Understanding faculty strikes at Illinois public universities, DNC eyes the UC 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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Around two dozen faculty and staff members walked the picket line outside Chicago State University during their first day of their strike on April 3.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/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 sunny with a high near 49 degrees. Tonight will be mostly with a low near 35. Expect mostly sunny weather tomorrow with a high near 61. Sunday will be sunny with a high near 64.

Top story

What’s driving all the faculty strikes at Illinois public universities?

Professors at three public universities in Illinois are either on strike or on the verge of striking this week following years of declining state investment in higher education.

Faculty at Chicago State University walked off the job on Monday, faculty at Eastern Illinois followed yesterday, and faculty at Governors State University plan to strike on Tuesday.

All three universities are regional institutions that serve significant numbers of students of color or students from low-income communities, and all three have had to do more with less as public funding has dropped over the years. At the same time, enrollment has fallen off dramatically at Chicago State and Eastern Illinois.

According to a recent report from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a research and advocacy group, state spending on higher education in Illinois was cut nearly in half, by $1.8 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, between 2000 and 2023. That’s despite recent increases in the real dollar amount invested in the state’s universities.

“This significant cutback in state funding has really created some fiscal stress, particularly for those public universities that serve more traditionally underrepresented student populations, like low-income kids, rural kids, minority kids,” said CTBA Executive Director Ralph Martire.

The roots of public disinvestment lie in longstanding fiscal mismanagement in state government and the cost cutting it necessitated, according to Martire. He calls higher education “a low-hanging fruit” for politicians on both sides of the aisle looking to rein in the state budget.

WBEZ’s Lisa Philip has more on the faculty labor strife.

More news you need

ComEd bribery trial


Juan Ochoa arrives at Lincoln school in Cicero and talked to the media after voting on Tuesday, February 26, 2013. Ochoa was appointed to ComEd’s board at the behest of Speaker Michael Madigan and former Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

Sun-Times files

‘I will keep pressing’: Jurors hear ComEd CEO taking orders after key witness explains appointment to utility’s board

Former McPier boss Juan Ochoa took the stand Thursday in the trial of four political power players and told the tale of his appointment to ComEd’s board — a seemingly typical Chicago backroom deal involving then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Then, prosecutors played another set of phone calls secretly recorded by the FBI in which ComEd officials spoke candidly about the appointment, because they thought no one was listening.

Jurors then heard Michael McClain — a Madigan confidant who had no obvious role in the matter — brokering the deal in 2018 between Madigan and Anne Pramaggiore, who was then ComEd’s CEO. McClain told Pramaggiore on May 16, 2018, that Madigan “would appreciate it” if Pramaggiore “would keep pressing” to get the deal done.

“OK, got it,” Pramaggiore said upon hearing that instruction. “I will keep pressing.”

The testimony of Ochoa, and the recordings played for the jury immediately afterward, capped the fourth week in the trial of McClain, Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty.

The four are accused of conspiring over nearly a decade to bribe Madigan by arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan’s associates, all while legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield. The recordings played Thursday appear to be another example of ComEd officials bending over backwards to please the powerful politician.

Prosecutors have presented nearly all of their evidence and have predicted they will rest their case by Tuesday. However, defense attorneys have said they might need as many as three additional weeks to present their own evidence to the jury before closing arguments begin.

Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles recap yesterday’s iteration of the trial.

A bright one ☀️

A tattoo surprise: North suburban woman got twin tiger tattoos, then found her mother had one, too

There’s a certain symmetry in Alana Blanchard’s tattoos.

Two mirrored tigers face a central flower arrangement on her torso. And two jackalopes on her collarbones face one another, taking perpendicular paths.

There’s also another layer of symmetry that Blanchard, 24, who lives in Hainesville, a Lake County suburb, stumbled on when choosing the art to have inked onto her body.

Her mother Aileen Blanchard, 55, has an almost identical tiger on her calf.

“I showed her a picture of what I was going for, and she was, like, ‘Oh, my God, you know I have one right?’ ” Alana Blanchard says. “And I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, I totally forgot!’ ”


On the left, Alana Blanchard’s tiger tattoos on each side of her torso, framing a flower arrangement. At right, Alana’s mother Aileen Blanchard shows her tiger tattoo from 1992.


The younger Blanchard’s tigers, which she had done in December, prominently feature dark stripes along with fine details of the animal’s faces, teeth and sharp claws. The older Blanchard’s tiger, which she had done in 1992 as a graduation present from her sister, sits just above one ankle, the animal seeming to roar and flash its teeth and claws — just like her daughter’s.

Details of flowers sit below its front paws. And sprouts of grass give the impression the animal is clawing its way through a field. With three decades of wear, though, the dark stripes and finer details are blurred.

“I think every tattoo kind of means something,” Aileen Blanchard says. “It’s kind of something in you. My tiger would be my fierceness and my strong self. And I also have flowers, which is the feminine part of me.”

Our Katie Anthony has more with the Blanchards as part of a brand new Sun-Times series called Inking Well. In each installment, we’ll talk with Chicago area residents as they share the stories behind their body art.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

Has your car been damaged by a pothole in Chicago this year? Tell us what happened — and where.

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

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

Here’s what some of you said…

“My partner and I are currently searching for a home and one thing we do in every place is make sure we both can fit back to back in a galley kitchen.” — Sean Goldman

“Water pressure in the shower.” — Suze K.

“I check the water pressure in the shower. If it comes dribbling out, I don’t need to see anything more.” — Mark Mardell

“Check that all the drains drain! After moving all our possessions into our first home — a long day — we were dirty, tired and needing a shower. We discovered the tub did not drain! We wanted to cry!” — Barb Tomko

“Me, personally? I look at the view.” — Susan Danzig

“The first thing I look at is the view. I want something interesting and changeable.” — Ed W.

“Roaches.” — Jo Ann Reksel

“Water heat and pressure. Also signs of beg bugs!” — Matthew J.

“Is heat included and do they have a pest problem?” — Ava Odom Martin

“Well kept apartment building and I check for three exits for fire — front door, back door and fire escape.” — Tamara Ross Miller

“Assuming everything in the apartment is in working order: parking, proximity to transportation and highways, do I need to get a window unit AC, closest grocery store, delis, restaurants, dry cleaner, parks, a decent tavern.” — Jim O’Connor

“Covered parking! Shoveling snow, fighting for spaces, and the possibility of getting towed are a lot to have to think about!” — Nikki Dub

“Laundry facilities in the building. Hauling everything to the laundromat once a week is strictly for the birds!” — Laurie Alfaro

“The water pressure is good. Also the difficulty of finding parking and location of grocery stores etc.” — Brice Notardonato Ellett

“How close is the unit to the elevated CTA tracks?” — Bert Freeman

“That all the plumbing works, all the electrical switches work, the window open and close, stove works. That the building itself is kept up etc.” — Jackie Waldhier

“Locks functioning properly. I will walk on bad locks — no matter how much I love the place!” — Nathan Thompson

“The most important ‘thing’ I would check for is one working smoke alarm or more and a sprinkler system throughout the hallways. This is THEE most important object as it could possibly save your life.” — Donna Schmidt McGuire

“Ceiling lights. Not many have them. So frustrating.” — Ka Trina

“Good access to public transportation and good windows.” — Gabriel R. Restrepo

“Having just signed a lease with a slumlord, I would definitely say check Yelp for reviews, as well as the Dept of Bldgs for any failed inspections. You must see your actual apt in person (even after video viewings) there’s so much you’ll miss - like, say, the overall cleanliness and maintenance of entryways and backsteps, or the smell of dying cat and rotting dirty wood stairs soaked in the stench of cheap ganja. And especially if the bldg is older, behind stoves and fridges for critter activity.” — Tamara Hester

“Low noise transmission between floors and walls + good windows. Consider the orientation; glamorous west views can be frightfully hot and/or costly to cool.” — Red Durack

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

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