Wabash Avenue. As of today, Kromelis will continue to recover at a rehab facility and will have to undergo additional surgeries.
  3. After Chicago’s police watchdog recommended 12 officers be suspended for their conduct during the George Floyd protests, the city’s top cop fought back on excessive violence charges. Our Allison Novelo has more on Police Supt. David Brown’s efforts here.
  4. State Sen. Emil Jones III pleaded not guilty today to federal bribery charges after he was accused of agreeing to protect a politically connected red light camera company in the Illinois General Assembly. The hearing took place by phone, making Jones the latest federally charged Illinois politician to avoid the traditional walk-of-shame through the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
  5. Since 2015, police department records show at least 58 Chicago businesses have been shut down as a result of shootings under the city’s summary closure ordinance enacted that year. Most of those shuttered businesses have been on the South Side and the West Side, and when it came to clout-heavy bars downtown, police went easy, a Sun-Times investigation found.
  6. Months before buses carrying immigrants arrived from Texas, thousands of Venezuelans had already moved to Chicago after fleeing their homeland. Our Elvia Malagón spoke with one local man about his journey here.
  7. The University of Illinois and developer Related Midwest today laid out a new design and ambitions for the planned technology and research hub on the development site known as The 78. Part of a $500 million statewide effort to promote innovation, the university’s Discovery Partners Institute is expected to be finished in 2026.
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A bright one

‘I’m going to read them all.’ Grade schoolers get excited about book donation during Bernie’s Book Bank crosstown charity walk

Grade schooler Isaris Ramos smiled as she sorted through her bag of eight new books.

A fantasy novel, a comic book, and an illustrated biography of Albert Einstein.

“I’m going to read them all when I get home,” said Isaris, a sixth grader at Jahn Elementary in Lake View.

Isaris was among a crowd of students chanting “We want books” as volunteers from the charity Bernie’s Book Bank passed out bags of free books yesterday. The volunteers were midway through their 20-mile “Walk As One Chicago” fundraiser from Guaranteed Rate Field to Wrigley Field and back. They stopped at schools along the way to promote book ownership and literacy.

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Isaris Ramos, a sixth grader, looks through newly received books during a Bernie’s Book Bank handout yesterday outside Jahn Elementary School.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

After getting their books yesterday, the kids sat on the school steps near the playground, sharing among themselves the new additions to their personal libraries.

Essence Durr was most excited about her new copy of “The Legend of Shadow High,” by Shannon and Dean Hale. Essence, a sixth grader, loves to read in her free time and dedicates at least 30 minutes a day to reading.

Amaya Gonzalez, another sixth grader, said, “I’m very excited to get a bunch of books that I would love to read. Definitely going to read them.”

David Struetthas the full story behind the giveaway here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

As we enter another season amid the pandemic, how has your approach to COVID-19 changed since 2020?

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

Yesterday, we asked you: In honor of autumn equinox, we want to know: What is Chicago’s best fall-time festival?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Chicago International Film Festival. The films at the festival aren’t commercially driven Hollywood drivel but real movies.” —Craig Barner

“Oktoberfest, naturlich.” —Edwin Haiflich

Find a full list of ways to start the season right via The Mix — our weekly rundown of Chicago events — here.

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

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