What’s next for CPS after Johnson’s win, flowers for George Freeman and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is about an eight-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Brandon Johnson speaks at his election night party at the Marriott Marquis Chicago after defeating Paul Vallas in the mayoral runoff election on Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

Weather ☀️

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 52 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 35. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 55.


Top story

Brandon Johnson is Chicago’s next mayor. So what’s next for CPS?

Former public school teacher Brandon Johnson will soon become the city’s 57th mayor after his election Tuesday, and some of his first official decisions will likely have to do with education — the issue closest to his heart and his work over the past decade.

From new leadership to a budget dilemma and a new Chicago Teachers Union contract, here’s a look at his to-do list for Chicago Public Schools.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez

One of the biggest and most immediate questions is whether Johnson will keep Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez. Johnson hasn’t committed one way or another.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union has developed a professional working relationship with Martinez and praised his willingness to partner with the union — a departure from years of strife. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be Johnson’s preferred schools chief.

Board of Ed members

Johnson is more likely to have a quicker imprint on the seven-member Board of Education, where board President Miguel del Valle’s term is set to expire this spring. Del Valle acknowledged at last month’s school board meeting that “I’m not gonna be here much longer.”

Beyond the president, it’s questionable whether Johnson would retain any of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointees. Elizabeth Todd-Breland, a history professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, is the most progressive school board member and might have the best chance of staying on. Todd-Breland endorsed Johnson in the runoff in her capacity as a professor, not as a board member.

Despite last year’s legislation that created an elected Chicago school board, Johnson will retain control of the Board of Education throughout his term.

CTU contract

The CTU contract expires in June 2024 — which might sound like quite a ways away until you realize negotiations typically start months in advance. Johnson will have a little longer than Lightfoot to ease into those negotiations; talks had started when she was inaugurated in May 2019, and the contract expired in June 2019.

It’ll be a relatively easy task for Johnson as he swaps sides of the table. It would take a shocking turn of events for there to be labor strife between the CTU and one of its soon-to-be-former leaders.

He’ll continue to face accusations that he’s beholden to the union — and he’ll have to find a way to put that criticism behind him to become a “mayor for all Chicagoans,” as he puts it. Johnson’s word will be put to the test as taxpayers closely watch his fiscal responsibility.

Our Nader Issa has more on the CPS issues the mayor-elect is sure to address.


More news you need


ComEd bribery trial

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The “ComEd Four” — (clockwise from top left) Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty walk into the Dirksen Federal Courthouse last month.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Jurors in ComEd bribery trial won’t hear Madigan’s ‘bandits’ quip, judge rules

Jurors listening to the trial of four former political power players accused of conspiring to bribe onetime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan have likely become very familiar with the former speaker’s voice by now.

They’ve heard recordings of Madigan strategizing over leadership changes in the House, making dinner plans with longtime friend and confidant Michael McClain — even discussing soup with his wife.

But they apparently will not hear a Madigan quip, which made headlines earlier this year, that Madigan allegedly uttered while discussing jobs his associates had landed at ComEd.

“Some of these guys have made out like bandits,” Madigan said.

Defense attorneys appear to have surprised the feds this week by objecting — successfully — to the use of the recording in the trial. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber barred the recording, prompting prosecutors to follow up and ask that he reconsider his ruling.

Leinenweber declined yesterday.

On trial are McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty. The four are accused of arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan allies in an illegal bid to sway Madigan as legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield.

The ruling over the “bandits” quote appears to be a minor setback for the feds. The trial is now in its fourth week, and prosecutors told the judge they will likely finish presenting evidence Tuesday.

Our Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles have more on the ruling.


A bright one ☀️

Turning 96, Chicago jazz guitarist George Freeman is still playing and about to release a new record

Old Christmas cards sit on the closed lid of a baby grand piano that Fats Waller once played.

A few feet away, a cluster of dusty music awards. And on the walls, a who’s who of Chicago jazz greats. It all feels like a shrine to a bygone era.

But then the stairs to this two-story South Side home begin to creak, and a man with fly-away hair and wearing a black warm-up suit hobbles down. He greets his guests with a wide grin and fist bumps.

It’s George Freeman, who played alongside many of America’s jazz and rhythm-and-blues greats, including Charlie Parker and vocalists Jackie Wilson and Billie Holiday. Freeman, about to turn 96, is still playing the jazz guitar — and finally getting the recognition his admirers say he deserves. He plops down on his sofa and soon, eight decades-plus of a life in music begin to spill out.

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George Freeman plays the guitar at his home in Greater Grand Crossing last week. George Freeman, a Chicago Jazz guitar legend, is turning 96 and is releasing an album with original music and standards.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“I would slip out of the house because I had to hear me some T-Bone Walker,” Freeman says of some of his earliest musical experiences growing up on the South Side. “He could sing the blues — pretty blues. He wasn’t gut-bucket blues. I watched him put that guitar behind his neck, and the women were going crazy.”

Freeman plans to celebrate his birthday with two live shows, tomorrow and Saturday at the Green Mill, with his band of the last 10 years. He’s set to release a new album, “The Good Life” (HighNote Records), recorded in 2022 in June.

He has thoughts about the next one.

“I would love to make a record one day with nothing but violin players. I love a ballad,” Freeman muses.

Our Stefano Esposito has more with Freeman ahead of the legend’s birthday.


From the press box


Your daily question☕

Say you’re touring an apartment in Chicago — what’s one of the most important things you’d check for?

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

Yesterday we asked you: With the end of the runoff election, what’s something you think the city should focus on now?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Addressing the pension shortfall that will affect every aspect of city government and every resident for the foreseeable future.” — John Mark Stanley

“Perfecting the best Italian Beef sam’ich.” — John Sheehan

“I would like to see the plan to cut down on crime, as a first step since anyone living in the city is potentially impacted.” — Brad Betts

Keeping the Bears in Chicago.” — Samson Simpson

“Getting the police department and mayor on the same page.” — Jonathan Kraft

“After school extra curricular activities and making every public building’s energy is self-sufficient.” — Carey Ward

“NASCAR obviously.” — Rachael P.


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

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