White Sox Have Plans to Move to the Newest Proposed Neighborhood, The 78 

By Taylor Schultz and Rebekah Cheung • May 4th, 2024

Sox Park rendering imageA rendering of what the new Sox Park could look like. (Image courtesy Related Midwest)

An empty, abandoned railyard has become a part of Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s vision of transforming part of the plot of land into a bustling stadium for his team. 

This area is located in the South Loop, in a proposed addition to Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods called The 78. This ambitious proposal is faced with the looming funding needed—$1 billion in tax revenue, according to Reinsdorf.

The proposal has been met with mixed reviews from Chicago fans, experts and local business owners. 

Dr. Joshua Drucker, Professor of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois Chicago, said Reinsdorf might be getting the field of his dreams if the financing works itself out. 

“I think if the financing were worked out in a way that was in advantageous to somebody [Reinsdorf] he will be willing to move within Chicago,” Drucker said. 

The stadium would be moving about five miles north from its current home, Guaranteed Rate Field, just off the 35th Street Red Line Stop. 

While that distance is short, the finances aren’t. Who will be funding the new White Sox Stadium?

Reinsdorf stated that he would be willing to contribute $200 million toward funding the new stadium.

Scott Fawell, a White Sox season ticket-holder, said he is worried that Reinsdorf will bring the team to Nashville if he doesn’t get the funding he is hoping for. 

“I think we’re ultimately going to probably use the threat of moving to Nashville, because that’s what worked for him last time is, ‘Hey, I got to deal with St. Petersburg.’ If you don’t give me a stadium, I’m going home.” Fawell said. 

Both Fawell and Drucker don’t see a point for a new stadium. Guaranteed Rate Field was built in 1991 in the old Comiskey Park parking lot. It’s only 31 years old. 

“There’s really not a problem with the ballpark other than you know, maybe the location is not great,” Fawell said of the current stadium. 

Before Guaranteed Rate was built, Comiskey Park was falling apart structurally. There was a legitimate need to build a new stadium, unlike now, where there are no apparent structural problems. 

And if there was a problem, making small fixes would make more sense for taxpayers. So why the sudden urge for a brand-new stadium?

“Reinsdorf wants to move because he obviously sees dollar signs and make more money,” Fawell said. 

Railyard image

The railyard, location of the proposed Sox Park. (Photo/Rebekah Cheung)

As a season ticket-holder for 29 years, Fawell said he is fearful about how his seats would transfer over, for both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bears

When a team changes facilities, season ticket holders have a PSL (personal seat license). A PSL is a paid license that entitles season ticket holders to the right to repurchase season tickets for their previous seats.  

 “It’s a lot nicer, a more active area,” Fawell said. “It’s a lot like trying to do a lot like Wrigley that they had forever.”

At the current South Side stadium, the surrounding area is all parking lots. There are no restaurants or businesses in eyesight from the park. Unlike the Chicago Cubs’ field, Wrigley Field is surrounded by bars, restaurants, hotels, and a movie theater.

“Even if they’re losing [The Chicago Cubs] people like going to Wrigley, like going to the neighborhood, going to the bars and all those things that come with it, which you don’t have at all the ballpark Sox park now.”

Renderings released by Related Midwest in February, the developer of The 78, showcase the new stadium along the Chicago River and surrounded by other proposed buildings.


Video: Renderings of the new stadium


The presence of the current stadium has also contributed to the identity of the area, with the ballpark on the edge of Armour Square and bordering Bridgeport.  This sense of familiarity and baseball spirit remains strong in its community members, including Dolores Brann. A former resident of Bridgeport, Brann saw how the ballpark drew its community closer together.

“I don’t think it’s a very good idea at all. I can’t see what they would do with the new stadium because…[the current park is] very, very nice.” Brann said. “I liked it. Because I worked there. [You could] walk to the park.”

For those living in nearby communities, walking was an ideal way of going to see the White Sox play. If the stadium were to move to the South Loop, walking may not be a feasible option. 


Video: Google Earth flyover video from Guaranteed Rate Field to The 78


Alongside Reinsdorf’s proposal is Bears President Kevin Warren’s potential on his team moving to a proposed stadium situated along the lakefront, replacing Soldier Field. The Bears have stated that they would contribute over $2 billon from private funding to the project. 

Despite the private funding already secured for the proposed stadium, Illinois. Gov. J.B. Pritzker considers this project to be of low priority.

This proposal follows Warren’s original plan to have their 326-acre land in Arlington Heights transform into a stadium for the Bears. Drucker said he believes Warren’s plan will not go as smoothly as he hopes, considering both teams are seeking tax dollars for the projects.

“[The Bears] were trying to put pressure on the Chicago Park District [and the] City of Chicago to give them a better deal and now they’re coming back to that,” Drucker said.

Nick Caruolo, manager at Flo & Santos at 1310 S Wabash Ave says they would be excited if the proposal for a new White Sox stadium becomes reality. 

“We’re looking to get as much foot traffic as possible,” Caruolo said.  “We’re hoping not too many pizza spots, just like us, just more restaurants in general and more people wanting to come out to bring more business.”

But do the benefits of building both stadiums outweigh the costs?  In a statement by Gov. Pritzker to Reinsdorf and Warren, the advantages must be presented now to taxpayers to begin the large leap forward.

According to Baseball Reference, The Chicago White Sox’s attendance average has been drastically lower. In 2022, the average attendance was almost 25,000 people. Compared to 2024 the average attendance is 16,000 people per game. 

“I think I only went to 11 [games last season], which was really like the least I’ve ever gone, because they were just so bad. And the times I did go I’d be like, ‘Good God. I don’t know why I’m doing this.’”

The Chicago White Sox currently have the worst record in the MLB. As of April 29, 2024, the White Sox have won three games and have lost 20 games this season. 

“I think he’s [Reinsdorf] quite delusional right now.  Because there’s nothing wrong with the stadium. Taxpayers built it,” Fawell said. “The team is in complete disarray. The organization is just a giant nightmare. I mean, they’re sitting at two and 13 and with no you know, nothing positive in sight.”

——

 

Your Thoughts

 

Uncertainty cloudsReinsdorf’s proposed stadium as taxpayers would bear the brunt of the funding required. If taxpayers are prioritized and the plan heads into a feasible direction, The 78 could be seeing a new White Sox stadium headed its way. Do you think a new stadium would benefit the public? Leave a comment below.

Mail-in Voting Delays in Chicago Primary Could Follow Voters to November

By Sara McNicholas and Esteban Alducin-Borges • May 4th, 2024

Voting booths photo

Increased mail-in and early voting has led to some empty voting booths on Election Day. (Photo/Esteban Alducin)

After a snail-paced voting process, Eileen O’Neill Burke won the Democrat Primary for Cook County State’s Attorney — nearly two weeks after election night. 

The counting process concluded on April 2, the deadline to certify election results. With 25% turnout for Chicago and Cook County, the total votes came to just more than 527,000. O’Neill Burke received  264,428 votes to  Clayton Harris III’s 262,857.

The close race between O’Neill Burke and Harris dragged on as votes were slowly counted due to mail-in ballots still arriving. News organizations called the race on March 29, 10 days after Election Day. Votes continued to be counted until April 2.

With a slow counting process and a two-week deadline, many voters did not get the quick results that they have grown used to, even with voter turnout the second-lowest in 80 years.

Low turnout numbers are something often associated with midterm elections, especially ones with little at stake in the large races, such as the presidential primaries. 

According to University of Illinois Chicago Political Science Professor Evan McKenzie, this is nothing new. 

“[If] the stakes were high for the presidential race, then you’d expect a higher turnout,” McKenzie said. “It’s the top of the ticket that draws the most people in a presidential year.”

This means with the presidential nominees for each major party basically decided, many in Chicago and Cook County opted to sit this race out. Even with low turnout, problems still occurred in the system.

Vote-by-mail ballots were the majority of the votes counted after Election Day, just needing a postmark date of March 19 to be valid. The process moved slowly as mail ballots were received up to April 2 to be counted. 


Timeline: The Cook County State’s Attorney race and mail-in voting


“It’s really more of a 48-hour process,” said Max Bever, the Director of Public Information for the Chicago Board of Elections. “Once we receive a vote-by-mail ballot to the point that it can be run through the ballot counter and ultimately added to those results.” 

Keeping track of how many were left to vote proved difficult when approximately 10,000 ballots were discovered to have been accidentally left out of the official numbers of ballots left to count.

Bever knew that when he misreported the number of votes by mail ballots left to be counted a few days post-election, the situation could cause problems with voters and candidates alike.

“We could see coming out of that situation is that there is no room for human error in modern elections,” Bever said. “There is only room for that to liberate additional conspiracy theories.”

Conspiracy theories abounded on social media platforms such as X/Twitter, but did not affect the election count itself.

The 10,000 ballots were not enough to sway the overall votes for Harris, but the University of Chicago lecturer would have been well within his rights to demand a recount. Instead, he congratulated O’Neill Burke on March 29 as he conceded the race

“I think everyone is satisfied that it wasn’t crooked,” McKenzie said. “There is no real serious claim being made that there was anything wrong with the count.”

Poll watchers confirmed nothing suspicious had happened during the Primary, unlike the 2020 election, which saw numerous violent threats made to election officials over claims of voter fraud> Many of the accusations made during 2020 were related to the validity of mail-in ballots. Donald Trump made many claims leading up to the 2020 election about mail-in ballots that caused voters to doubt their validity. 

“Mail ballots raise certain issues about who filled out the mail ballot — someone’s spouse or next-door neighbor could have filled it out instead of the voter who asked for the ballot,” McKenzie said.  

Chicago voter Helen Saulytis shared her concerns about the election process. 

‘’I still have doubts, because in certain areas, they don’t have [anybody] watching who’s going in or out,’’ Saulytis said.

Many voters, like Saulytis, have issues with the voting system and doubts about the security of elections. 

“There’s always the concern about appearances,” McKenzie said. “About people thinking that something might have been wrong.” 

With voters not knowing the election system and different checks and balances that it has, it can be easy to see fraud where it is not present. Vote-by-mail ballots are often scrutinized, but do have security measures in place to reduce fraud.

“There are many, many layers of state laws when it comes to vote by mail,” Bever said. “On the plus side, that makes it a very secure process, that this is something where voter fraud, you know, does not happen or is extraordinarily rare, both in Illinois and on a country-wide scale.”

Even with doubts about the election system, there are more problems with staffing shortages that could lead voters to deal with longer wait times and overwhelmed polling locations.

Chicago election judges are compensated approximately $170 to $255 on election day, working from 5 am to after polls close at 7 p.m. Their role in the election system is pivotal, Bever said. 

‘‘Election judges are the election,” he said. “We would not be able to have functioning elections in this country without enough election judges. There is so much anxiety as so many different election authorities head in to different elections because it’s harder than ever to recruit election judges.”

With a possible lack of election judges, it could pose more problems for voters. It would further increase the time it would take to count ballots submitted on Election Day. 

“If you don’t have five [election judges] per precinct it’s not going to be a smooth election day for people,” Bever said. “You are not going to get those results transmitted timely at the end of each night, so [they] really are the most important part of our election.”

When voters are not able to vote in a timely manner, it causes problems for the whole system. Saulytis said she has also experienced what it is like for voters at times when polling locations are overwhelmed.

“Usually when you vote it’s crowded, you don’t know where to go,” she said. “I had heart failure and I have a hard time voting so I use a disability mail ballot.” 

So with problems abounding both in and out of the polling places, the November general election may have to deal with the fallout of problems witnessed in the primary. The only way for changes to be made to the system is through the Illinois General Assembly amending the election law code.

Chicago Board of Elections, while the authority that runs the primary and general elections, does not have control over the rules they follow. They obey the Illinois Legislature election laws. 

“We don’t make the law,” Bever said. “And we can’t make new policies. And we can’t just make things up on the fly. We’re under multiple, multiple layers of election law at the state level that we have to follow.”

This means when problems and new situations arise in elections, Chicago and Cook County election officials must follow Illinois law, and those laws are only changed by the legislature. 

“[The Illinois Legislature] may need to create more visibility and more checks and balances to move the needle toward confidence and visibility [in elections],” McKenzie said. 

Under current election law, election officials are unable to count votes until Election Night, creating a buildup of ballots that need to be counted within the two-week deadline. These ballots were the standouts in the O’Neill Burke and Harris race, but this rule could cause problems with counting in November. 

“With Trump spending years on end claiming the election in 2020 was stolen from him, with no evidence,” McKenzie said. “That mindset is out there, floating around.”


Your Thoughts

How do you think the Illinois Legislature can change the election system to move quicker for voters? Comment below

Could the 2024 Democratic National Convention Echo Chicago’s History?

By Brady Bauer and Bradley Gambosi  • May 4th, 2024

United Center image

The United Center will play host to much of the DNC in August. (Photo/Bradley Gambosi)

The 2024 Democratic National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 19-22 in Chicago, returning to the Windy City for the first time since 1996.

When it comes to the election, there is no event on the campaign trail that holds the same level of significance as the national conventions. The convention will welcome over 5,000 US delegates that represent all 50 states to elect their party’s presidential candidate.

Chicago is expecting 60,000 visitors to attend the convention in 2024, and it’s the last big event on the campaign trail as they drive to the Nov. 5 general election..

The convention itself is planned to have its main host site be the United Center with other events going on inside the McCormick Place.

The DNC will mark the 12th time that Chicago has hosted the convention. No DNC is remembered more than the 1968 convention, which resulted in bloodshed, violence, and the eventual activation of the National Guard. Hundreds of protesters were arrested. 


Timeline: Chicago’s History with the Democratic National Convention


The nation was deeply affected by both the escalation of the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., with tensions boiling over in Chicago during the DNC, leading to one fatality and over 700 injuries.

Due to rising divisions within the Democratic party many pundits have brought up the possibility of a redo of the 1968 convention in Chicago. However, Gov. J.B. Prizker has been proudly declaring that “Chicago is prepared for the DNC” amid concerns.

With all of the problems currently plaguing the country, there is also going to be an influx of activist groups coming to march on the convention.

One of the many political organizations that were denied a protesting permit inside the convention were the Students for a Democratic Society at UIC.  

Democratic Society President Liz Wrath, along with other members, provided all relevant information to the City to acquire the permit and were still denied. 

“We provided the city with as much information as possible,” she said. “From the causes that we were marching for, the minimum and maximum number of people that would be protesting each day. We even gave the number of signs, megaphones, and other protesting items such as flags we would have with us.”

The wait that followed after submitting the permit form was an issue within itself, Wrath said, “After we submitted the protesting permit form to the City we didn’t receive any call, email, or any other acknowledgment for two weeks, so we decided to go bring a physical copy to the office.”

After reviewing their form, the city offered the group and others an alternate marching route in Grant Park; however, the group rejected this alternative route as it is 3.5 miles away from the convention site.

This location would completely put these groups out of sight, hearing, and inside of a mainly tree-enclosed space and has sparked First Amendment violation lawsuits to arise. 

Wrath is optimistic about eventually getting an protesting permit accepted by the city but if it doesn’t go through, Wrath and other members of the Students for Democratic Society at UIC are planning to protest past their designated area and eventually into the floor of the convention. 

With the 1968 DNC resulting in a large number of arrests, beatings, and violence on activists across the city as well as those who have traveled from across the United States, organizers and other attendees hoped for a safer convention. 

Despite the outcries from various activist groups, UIC Political Science Professor E.J. Fagan said he doesn’t think people will see much from the groups during the convention.

“Conventions are ultimately a story about the people actually in the room—that is where the TV cameras are going to be and I’m very skeptical that you’ll see much of what’s going on outside of the convention area,” said Fagan, who has spent his career studying political parties and conventions.


Poll: Will you be trying to go to the 2024 Chicago DNC?


His skepticism stems from the tightly controlled narratives of the conventions. This large-scale event is meant to showcase party unity and the curated image of the party itself—despite the dissenting public who are not inside the room.

In recent years, especially in 2016 with the toss-up between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters, conventions have faced criticisms for replacing political discussions with spectacle.

In joint research, East Carolina University Political Science Professors Jonathan Morris and Peter Francia of East Carolina University argued that the era of conventions serving as platforms for political debate, decision-making, and policy discussion are gone, and now instead serves to appeal simply to those faithful to the party and undecided voters.

Fagan said the 1968 DNC Convention has shaped political conventions into what they look like today. 

“The 1968 convention is probably the most important convention in American history,” he said. “It led not only to a lot of controversy and cost Democrats the election, but more importantly resulted in dramatic changes to how party conventions work.”

Remembering the 1968 Convention

Fagan alluded to the chaos of the 1968 DNC Convention “led to the eventual Democratic loss that year in the general election,” and is what “changed the handling of them forever.”

The City of Chicago is implementing two “buffer zones” that will be in place for nine days. This secure area will have different security organizations working together to ensure the citizens of Chicago are safe. 

While not officially released to the public yet, the Department of Homeland Security have released two maps of likely area impacts around the two buffer zones that will cover areas around the United Center and McCormick Place.

DNC Buffer Zones

Patryk Szczepaniak, a political science major at UIC, worries about how these zones will impact people around them. 

“It’ll be interesting the impact this has on the city, good and bad,” he said. “CPS schools have already delayed their start date to avoid dealing with the convention and many other similar things will have to follow suit if they land in these areas.”

The Democratic Party has kept quiet about specific speakers on the agenda for the convention, but there are a few key ones to expect. 2028 Presidential hopeful Gov. J.B. Pritzker will undoubtedly be a large character as he’s one of the main reasons the event is happening in Chicago.

Other people expected to speak or play key roles are Mayor Brandon Johnson, Vice President Kamala Harris, possibly popular Midwestern Democrats like U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

 

Issues Continue with Chicago Migrant Shelter Food Distribution

By Cole Christensen and Jacob Struchen • May 4th, 2024

Pilsen snack photos

Food stands located outside the Pilsen shelter provide food not available within the shelter.
(Photo by Jacob Struchen)

Imagine: you’re an asylum seeker fleeing a corrupt, developing country run by criminal organizations. Your life may be under threat, you could have been persecuted for your opinions, or maybe you just want a fresh start in a country where your children could grow up to be successful.

You arrive in Chicago, one of the largest cities in the free, powerful country of America, where anyone can live a satisfying life. The authorities take you to a shelter and give you your first American meal. 

How does it taste?

“Good,” said Ruiz Alejandro, a Venezuelan refugee at the Pilsen shelter.

Ruiz , 20, sells soda and snacks in front of the shelter. He is one of over 36,000 migrant refugees who have entered the City of Chicago. The influx of migrants has increased the need for shelter space, work permits, and especially food.

While Ruiz likes the food, there have been concerns over whether it can be enjoyed by all migrants.

As a father, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Alderman of Chicago’s 25th Ward that covers Pilsen, worries that the food may not be suitable for children.

“Some of the infants don’t eat spicy food,” he said. “I’m a father of triplets, and if they don’t eat, you gotta find another way.”

Spicy food is a significant issue because, according to the migrant, it is primarily traditional Mexican food. However, many of the shelter’s migrants come from worldwide.

14th Parish and Seventy-Seven Communities have catered to all of Chicago’s migrant shelters since January. They tend to receive help with the cooking process from smaller non-chain locations. In theory, this would allow for a diversified pallet from restaurants that may even be from the country of some of the migrants.

Previously, the Greater Chicago Food Bank handled catering, but it was replaced in early January 2024 as its methods were considered too expensive for the city. The restaurants that are usually offered the opportunity to cater to the shelters tend to be smaller non-chain locations that provide food that may be from the country of some of the migrants.

Many businesses participating in this collaboration are Black or Latino-owned, allowing the government to invest in aiding the vast number of refugees and the companies of marginalized groups simultaneously.


Google Trends: Searches on Venezuela and migrants here)


UIC Urban Planning Professor and Colombian-born immigrant John Betancur is critical of the investment in small businesses.

“Small businesses don’t have much capacity,” Betancur said. “They usually have small kitchens and depend on small clientele.”

While Betancur agreed that helping small businesses are important, he finds that the method used here is not sustainable in the long run. 

“If you are used to providing 1,000 meals a day, and suddenly you have to produce 2,000, it doesn’t pay to expand your business for those 2,000 Because there’s a temporary contract,” said Betancur.

Few restaurants serve Venezuelan food or anything specific to the migrants’ origins. Chicago can only wait so long on these small businesses before they start overproducing.

The question of how to improve the quality of food provided to migrants can be solved in the same way as improving the quality of anything: money.

Unfortunately, Chicago has finite resources and can only provide so much. Ald. Sigcho-Lopez believes that the federal government must take on more responsibility.

“I don’t think the federal government has any justification for not providing any support or assistance,” Sigcho-Lopez said. 

As stated previously, this large influx of migrant refugees was very unexpected, so many of the preparations were likely rushed. Sigcho-Lopez finds this to be a major issue affecting not just the food but the shelters as a whole. The delegation of tasks, such as providing food to catering companies and restaurants, is a smart way to handle the situation, as the government of Chicago itself is not used to catering on such a large scale. However, the Alderman finds that the government needs to put in more effort to handle the crisis.

“The governor did not provide any support until recently in January,” he said. “A few weeks ago, 10,000 people were resettled. Unfortunately, that helped came late.”

Betancur shares a similar sentiment that the federal government assumed this issue would be on a much smaller scale. 

“The assumption was that they work, get work permits, and then stand on their own and don’t need any more assistance from the city,” Betancur said. “The federal government is very slow issuing those work permits, so it’s turning this into a chronic problem.” 

This catering deal was likely planned as a short-term solution, but as the crisis continues, it is increasingly clear that this deal does not handle the crisis long-term. The government is losing more and more money maintaining this collaboration, and as such, how it is being handled needs to be re-evaluated on a large scale.


Read More: Immigration coverage


Outside of federal funding, there’s still potential for innovative solutions. Sigcho-Lopez suggested kids’ menus to encourage caterers to “cater” to children’s needs. Betancur toyed with the idea of providing migrant shelters with portable kitchens and groceries rather than depending on restaurants.

“Instead of paying for processed foods, they [would be] paying for raw materials,” Betancur said.

For now, a migrant could buy snacks from Ruiz, or walk to the nearby church that sometimes donates food. Also, food trucks and stands frequently position themselves outside these shelters to provide cheap food. Some children prefer these options to what Chicago’s catering companies have provided.

“Every day, bring better nourishment,” Ruiz said about how the city could improve the food in shelters.


 

Your Thoughts

 

Is the food quality in Chicago migrant shelters representative of the state of these migrant shelters and in what ways do you think the government can better aid these refugees? Leave a comment below.

A Hungry City: Insight into Chicago’s Ongoing Food Crisis

By Sarah Muresan and Kelly Mangas • May 4th, 2024

pilsen food pantry photo

Volunteers working to put together food for the Pilsen Food Pantry. (Photo by Kelly Mangas)

Dayaris Guarisma and her family, like many others, speak only Spanish. In a country that predominantly speaks English, she has difficulty getting food when there is a language barrier in the way.

But the Pilsen Food Pantry has helped bridge that gap.

“It is a good help for those of us who do not have work”, said Guarisma who detailed how beneficial the pantry has been in feeding her and her family. Guarisma was with her sister-in-law and niece waiting for food outside the pantry as she does every few weeks.

The Pilsen Food Pantry serves mainly immigrants who struggle to find work or not enough work to support their families. Due to the diverse community that the pantry serves, many of the staff and volunteers speak various languages such as Spanish, English and Cantonese. This is extremely helpful for families like Guarisma who don’t speak English.

Located at 2124 S Ashland Ave, it was established in 2018 and has been a staple for helping members of the community facing food insecurity ever since.

In addition to ongoing food insecurity, the lack of available jobs for residents of underserved communities makes the issue worse. Businesses like grocery stores are less likely to open in communities where there is a shortage of money being put back into the local economy. Therefore, it effectively furthers a shortage of accessible stores in certain areas.

Alejandra Corral, a fourth-year UIC medical student, said companies that avoid opening in underserved communities “creates a never-ending cycle.” Many of the bigger and more successful grocery stores are not coming into areas with food deserts in order to maintain their personal profits. This makes it so that many people in underserved areas need to travel much further to get affordable groceries, “These huge companies that could potentially help out don’t want to invest in these neighborhoods”, said Corral.

Many members of these communities struggle with finding transportation to further grocery stores. Especially in the city, transportation can be unreliable and it is difficult to bring many groceries home by foot. This is why it is so important to have closer grocery stores and food pantries to better serve their respective communities.

Pilsen Food Pantry manager Steve Wiley, started four years ago as a volunteer at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic. From his time working at the pantry, he and the other volunteers went from serving 200 families per week, to now averaging around 650 families per week. It is a choice-based pantry, which allows families to decide exactly what food they need.


Video: Slideshow of the Pilsen Food Pantry


Wiley mentioned how the pantry has positively impacted the families they serve.

“They provide enough food per family of four for two weeks,” he said.

Another community facing a food desert is the town of West Garfield Park, just 20 minutes west of Chicago’s downtown. With stores and restaurants having closed in mass numbers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents must now travel even further to find fresh foods and groceries.

In 2022, the main store of West Garfield Park shut down due to a rat infestation. Located at 420 S. Pulaski Rd, the Save-A-Lot is now in the works of being renovated and reopened.

Ohio-based company Yellow Banana partnered with the West Garfield Park Community Council, and estimates 10 weeks of renovations worth $2 million to bring the store back to West Garfield Park.

Many people still live in food deserts in the city. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 850 which established the Illinois Grocery Initiative, on August 18th, 2023.

Targeting underserved communities, the program looks to provide support for pre-existing grocery stores and the opening of new ones. The ultimate goal is to “ensure Illinois residents and families have access to affordable and nutritious food options,” Pritzker said when announcing the initiative.

“Food insecurity has been a challenge to navigate statewide. About one in four Illinois residents live in an area determined by USDA guidelines to be a food desert,” said Illinois State Rep. Hoan Huynh of the 13th district, in response to Pritzker’s senate bill.

The program aims to slowly renovate and reopen stores in communities that either lack stores, or have not received proper maintenance to keep a store running properly. It costs money, sometimes more than stores have, to pay for lighting and refrigeration, both of which are necessary in providing fresh groceries to their communities.

Corral offered advice for Chicagoans who want to help the cause: “I would just suggest Googling, you know, there’s a bunch of soup kitchens and different pantries across Chicago that are really trying to at least address the need.”

“Food insecurity remains significantly above pre-pandemic levels in the Chicago area at 19% overall”, said journalist Deborah L. Shelton.

If you have extra food sitting in your pantries that would otherwise go to waste, consider donating to a local food pantry or volunteering your time to help those in need. The food sitting inside a pantry could be going to a family who hasn’t had a meal in days.

Twenty-eight communities throughout the city are currently in a food desert, and it is our job as Chicagoans to support our communities. These communities are located throughout Chicago-land but a majority are found on both the South and West sides of the city, including West Englewood, Austin and South Shore.

If that can be done by donating excess food to a pantry, or volunteering our time, then that is a good way to give back to the communities that surround us.

“Volunteer at the Pilsen food pantry or any other food pantry. Everybody’s really friendly and because it is run by volunteers, they know that people are coming in without the experience, and they just want to help out. And that’s all that matters,” said Corral.


How to Help

Below is a map of Chicago-based pantries where you can donate food.

CTA’s Blue Line Unhoused Riders Crisis Continues to Grow

By Leonardo Gutierrez and Mike Yonova • May 4th, 2024

O'Hare station photo

The entrance to the O’Hare Blue Line station. (Photo/Mike Yonova)

Raul Carrell is a long-time Blue Line rider and Chicago resident who has had his commute impacted by a rise of unhoused people using the CTA as shelter.

“I feel wary,” said Carrell, a bartender at the Chicago Cubs Bar and Grill at O’Hare. “between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 o’clock when I had to open the restaurant.”  

Chicago’s current struggle with unhoused people has created tension between CTA commuters and those using public transportation as a place of shelter.

Many other commuters interviewed voiced their concerns and frustrations on the issue of the unhoused using the CTA as shelter. Another commuter, Oscar Cruiz, echoed a similar sentiment as Carrell.

“If they’re awake and yell … I do feel unsafe sometimes,” he said. “But most of the time they’re just sleeping and just want a warm place to stay at night.”

“I would say we may lose 10-20% of riders because of onboard conditions,” said Joe Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University and expert in public policy, transportation and urban planning.

Cumberland Blue Line stop photo

A train arriving to the Cumberland Blue Line stop. (Photo/Mike Yonova)

Due to the complicated nature of the issue, the Chicago Transit Authority has been championing a compassionate approach to those who have resorted to using trains and stops as shelters. The CTA hopes its approach is successful and entered into an agreement for 2023 with the Department of Family and Social Services to help them be better equipped for handling any challenges. The CTA refused several interview requests for this article. 

The intergovernmental agreement authorized up to $2 million to be used on outreach on Chicago’s Red and Blue Lines. The contract with Thresholds and Haymarket, the non-profit organizations tasked with outreach, was valued at $1.6 million.

Haymarket and Thresholds’ homeless outreach consists of providing individuals with amenities, assisting them in acquiring shelter and connecting them with a variety of other resources to help their well-being.

One of the many contributors to the rise in homeless individuals seeking shelter on the CTA is the current shelter shortage impacting Chicago. Data from the outreach programs shows that requests for shelter from encounters can oftentimes not be met, due to availability. A compounding aspect to this issue is also the location and quality of the shelters available.

“If we are engaging someone on the North Side of Chicago, and the only shelter that is available is on the far west side, what we’re essentially doing is suggesting or offering for an individual to uproot from their community to go over to the far West Side,” said Chris Zamarriego, the director of Thresholds’ homeless outreach program.

“They’re away from their resources, their network of care, into a part of the city that they probably have never even been in, or do they know how to navigate.”

However, the CTA is aware that outreach measures may not be satisfactory to all commuters, as some view homeless individuals as a potential security concern. A recent CTA survey has found that only 49% of individuals are satisfied with their personal security on the train.

To put people’s mind at ease about safety in 2022, the CTA introduced new measures to help curtail the negative reputation it had been garnering. This included expanding the use of contracted security guards and strengthening their collaboration with the Chicago Police Department.

The efficacy of these measures remains to be seen. Some commuters welcome the visibility of security but ultimately view it as ineffective

“I’ve seen over the years more security guards on some stations,” said Cruiz. “but they’re not allowed to actually do anything. They just call the police. Right? But the visibility of security is there. So that’s a good thing”

Schwieterman said that some commuters probably want a visible response to the issue of homelessness from the CTA.

“It’s a delicate act,” he said. “I think the public is wanting, a little more aggressive enforcement of certain things, but they’re [CTA] balancing all kinds of social concerns that force them to be diplomatic. Many people who are offenders are either homeless or they’re facing personal crises in their lives.”

Recently, the CTA Connections account released a video where they address the question ‘What is being done [about] homeless people on the train’ in hopes that their compassionate approach to homelessness is more visible to Chicago commuters.

Zamarriego pushed back on the idea that the public should engage with negative perceptions of homeless individuals.

“I do want to remind folks that people experiencing homelessness are our neighbors, and they’re part of our community,” he said. “Their well-being impacts our well-being. It’s important to treat these folks with empathy and understanding.”

Zamarriego’s concerns stem from the fact that a non-empathetic approach could lead to fear and misinformation, which is ultimately unproductive to reaching the goal of moving unhoused individuals off the CTA and into shelters.

“Advocacy goes a long way,” he said, “if it’s bothering you, then it’s in your best interest to, you know, advocate for more shelters to be built. If you don’t like to see the problem on your CTA commute, let’s find a way to be more constructive.”


How to Help

Zamarriego suggested that advocacy be aimed at aldermanic wards as they ultimately have a say in whether or not a shelter can be built.

In 2023, Chicago reported 3,943 non-asylum seekers as homeless with 970 of those being unsheltered. However Chicago’s shelter evictions on asylum seekers could see the homeless problem becoming worse and a call for more housing and shelters to accommodate the potential influx is needed.

Do you think engaging in local advocacy is a good step? Let us know with a comment below.

The Youth and System That Contribute to Chicago’s Rise in Carjackings

By Tegan Amato and Aliyyah Zaidi • May 4th, 2024

police car photo

The Juvenile Justice Complex in Cook County. (Photo by Aliyyah Zaidi)

When Hannah Finnegan returned from a concert in October 2022, she was shocked to find her car missing. Glass was left under the streetlight where her Kia was parked outside her friend’s Chicago home.

“When I first saw it, I started to panic and I was expecting to never find it again, I thought I was going to be completely screwed,” Finnegan said.Finnegan and her cousin were able to locate the car a few blocks away, but it had been completely ransacked.

“Seeing all my papers, all my trinkets gone through made me feel violated,” Finnegan said. “I didn’t keep anything from the car because it felt wrong.”

Finnegan’s experience with car theft is one of many in Chicago. In March 2024 alone, there were almost 100 reported carjackings in Chicago, according to data published publicly by the Chicago Police Department

During the COVID-19 pandemic, carjackings increased across major U.S. cities by 59% from 2019 to 2022, according to the Council on Criminal Justice. This upward trend continued in 2023, with 29% more reported vehicle thefts than in 2022.

But who is behind carjackings in Chicago? Surprisingly, many of the crimes are committed by juvenile offenders. According to CBS News, the percentage of carjackings committed by youth doubled between 2016 and 2021, from 18% to 41%. 

Elizabeth Clarke, founder of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, a non-profit based in Evanston dedicated to improving the juvenile justice system in Illinois, said those in contact with the justice system under the age of 18 tend to be those from impoverished, overpoliced communities.

“Whenever you look at maps of arrests or maps of people who are locked up, for example, and in Chicago, it’s just a handful of ZIP codes,” Clarke said. “They’re generally ZIP codes where poverty is high, schools are bad, transportation is poor.”

Clarke added, “They are children who have so much against them, that they don’t necessarily see a clear path to the future.” 

Former Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot claimed in 2022 that a rise in carjackings was due to remote learning caused by the pandemic. A Vox article published in January of last year blamed social media for making Kias, like the car Finnegan drove, and Hyundais among popular targets. 

Despite the conflicting accounts by the media for why carjackings happen, experts interviewed emphasized similar points of why youth steal cars.

Sierra Warfe, a former intake worker at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, said many juveniles involved in crime are searching for a sense of community. 

“A lot of it comes from lack of resources, lack of family structure, lack of community environment,” Warfe said. “A lot of it stems from the community that they’ve created for themselves.”

A lack of community happens for a multitude of reasons. Warfe uses the example of systemic issues making it hard for children to get their needs met at home as a reason why children look for community through crime.

“It is very uncommon that youths are solo perpetrators that are alone committing these crimes,” Warfe said. “They’re usually out with groups of friends. It’s the community aspect. That’s what they’re doing because that’s what their friends are doing.”

Dr. Arthur Lurigio, professor of Psychology, Criminology and Criminal Justice at Loyola University Chicago, agreed with Warfe that children are looking for community outside of their homes. 

“Kids gravitate toward one another, and it’s based on common interest and similarities and situations,” Lurigio said. 

The lack of connection between children and their communities and schools also plays a role in their likelihood of turning to crime. Lurigio cites systemic issues such as social and economic deprivation, institutional racism, segregation in Chicago, intergenerational poverty, and the lack of investment in the school systems as all being reasons why children look to crime for self-esteem and purpose. 


Timeline: A Brief History of Chicago’s Juvenile Court System


“[Chicago] has invested in crime because we didn’t invest in the root causes,” Lurigio said. “True safety will come from the transformation of a neighborhood.”

When asked if social media plays a role in carjackings, Clarke said, “I think that’s such a ridiculously simplistic answer.”

“The underlying issues are so complex, and that all boils down to our society not having provided children with the kinds of resources that they needed to thrive and grow and have a positive life.” 

Clarke approved of how Chicago is currently working to transform their neighborhoods. 

“The schools are doing a good job providing food – breakfasts and lunches – for children with children… Illinois has been investing heavily to make sure that children can all get on medical insurance,” Clarke said. “So I think we’re on the right path. And I think that’s why the numbers are going down.”

According to the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, the number of admissions to state juvenile detention centers dropped almost 10% from December 2021 to December 2023. However, for those still in detention centers, Chicago has been making strides to create new systems that help to address the roots of crime, such as mental health access and substance abuse.

“We have come to recognize the importance of services and not just housing people,” Lurigio states. “The focus is especially on providing juvenile healthcare services, especially mental health and addiction services, and keeping them in school.”

Still, Chicagoans expect more work to be done by the city to help keep kids on the right path. 

“When I was younger, I feel like every time we went downtown, there was always free things to do,” Finnegan said. “Like now you go to Wicker Fest and they charge you just to get in.”

Warfe agreed that changes need to be made to the way youth and youth offenders are brought up. “It shouldn’t be a reactive system, it should be a proactive system.”

————–

Your thoughts

What do you think the city of Chicago can do to help youth and bring down carjacking rates? Leave us a comment below letting us know.

 CPS Removing Police Offers as Security Guards From Schools 

By Juliana Mendez and Mina Amir Ahmed  • May 4th, 2024

Hancock High School photoJohn Hancock College Preparatory High School located at 5437 W. 64th Place. (Photo/Juliana Mendez)

Chicago’s Board of Education made a decision to remove police officers from Chicago Public Schools starting next school year.

The policy will to impact 39 high schools that still have a total of 57 officers on their campuses. 

The board of education members said they felt the need to remove police officers from their schools because they believed that students might have felt unsafe, threatened and scared to go to school. 

In 2019, Chicago schools began examining the issue, and in 2020 there were many protests of police brutality toward people of color that made the Chicago Board Of Education vote in February to end the school resource officer program and remove all Chicago police officers.

“I come to school to learn obviously,” John Hancock High School student Armando Gomez said. “I don’t ever come to school with plans to bring illegal substances or any dangerous weapons. Police officers being there would make me like I don’t know, just make me feel uncomfortable.”

Edgar Garcia has been working at Golder College Prep for eight years. He was a former dean and is currently part of the enrollment and recruitment coordinator at the school. 

Garcia said he believes that having police on school grounds can impact students mentally because some students may feel safe with police officers at schools while others may feel unsafe and uncomfortable. 

Garcia explained that Golder College Prep has a culture team member in which the job is to provide safety and security for our school community. This shows that there are other resources available for schools to look into before they go straight into needing police in their schools.

“I think that removing police from our schools can have a potential positive impact on students, because one, it shows them right that we feel comfortable enough to see that they can be safe in the school without a police officer present,” he said. “But at the same time, too, for certain areas, you never know what could happen at any moment.”

Garcia said he has experienced and seen certain situations where officers shouldn’t be coming to school for something small or they should not be the first people to contact if it is something other faculty members at a school can solve. 

Having police officers at schools can create a negative impact on students because they are already at school for 8 hours from Monday through Friday and in some schools they have metal detectors. For some students they felt like they were in prison.

Dean Adams, who works in special education, has an interest in the intersections of disability studies and women’s and gender studies. His area of expertise is the critical analysis of educational systems using frameworks such as DisCrit, which highlights the ways in which disability, illness, and racism are embedded in these institutions. Adams is well known for his perceptive examinations of the school-to-prison pipeline, educational settings’ use of aversives for behavior change, and behavior management techniques in those settings. He currently shares his experience by instructing classes that address topics pertaining to kids and the criminal justice system.

As a former special education teacher, Adams worked with many young children who had been classified as emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, at-risk or juvenile offenders. He taught at multiple schools as well.

Adams noticed that many of the students he was working with were African American or Latino male and of low economic status. 

“I think that this has been a win for communities,” he said. “And the reason I say that is because there have been studies that show that having police in schools increases the chances of kids of color being suspended or arrested in schools for things that before we would just send kids to detention or something like that.”

CPS schools are also granted to create a whole new school safety system and will receive funding to invest in alternative safety strategies. 

The board of education has given $3.9 million in total funds to be invested in staff and program-related alternative safety interventions such as crossing guards, safe passage workers, security officers, and security cameras to ensure students are safe to be at school. 

The Chicago Teachers Union is committed to the changes of removing SROs (School Resource Officer) within District schools and instead supports more supportive interventions instead of going straight into harsh consequences. 

Adams said that other resources can help students mentally and help students feel safe by preventing chaos between students and other types of violence such as more social workers, more nurses, more activities, and more school counselors. 

This shows actions toward the school-to-prison pipeline. The school-to-prison pipeline is kids being constantly disciplined through harsh conditions, which makes students stop going to school and then they either get in our juvenile system or get in Child Protective Services where they are constantly surveilled. When at school they are already being surveilled by police officers.

“That pathway from schools, some people would call it the cradle to prison pipeline, and we forget that kids are in school for so many years. So schools are implicit in this, you know, and we, as educators need to remember how we are complicit in these kids, and how do we follow this trajectory? And how do they stop there? I think educators are a key to stopping the school-to-prison pipeline,” Adams said. 

The decision to remove police officers from schools has been something that many parents and people of color have requested, especially students who are there most of the time. 

Students will feel much more comfortable and safe if they see their school as a healthy environment where they have many other resources that do not involve police officers unless it is their last resort.

“I think kids need to have a say and what they want, because they’re the ones that are living this,” Adams said. “And they can tell you how they feel about it. Right? If we’re not listening to the kids and what they need in school, then we’re really doing a disservice because they’re the ones living it every day.” 

Campaign Finance Played Role in Some, Not All Democratic Primaries

By Natalie McGuiggan • April 23rd, 2024

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis won his Democratic primary bid for a 15th term as 7th District US Congressman with an easy victory over Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyear-Ervin and lifelong activist Kina Collins

Davis won with 52.2 percent of the vote, with Conyears-Ervin trailing with 21.1 and Collins with 19.1 percent. 

Davis raised around $677,000 for his campaign, Conyears-Ervin ended with around $704,500, and Collins raised the most with $806,500

Retired 44th Ward Alderman and UIC professor Dick Simpson said Davis won because he “is an established incumbent, voters know what they are going to get by voting for Davis,” despite his lower campaign funding.

“The problem for Collins was that the money came in the last week of the campaign. She could not use it effectively,” he said.

“You had two contenders [Conyears-Ervin and Collins] that tended to work against each other. Collins had done very well the previous election, because there was no one else in the race. So if she would have been running alone against Davis, her chances, assuming she would have had the money earlier, would have been better.To some extent the two opponents canceled each other out.” 


COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY 

Retired appellate court judge Elieen O’Neill Burke defeated progressive candidate Clayton Harris III in the Democratic primary race for the Cook County State’s Attorney. After a close race that took two weeks to finalize the vote, O’Neill Burke won the primary by 1,556 votes.  

Donors gave nearly $4.4 million to the Democratic primary race between the two candidates, with just over $3 million going to O’Neill Burke’s campaign, nearly tripling Harris’s total. The race was the least-expensive Democratic primary race for State’s Attorney since 2008, according to the Center for Illinois Politics. 

Despite the major disparity in campaign funding, the close race extended two weeks so the Board of Elections could count the mail-in-ballots.

The caps of the contributions limits were opened late February after O’Neill Burke contributed over $100,000 to her own campaign. She continued to receive additional high-dollar donations, most notably from her top contributor Daniel O’Keefe, who along with his wife contributed over $350,000 to O’Neill Burke’s campaign.

After the limits were taken off for the contributions, O’Neill Burke raised over $800,000 in one day from only 13 donors, all of whom are leaders in the business world. 

When asked about the campaign finance of this year’s primary and the elections as a whole, Simpson said, “The cost of running an election has gotten completely out of hand. Small donors can’t provide the money necessary for a candidate for major office. That undermines the system.”

Harris criticized O’Neill Burke and her campaign funding because all her highest donors were white men, and continued to question her political stance as a Democrat after being backed by mainly conservative/Republican donors. Although Harris also received big-dollar donations – mainly from organizations, unions, as well as individual Democratic funders – his funding could not compete with O’Neill Burke, who had the means to self-fund as well as having an extensive amount of big-money connections. 

Having the upper hand in funding, O’Neill Burke was able to spend more money on her campaigning through advertisements, interviews, mailers, and other media outlets.

“The difference in campaign funding is undermining democracy” Simpson said. “There are other problems with the republic; income and racial inequalities, non-participation, like in this last election,the polarization in politics, gerrymandering, corruption, just to name a few.

“So campaign finance, if it isn’t reformed, will probably undermine democracy in combination with the underlying income and racial inequalities in the country, and the paralysis of Congress, and so forth.” 

 

O’Neill Burke Declares Victory in Primary Race as Final Votes are Tallied

By Manny Meraz • March 20th, 2024

O'Neill Burke photo

Eileen O’Neill Burke talks to supporters on March 19, Election Day. Her lead shrunk from
10,000 to 1,556 votes
before she declared victory Friday night. (Photo/Manny Meraz)

Editor’s note: This story and headline will be updated with final vote totals once the final votes are counted in the next few days.

Former appeals court judge Eileen O’Neill Burke victory Friday night in the Cook County State’s Attorney race, seemingly sending her to the general election in November,

The finish ended 10 days of post-Election Night drama as O’Neill Burke struggled to maintain a lead over progressive challenger Clayton Harris III,  who has yet to concede the race as of Friday. Barring a recount or legal challenges, O’Neill Burke will face Republican nominee  Bob Fioretti  and Libertarian Andrew Charles Kopinski in the general election. 

Burke’s 10,000-vote lead dwindled to just 1,556 votes over the past 10 days as 109,000 mail-in ballots were counted.

O’Neill Burke stopped short of claiming victory on Election Night when she addressed her supporters. By the next morning, O’Neill Burke led with 51% of the vote  (241,580 votes) followed by Harris III’s 49% (231,788 votes).

O’Neill Burke maintained leads as high as 30,000  over Harris III earlier in the night, although the margin narrowed as more Chicago votes were counted later in the evening.

Despite O’Neill Burke’s lead narrowing, she remained confident when addressing supporters. She reiterated her commitment to her goal, saying, “We can make our justice system work for everyone, in every neighborhood, in every town across Cook County.”

O’Neill Burke’s plan has garnered significant support. A key focus of her platform is to address crime in a more traditional manner, a departure from the approach of current State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who many feel has not effectively addressed the ongoing crime issues in the county.

During Foxx’s tenure, controversies abounded, with crime rates rising, criminal justice reforms causing debate, and the bail system seen as overly lenient. On election night, several of O’Neill Burke’s supporters expressed frustration with Foxx’s administration.

When asked about Foxx, Jesus Ortiz, a supporter of O’Neill Burke, said, “She failed Cook County.”

O’Neill Burke supporters say they believe she is the catalyst for much-needed change in Cook County. They trust that she will prioritize safety for all residents and remain steadfast in advocating for the victims of crimes within the county.

Hunter Vail, when asked about his support for O’Neill Burke in this race, said, “She provides clear representation for the State’s Attorney’s office and brings fairness and justice to all people.”

Mary Gundy, when asked about how she feels about the election not being decided, stated that she feels “confident” when asked about Eileen O’Neill Burke moving on to the November election. 

The reason O’Neill Burke and her supporters are confident about a victory is due to the substantial funds raised for their campaign, providing the resources needed to effectively communicate their message and mobilize voters.

O’Neill Burke’s campaign has raised over $3.5 million, most from Chicago businesses, unions and suburban Republicans. Harris III, has raised just over $1.2 million. The stark difference in campaign contributions gave O’Neill Burke and her supporters confidence as final votes are tallied.

And while the mail-in votes are what is going to determine the result, O’Neill Burke’s message and goals were clear during her speech: “Represent victims and to uphold the law… [and to] build a safer more just Cook County together.”

 

Harris III Concedes in Tight Cook County State’s Attorney Race

By Delaney Disario • March 20th, 2024

Harris photoClayton Harris III came out to speak at his election night party at Taste 222

Clayton Harris III went home Tuesday night after the Cook County State’s Attorney race in the Illinois Primary not knowing if he lost … or won.

But 10 days later, he finally conceded the race to former appellate court judge Eileen O’Neill Burke, who declared victory after the last of the mail-in votes were counted Friday night. Harris III’s campaign team said it will not ask for a recount.

When the Illinois Primary Election Night ended on March 19, O’Neill Burke held the lead with 51% of the vote, leading Harris III by only two percentage points, a difference of less than 10,000 votes. That deficit dwindled to 1,556 votes as mail-in ballots were still being counted on Friday, March 29. The victory sends O’Neill Burke to the November general election against Republican nominee Bob Fioretti, who ran unopposed.

The delay in results is due to the estimated 109,000 vote-by-mail ballots that have yet to be returned and counted, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. At the time, O’Neill Burke and Harris have said the race is “too early to tell.”

Harris was met with chants and cheers from supporters, friends, and family as he addressed the crowd. 

“We’ve waited a long time for this day to come, and it looks like we’re going to have to wait just a little bit longer,” Harris said.

Election day started slowly citywide, with Chicago seeing some of the lowest voter turnout since the 2012 primary election. Max Bever, director of public information for the Chicago Board of Elections, called the turnout “shockingly low.”

Election judges at Fosco Park in Near West Side had seen only 17 voters by 11:45 a.m., just over 1% of the 1,569 registered voters designated to that polling location. 

UIC’s Student Center East held an early voting location where citizens across Chicago could vote from March 4 until election day. Voters said they preferred this option to their designated polling places because it was convenient and allowed for same-day voter registration.

“Now, you can vote any place! Today’s Election Day, and I didn’t need to go to a polling place near my home,” said Natalie Henry, an\ UIC employee.  “How much better can it get?”

Despite low turnout across, there was no shortage of turnout for Harris’ election night party at Taste 222 in West Loop. Supporters of Harris had to wait a while before seeing the candidate, as he took the stage shortly after 10 p.m. Harris came on to speak after a speech from O’Neill Burke, where she said it was still too early to claim victory.

Throughout the night, the mood at the party remained positive and hopeful. The crowd was met with a diverse group of supporters, from long-time friends to University of Chicago students. Katie Hacker and Ana Emilia Davalos learned about Harris’ campaign because he’s a lecturer at their university and found they shared many similar values with the candidate. 

“I think for me, a huge issue right now is access to abortion. Especially being in Illinois, we’re a safe haven for so many different states, and Clayton Harris really supports that and is looking to ensure that right for all people in Illinois,” Hacker said.

“The awareness he’s brought to police brutality and how much of a problem it is, both in Chicago and the United States, is really interesting. I’d be really excited to see what proposals end up being implemented, hopefully, if elected,” said Davalos. The two are not voters in Cook County, meaning they couldn’t vote for Harris, but they still came out to show their support.

“He’s the most vocal person about it recently that I’ve heard. He teaches a class on it; this man knows what he’s talking about.” 

Even as votes came in, and with low voter turnout, the mood remained hopeful. Many in the crowd believed the low voter turnout could harm the campaign, but were holding on to the 109,000 ballots still outstanding.

“There are still more votes outstanding and not counted yet than in the margin. That always means that every vote deserves to be counted, and then we’ll see where we stand after that’s been done,” said Warren Silver. 

As Harris came out to speak, his supporters were excited to finally hear from the candidate on election night. He referenced his campaign, ensuring voters that he would not be giving up until every vote was counted. 

“We will make sure that every voice is counted and every voice is heard,” he said.

Supporters in the crowd cheered throughout his speech, believing the outstanding mail-in ballots could still turn the vote around. Harris took time to thank the crowd and prove he would not concede anytime soon.

“I thank all of my brothers and sisters, every single community,” he said. “All faiths, all walks, because this is what this campaign is about and what this campaign will continue to focus on.”

Harris thanked his family, friends, and the entirety of Cook County at the end of the night. He noted that it was getting late and that his sons needed to go to bed but that everyone was welcome to continue celebrating for a little longer. 

“Regardless of who wins tomorrow, our fight for safety and justice does not end.” 

As the candidate left, the party slowed down almost immediately. Harris took pictures with supporters and shook hands with friends as they left the party, 

Uncertainty filled the air at the end of the night, with no win to celebrate or loss to accept. Supporters were still hopeful and believed in the cause, but they were unsure how the outstanding ballots would affect the difference between Harris and O’Neill Burke.

Former Alderman and Republican Bob Fioretti who ran unopposed on Tuesday, will meet whoever wins the Democratic vote in November’s general election, along with Libertarian candidate Andrew Charles Kopinski.

Harris supporters photo

Supporters of Clayton Harris III nervously checked election results throughout
the night, hoping to see their candidate in the lead. (Photo/Delaney Disario)

Tuesday at Manny’s Deli Remains a Tradition for Candidates

By Laaiba Mahmood • March 20th, 2024

raskin photoCity Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin greets Dan Raskin, fourth-generation
owner of Manny’s Deli, after her meal. (Photo/Lulu Anjanette)

Candidates stopped by Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen Tuesday, continuing a decades-long tradition of having lunch, shaking hands and taking photos with patrons on Election Day.

Opened in 1942 by two Russian Jewish immigrant brothers, the deli is known for its corned beef and pastrami sandwiches and array of other dishes.

Top politicians —- including the Daley Family and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton -— have included a stop at Manny’s in their election day itinerary.

Ahead of Election Day, Manny’s Deli tweeted: “We have always stayed neutral. Anyone and everyone, whether running for public office or not, is always welcome at Manny’s. See you all tomorrow.”

Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President and Cook County Democratic Party Chair, did not make a stop at Manny’s, instead going to Valois in Hyde Park.

Despite Preckwinkle’s absence, Dan Raskin, 4th-generation owner of Manny’s Deli, was pleased to see many candidates and officials make their Election Day stop at the restaurant.

“There have been a lot of the candidates in, on both sides, a lot of them here at the same time which is always really exciting,” Raskin said. “A lot of times you hear the bad things about politics but when you see everyone in here having fun and campaigning and celebrating their hard work, it’s a great feeling.”

Ron Maydon, who used to be active in Chicago political campaigns, had lunch at Manny’s on Tuesday to catch candidates in between their busy schedules.

“I can’t tell you how long this tradition has been going on,” Maydon said. “I come because I know some of the candidates. With their schedule being so busy sometimes it’s hard to connect with them, but I know they’ll be at Manny’s on Election Day.”

Cynthia Robles, a regular Manny’s patron, joined Maydon to see the Election Day tradition for herself.

“This is my first time and it’s such a convenience to come here and just watch and engage,” Robles said. “I’ll be back.”

Clayton Harris, Democratic candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney, was at Manny’s before noon but later joined Preckwinkle at Valois.

“It was important to stop here, to see everybody, and after this stop we’re heading to the South Side and trying to engage as many voters as possible,” Harris said.

Eileen O’Neill Burke, who holds the lead in the Cook County State’s Attorney race, commented on those skipping out on the Manny’s tradition.

“I don’t know anybody who would pass on Manny’s on Election Day so I feel bad for anybody who’s not here today,” O’Neill Burke said.

Bob Fioretti, who later became the Republican nominee for Cook County State’s Attorney, also had a meal at Manny’s after greeting people around the room.

Staff for the Democratic National Convention set up tables to recruit volunteers for the convention, which will be held in Chicago this August.

Raskin credits the continuance of the tradition to creating an environment where all candidates and diners are welcome.

“I guess the tradition means that we’re still doing something right,” Raskin said. “We still provide a great atmosphere that everybody feels comfortable in and I hope the tradition continues.”


Photos

 

Fioretti photo
Bob Fioretti chatting with supporters over a cherry pie. Fioretti ran uncontested
for the Republican nomination for Cook County State’s Attorney. (Photo/Lulu Anjanette)

Martinez photo
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk candidate Iris Martinez said, “Now I gotta walk
this off.” after lunch and greets remaining patrons before leaving. (Photo/Lulu Anjanette)

Harris III photo
Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Clayton Harris III made a quick stop by Manny’s before
heading out to Valois for Toni Preckwinkle’s gathering. (Photo/Lulu Anjanette)

lunch line photo
The cafeteria line at Manny’s Deli filled with candidates and
supporters waiting to get a bite. (Photo/Lulu Anjanette)

Burke photo
Eileen O’Neill Burke thanks supporters for taking the time to come out to Manny’s Deli. (Photo/Lulu Anjanette)

 

Davis Cruises to Illinois Primary Win in 7th District Congressional Race

By Kristen Hodge • March 20th, 2024

Danny Davis photoDanny Davis makes his way to the podium. (Photo/Kristen Hodge)

For more than 40 years, Danny Davis has been a mainstay in Chicago politics.

The 82-year-old Democrat formerly served on the Cook County Board of Commissioners and Chicago City Council before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 to represent Illinois’ 7th Congressional District and serving since 1997.

In the hotly contested Democratic primary for Illinois’ 7th Congressional District, veteran congressman Davis prevailed over two determined opponents to win reelection. Since 1997, Davis has represented the West Side of Chicago and a few surrounding suburbs. In a race that showcased opposing ideas for the district’s future, Davis easily defeated longtime rival Kina Collins and City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin.

Davis received 37,416 votes, (53.1% of the total cast), nearly 32 percentage points more than Conyears-Ervin, who received  15,271 votes. Collins, who has run for the seat twice before,  trailed behind with 18.0% and 12,649.

Despite concerns about his age and proficiency in office, Davis has dominated the polls and will continue his duties as U.S. Representative. He called Tuesday night a “victory for senior citizens” in his speech.

With the strong support of the community, Davis has been proactive in making progressive changes for the district. 

Many members of his community and supporters of his campaign gathered at the Westside Baptist Conference Center in Chicago for the election party. Throughout the night, attendees were elated and in a celebratory spirit after the announcement of his reelection. 

Davis’ staff members were among the crowd of attendees who strongly supported his campaigns and commended his involvement in the community. Marquetta Smith, deputy district director for Davis, has been an essential part of his campaign. 

“He does 100 percent of whatever extra we do. Despite his age, he has more energy than we do,” she said. “I work here in the district office, and he is great to work with. We still have to do our congressional work, and he believes in us being hands-on and never missing a phone call, although the phones are always ringing.” 

Davis’ staff members are committed to working tirelessly alongside Davis, who sets a high standard for dedication and hard work. Despite the demanding nature of their jobs, they strive to uphold their responsibilities and make a positive impact in the community. 

Paul Jakes Jr., assistant to Davis and faith-based coordinator, holds Davis in high regard for his campaign efforts and leadership skills. 

“If you understand politics, you understand you are in the presence of power,” he said. “Power means that even though he is an elderly individual, you have to have seniority to have power in the house to get legislation passed and make sure that money moves from the federal level to the state level. I’m excited to be a part of this because I know how the government works, and I’m with someone who makes it work.”

Conyears-Ervin Concedes to Incumbent Davis in 7th District

By Ola Stepien • March 20th, 2024

Conyears-Ervin PhotoMelissa Conyears-Ervin gives her concession speech at Mannys Deli. (Photo/Ola Stepien)

After an intense primary race for the highly contested 7th Congressional District seat, the night quickly finished for candidates — with a familiar result.

Around an hour after the polls closed, the Associated Press called the race with 59% of the votes counted. Incumbent Danny Davis won with around 52% of the vote, while his opponent, Cook County Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin was second with 21% of the vote. Davis, 82, has held the seat since 1997, and Conyears-Ervin was thought to be one of his biggest challenges for the seat.

Conyears-Ervin arrived at her party held at Manny’s Deli at around 8:20 p.m. with a standing ovation from her supporters as she congratulated Davis on advancing to November’s general election. She voiced her support for him in her speech.

“My faith doesn’t waver, and I believe God really has put me here for a time such as this,” she said. “So, I will tell you: do I understand the results? I don’t. But I don’t really lean into my own understanding. I’ve learned in this life to trust the process.”

During the race, Conyears-Ervin has been undergoing an investigation based on ethics violations she conducted in 2020 after hiring two employees after they warned her that she was violating ethics as she used city resources to hold a prayer service. The same employees stated she misused the city’s money, employees and resources for her interests.

Conyears-Ervin photo

Conyears-Ervin receives a kiss from her husband, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) as
she highlighted his support throughout her campaign. (Photo/Ola Stepien)

The loss came while the Chicago Board of Elections reported a low voter turnout of 19.69% votes.

Kiley Russell, a supporter of Conyears-Ervin, was more hopeful during the election, “There were issues at the precinct also,” she said. “The precinct only had one computer. They had low volunteers at the precinct. So low volunteers, I think three or four people at the precinct total, and that’s a large area, you know, to cover, so that was one issue.”

Russell also discussed Davis’ win last night,

“As of right now, he doesn’t represent our interests,” she said. “So, it’s time for someone who does represent our interests, which Melissa is that person, and it’s unfortunate that you know, Old Chicago, it is what it is.” 

Several other supporters highlighted the sentiment that Davis’ time was up.However, Conyears-Ervin reiterated that her time is not over yet.

“Because people know now that Melissa Conyears-Ervin is a fighter. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, don’t give up. And so, we are grateful. We’re here, we’ll be here,” she said during her concession speech. “The best is yet to come. And so we thank everyone and the voters [who] supported me. And those that did not, who are just being introduced to me, there is much more great work to come.”

Illinois Primary Live: Social Media Posts From Throughout the Day

By The Red Line Project Staff • March 19th, 2024

With the presidential nominees all but set, attention turns to local races and issues for the Illinois primary election. Progressive candidates and causes are at the center of Democratic primary ballot while Republicans, independents and other parties sort out their races. Tune in here throughout the day and evening for updates from polling locations, campaigning, election night parties and more.

Our team of Red Line Project reporters coverd two key races: Cook County State’s Attorney and the 7th District US House of Representatives. They also covered candidates campaigning at Manny’s Deli, a Chicago tradition. A feature story on Manny’s is to come, including a dust-up with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Read more in our primary preview section.


Cook County State’s Attorney

Eileen O’Neill Burke stopped short of claiming victory in the hotly contested race with Clayyton Harris III Tuesday night, but she held a 12,000 vote lead with 98 percent of precincts reporting. O’Neill Burke, a former apellate court judge, built a $3.5 million war chest funded by Chicago business owners, unions and suburban Republicans. She built a 30,000 vote lead early in the night before Harris III chipped away at it.


7th District US House of Representatives

Incumbent Danny Davis’s dominant win sends him to the general election in November. Davis, 82, has held the office since 1997.


4th District US House of Representatives

Incumbent Chuy Garcia easily won over Lopez. The race was not without controversy as Garcia complained that Lopez brougnt food and envelopes of money to election judges.


‘Bring Chicago Home’ Ballot Question

The controversial real estate transfer tax question, which was kicked off the ballot by one court but reinstated by an apellate court, would have given the City Council the power to raise property taxes on homes worth over $1 million to fund homeless programs. Opponents of the measure said it would create havoc in the real-estate industry. If passed, it would still face City Council approval, more legal battles and approval by Mayor Brandon Johnson, who strongly supports it.


US President

As expected, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump easily won their races.


Voter Turnout


Election Day Updates From Polling Sites and Manny’s Deli

 

 


Data: Chicago Has Unequal Distribution of Speed Cameras

By Emily Trzmielewski • March 18th, 2024

Chicago commuters know the importance of defensive driving, and when to be on the lookout for speed cameras catching them zipping through a school zone or intersection too fast.

. In an attempt to keep children, pedestrians, and other roadway users safe, the city of Chicago started installing and using automated speed cameras in 2013. The cameras are used in Child Safety Zones, which include schools and parks. According to the City of Chicago website, speed camera placement cannot exceed more than 20% of these eligible zones and will be divided equitably throughout the city. This is done by dividing the city into six geographic zones and placing at least 10% of the cameras in each region. Additionally, speed camera locations are based on available crash, speeding, and traffic data.

Although a study conducted at the University of Illinois Chicago indicated that automated speeding cameras improved road safety at 70% of examined sites, there are several concerns and problems Chicago residents and politicians should examine. This includes the unequal distribution of cameras between neighborhoods and streets, especially if these cameras are at locations where road safety is not improving. Additionally, there has been found to be a disproportionate impact of speeding tickets on low-socioeconomic, Black and Latino households.

According to an analysis of data from the City of Chicago Data Portal, there are currently 162 active automated speed cameras located throughout the city. Despite the intention to equitably distribute their placement, speed cameras seem to be unequally distributed when comparing Chicago community areas (neighborhoods).

Based on the data and interactive map, there are several communities with high concentrations of speed cameras and others that have none. For example, Gage Park, West Town, and Belmont Cragin each have nine speed cameras installed within the boundaries of their community areas. Comparatively, Rogers Park, Near South Side, South Lawndale, Kenwood, South Deering, and several other communities have no speed cameras.

Additionally, there are several specific streets that are equipped with an unequally high proportion of automated speeding cameras. For example, Western Avenue has 13 automated speeding cameras, and Pulaski Road is equipped with 11.

Considering all of this, it is important people are cautious and drive safely, especially on streets and in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of speed cameras. Not only is safe driving essential to avoid crashes, but it also allows drivers to avoid fines. Since 2021, anyone driving 6 to 10 mph over the speed limit in Chicago will be ticketed $35, and anyone speeding above 10 mph is subject to a $100 fine.

Chicago Arson Cases Increase in 2023; Could It Rise in 2024?

By Joe Reyna • March 18th, 2024

Chicago had more than 500 recorded arson cases in 2023, nearly 100 more than the previous year, according to data from Chicago Data Portal,  The data raises the question: Would arson cases rise again in 2024.

WGN News reported at the start of 2024, an arsonist struck five buildings across the North side neighborhoods of Lincoln Square and Andersonville. The suspect remains at large.

In 2023, the Chicago Data Portal recorded 512 cases of arson in the city — a 21.9 percent increase from the previous year — and only 58 arrests were made. The most common form of arson involved burning property, followed by attempted arson cases.

The map of arson cases in 2023 revealed that neighborhoods such as Englewood, Humboldt Park, South Shore and Austin had the highest number of incidents. neighborhoods that received the most arson cases in 2023. Meanwhile, neighborhoods such as Hyde Park, Woodlawn, North Park, Near South Side, and Edgewater had the fewest or no recorded arson cases in 2023.

The City of Chicago Data Portal recorded 420 cases of arson in Chicago in 2022. Out of these 420 cases, only 40 arrests were made. In 2022, the neighborhoods most affected by arson-related crimes were Austin, North Lawndale, Chicago Lawn, West Englewood, and Englewood. Conversely, neighborhoods with few or no arson incidents were Hyde Park, Burnside, Ashburn, McKinley Park and Jefferson Park. The question remains:

The threat of arson continues to impact many Chicagoans, and it manifests in various forms. For instance, the Chicago Police Department warned residents of South Chicago about a repeating arsonist suspect who was observed setting fires in alleys across the neighborhood three times in 2023, with another incident occurring recently this month.

The increase in arson cases in 2023 underscores the complexity of this issue. Illinois laws on arson, stipulate that those arrested for arson may face sentences ranging from three years to 30 years, depending on the severity of the crime.

Despite the continued threat of arson, there still are methods to prevent being a victim of it, according to authorities. Report to the police immediately for any tips of the arsonist suspect. Avoid leaving behind anything flammable like gasoline outside, so a potential arsonist could not have access to using to burn anything. As well as always have outdoor lights on to dissuade a potential arsonist to strike any property that belongs to you.

Chicago Crime Rate Increasing; Homicide Rate Dropping

By Emily Trzmielewski • March 12th, 2024

Chicago crime trends have taken divergent paths, according to an analysis of data in the Chicago Police Department 2023 Year End Report.

According to the report, overall crime increased by 16% in 2023 when compared to 2022. This change is alarmingly higher at 55% when comparing levels of total crime in 2023 to 2019.

Additionally, it is important to examine how these numbers look when broken down by types of crimes. Most notable is the increase in motor vehicle theft. From 2022 to 2023, motor vehicle theft increased by 37% from 21,370 to 29,287. According to an investigation conducted by CBS News Chicago, more than half of these thefts were for Hyundais and Kias. One reason these vehicles may be targeted is due to technical defects and vulnerabilities that car thieves can exploit.

Similarly, the number of robberies has continued to rise with a 23% increase from 2022 to 2023. Robbery dropped in 2019 and these lower levels continued throughout the pandemic when the number of people in public decreased substantially due to stay-at-home orders. As stay-at-home orders lifted and people returned to schools, offices and public activities, robbery rates spiked in 2022 and continued to increase in 2023.

Comparatively, both burglary and homicide have decreased in 2023. Burglary decreased by 2% staying at a relatively similar level to 2022. However, the number of homicides has dropped by 13% from 709 murders in 2022 to 617 murders in 2023. Although this is a drop compared to the number of homicides during the pandemic, it is still relatively high when compared to totals before 2016.

To find more information about crime in Chicago visit the Chicago Police Department’s published Crime Statistics and Statistical Reports.

The Strokes Concert a Boon to Collins’ Campaign Finances

By Delaney Disario • March 11th, 2024

The Strokes photo The Strokes performed a benefit concert for Kina Collins at UIC’s Credit Union 1 Arena on Friday.
(Photo: Anna Regnerus/for the Red Line Project)

UIC’s Credit Union 1 Arena hosted a campaign concert on Friday for 7th District Democratic candidate Kina Collins, headlined by The Strokes. The sold-out show was the band’s second concert supporting Collins, previously performing at Metro in Wrigleyville during Collins’ 2022 campaign. The event fell on International Women’s Day, as well as Collins’ 33rd birthday. 

Collins, 33, is running her third campaign to unseat longstanding Representative Danny Davis, 82, who has held his seat for nearly three decades. Collins is running against Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, 48, who believed the fundraising concert infringed on campaign finance laws

The Strokes performed a 16-song set, coming on for an extended encore at the end of the show. Hits including “Last Nite” and “Someday” were played, and the band ended the night with “Reptilia.” Before performing the last song, Collins came on stage again to encourage the audience to go out and vote.  The Illinois primary is March 19, and early voting is now open. 

Collins has been trailing behind her opponents when it comes to fundraising efforts. While Davis and Conyears-Ervin have raised over $450,000 and $600,000, respectively, Collins has stayed under the six-figure mark, with only $72,000 raised. The concert was expected to bring in upwards of $200,000, putting Collins in the rank with her opponents. 

Grammy-award-winning band The Strokes are well-known progressive political activists who publicly supported Bernie Sanders during the 2020 election. Julian Casablancas, the group’s frontman, is often vocal about his beliefs

Casablancas and Collins met at a party in New York a few years back, and the pair bonded over progressive values and seeking political change. 

“I met Julian a couple of years ago, and we started talking about how we want to transform government, and this is what it transformed into,” said Collins when speaking about the concert. 

The show had support from Chicago locals Beach Bunny and NNAMDÏ, and New York-based Uwade, who sang a cover of The Strokes’ “One Way Trigger.” Between each set, friends and supporters of Collins came onstage to promote her, including Ugo Okere, the 25th Ward IPO chairperson, and Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48th Ward). 

“Kina’s going to fight for all of us, especially women and young women everywhere,” said Manaa-Hoppenworth. 

While many supporters of Collins’ campaign were onstage, the crowd had few. The crowd mainly consisted of young fans who were only there for the music. When asked about the event, multiple concertgoers didn’t know who Collins was or what she stood for. Groups of fans seemed to be confused and upset by the amount of political talk between sets, with some fans booing as Collins came on stage to speak.

“We’re just here for the show,” said Cole Schoneberg, who traveled from the Quad Cities to see The Strokes. Schoneberg came with his friend, Dalton Jones, who said they weren’t very politically active. 

“I’m still undecided. I just don’t really feel like I’m fully informed of what’s going on, so I want to find out more information before making a decision,” Jones said. 

Another set of fans came from Wisconsin for the event but knew nothing about Collins’ campaign. Alex Close, a massive fan of The Strokes, was excited for the concert but said he was more of a middle-of-the-road voter. 

Grace and Catherine Cahill were two of the few Collins fans in the crowd, donning campaign merchandise to the event. The twin sisters had high hopes for Collins’ chances of winning the election, referencing the fact that Collins won 45% of the vote in the 2022 midterm elections. 

The pair joined an Oak Park organization, Youth Committee 4 Change, in 2022 during Collins’ last campaign. The organization was so moved by Collins’ message that they created an offshoot group, Youth for Kina. The group worked alongside Collins, phone banking for the candidate and even performing a concert for her at a local venue.

Before the headliners went on stage, the Collins family and campaign members came on stage to celebrate the candidate’s birthday. The crowd of ten thousand sang “Happy Birthday” to Kina and cheered as she prepared the crowd for The Strokes’ performance. 

“I just wanted to say thank y’all, y’all could be doing anything tonight, but you’re here. Are you ready for The Strokes?” asked Collins to cheers from the crowd. “Clearly, Chicago is one of their favorite cities.” 

Collins then took the opportunity to explain why she is running for Congress, giving fans a chance to learn more about her campaign. 

“We don’t have enough women and Black women in Congress,” said Collins as she addressed key issues such as reproductive rights, gun violence and student-loan debt. 

“They’ve got money, and we’ve got people. And when you’ve got the people, you’ve got the power,” she yelled, starting a chant with the fans before leaving the stage. 

Cook County State’s Attorney Race: 2 Top Candidates Emerge

By Manny Meraz • March 1st, 2024

Eileen O'Neill Burke photo

Eileen O’Neill Burke is one of two front-runners for the Cook County State’s Attorney race. (Campaign photo)

Kim Foxx has been the Cook County State’s Attorney since 2016, and her tenure has been marked by controversy surrounding criminal reforms and the bail system. And in 2023, she decided to not run for reelection.

As Foxx’s time in office comes to a close, the March 19 primary features a showdown between Clayton Harris III, a former prosecutor and current University of Chicago lecturer, and Eileen O’Neill Burke, a former prosecutor and defense attorney with over 30 years of experience. Former Ald. Robert W. Fioretti, a civil rights lawyer, is the sole Republican nominee, and Andrew Charles Kopinski is the Libertarian candidate.

O’Neill Burke, in addition to her extensive experience as a defense attorney, also brings a decade of service as an assistant state’s attorney. She believes that her comprehensive background is precisely what Cook County requires during uncertain times. If elected as state’s attorney, O’Neill Burke aims to tackle crime using a more traditional approach, which she feels will address the challenges many attribute to Foxx’s tenure. While many like O’Neill Burke’s approach, some say she attracts more conservative voters in a liberal county.


Candidate bios: State’s attorney | 7th District US House


O’Neill Burke has raised close to $1.9 million  in her run for State’s Attorney (including an additional $800,000 shortly after this article was published), with many of her biggest donors coming from small Chicago companies like Core Spaces, and the majority of donors being law firms like Cooney and Conway and more all donating over $13,000 individually. 

Clayton Harris III photo

Harris III (photo, right) also boasts significant experience as an assistant state attorney, similar to his opponent, O’Neill Burke. He shares a parallel goal with his challenger in aiming to decrease crime in the city. However, Harris III pledges to uphold certain policies implemented by Foxx, such as retaining the classification of retail theft as a non-felony crime if the value is under $1,000. While some view him as a strong candidate for the role, others express concerns that his approach may closely resemble the work of Foxx.

Harris lll has had over $600,000 donated to his campaign with his biggest donors coming from Unions all around Cook County. His biggest supporters come from SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana PAC, SEIU Illinois Council PAC, and Local 705 Teamsters Political Action Committee B all contributing over $20,000 individually. 

Fioretti is the Republican nominee who is running unopposed for Cook County State’s Attorney, He previously served as alderman in the second ward of Chicago. He has had unsuccessful attempts at higher offices like State’s Attorney and Mayor for Chicago, but Fioretti also has a successful career as a lawyer and a notable record of advocating for people of color. If elected, his strategy includes reversing Foxx’s policies and prioritizing the crackdown on theft and illegal gun possession.

Fioretti has only raised $51,000 being the lowest amount raised among the other candidates and his biggest donors have been from other law firms, including his own and also the likes of Disparti Law Group and Amirante Law Offices all contributing over $10,000. 


Google Trends


Google Trends for the three candidates

Spring is kicking off with the Cook County State’s Attorney race on March 19, featuring Democrates Clayton Harris lll, Eileen O’Neill Burke and Republican Bob Fioretti, who is running unopposed.

Political pundits view the race as a toss-up between Harris lll and O’Neil Burke for the Democratic nomination. 

According to an analysis of Google search data, Harris III has seen the biggest surge in searches over the past 30 days.