The 1,200 beds unused amid migrant housing crisis, Wrigley Field’s light issues 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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Construction workers and Illinois National Guardsmen work on medical rooms at McCormick Place’s Hall A, Friday, April 10, 2020.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere file

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 see scattered thunderstorms and a high near 76 degrees. Expect similar weather tonight with a low near 56. We’re in for a rainy weekend too. Tomorrow — chance of showers with a high near 55. And Sunday — showers are likely with a high near 62.

Top story

More than 1,200 beds from McCormick Place COVID-19 temporary hospital go unused amid migrant housing crisis

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker stood together in April 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to showcase the rapid transformation of an empty convention hall at McCormick Place East into a medical facility with 500 beds — and 2,500 more to be installed later.

It turned out the makeshift COVID-19 hospital wasn’t needed because existing hospitals were able, after all, to meet the demand of treating coronavirus patients. So the beds were moved to warehouses, and the facility was dismantled as quickly as it was set up.

Now, with at least 8,500 refugees from Latin America having been transported to Chicago from Texas since last August in a political tug-of-war over national immigration policy, those beds are available for use in temporary shelters.

The city kept 126 full-size beds from the McCormick Place temporary hospital. City officials say it would be difficult to set them up quickly because the beds include a mattress, headboard, footboard, bed frame and no linens. Instead, the Lightfoot administration chose to send cots for immigrants to sleep on at temporary shelters because they’re “easy to deploy and set up during an emergency,” according to Mary May, a spokeswoman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

“At this time, it is simply not as practical to use the limited number of beds we have in storage.”

That’s drawing criticism from Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th).

“One of the biggest things we need are beds,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “We can certainly use them.”

The state has kept 750 “quick beds” and 375 hospital beds from the McCormick Place field hospital, according to Kevin Sur, a spokesman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security. A quick bed is a heavy, sturdy, tubular metal frame bed. The hospital beds are powered to help position a patient for better care and recovery, he said.

Sur said the state is willing to provide those beds to the city, but the city hasn’t requested them.

Frank Main and Tina Sfondeles have more on the unused beds.

More news you need

  • In one of her last acts before leaving office, Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed to a deal today to settle an investigation by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that found City Hall effectively has engaged for years in environmental racism. Under the three-year binding agreement with the Biden administration, Lightfoot pledged City Hall will reform its planning, zoning and land-use practices. More on the settlement from our Brett Chase.
  • A new report from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability details racist posts Chicago police officers made in response to news of plans to build an affordable housing development in Jefferson Park. COPA took nearly five years to complete the investigation.
  • Several Chicagoans have taken it upon themselves to make daily visits to police stations to check on newly arrived immigrants sheltering there. It’s one of the ways in which people and groups around the city have stepped up as the city struggles to provide shelter space for asylum-seekers. How Chicagoans are trying to help from our Elvia Malagón.
  • In South Shore, residents filed a lawsuit hoping to stop a former high school from being turned into a temporary shelter for asylum-seekers, saying the plan violates the city’s lease agreement with the building. The lawsuit names the city and CPS as defendants and seeks a temporary emergency restraining order against the plan. More on the suit from our Emmanuel Camarillo.
  • In other news, a business owner Jeffrey Bertucci testified in 2010 to illegally paying out winnings from video gaming machines installed in his Cicero diner and splitting his take with reputed mob figures. In 2019, gambling regulators gave him a license to legally operate video gaming devices. Our Robert Herguth and Tim Novak have more in their latest Watchdogs report.
  • And local outreach worker Tawana Pope is throwing a Mother’s Day barbecue this weekend for women experiencing addiction and homelessness — “moms who feel they fell short of what motherhood is supposed to be like.” Pope expects 150 people will show up. More on the West Side barbecue for moms from our Michael Loria.

A bright one ✨

Sunny weather, fresh food draw crowds to Daley Plaza City Market on opening day

Ty Howery spent her lunch break sampling hot sauces with names like “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Screaming Banshee” yesterday.

Eventually, she settled on a seasonal blueberry and ghost pepper sauce.

This was Howery’s first time visiting the Daley Plaza City Market, which opened yesterday, bringing tents stocked with baked goods, soaps and empanadas back to the Loop. The city’s longest-running farmers market is expected to have about 30 vendors this year. The market is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday through Oct. 26, city officials said.

Howery, an office clerk who works at the nearby Daley Center, was visiting Smoking Globe Foods Ltd.

Ty Howery buys hot sauce from James Roth, the owner of Smoking Globe Foods, Ltd., on the first day of the Daley Plaza City Market at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Thursday, May 11, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Ty Howery buys hot sauce on the first day of the Daley Plaza City Market at Daley Plaza in the Loop yesterday. She said it was her first time at the market.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“Everywhere I go, if there’s a vendor with different hot sauces, I’m gonna try them all,” Howery said. “I’m all about the spice.”

Smoking Globe is the retirement project of James Roth, who used to work as a chef. Now, the self-described “barbecue aficionado” is in his second season of selling sauces at markets around Chicago.

Roth said the people — both customers and other vendors — are the best part of coming to the market.

More on the farmers market opening day from our Stefano Esposito and Catherine Odom.

From the press box 🏈🏒⚾️🏀

Your daily question☕

What’s a valuable lesson your mother taught you?

Email us (please include your first and last name) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What’s one major way that you think Chicago has changed since the start of the pandemic?

Here’s some of what you said...

“It’s hard to find anywhere open late-night these days. Most of the 24-hour diners and coffee shops close earlier in the evening. The 24-hour grocery stores close at midnight. I hate it.” — Tonia Lorenz

“Instead of coming together as citizens of a great city at a time when we all needed each other, Chicago became a coarser and meaner place. I think that it remains to be seen whether we can recover.” — Bob Back

“In my view, a major change since the start of the pandemic has been the loss of the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the downtown community. I one day hope this vitality is replaced by the emerging residential community envisioned for the area.” — Lawrence H.

“Water Tower Place is sad.” — Denise Du Vernay

“There used to be somewhat of a standard for store/restaurant business hours, and now, not anymore.” — Savion Willis

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

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