Bleader | Chicago Reader

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Thousands protest Trump in the Families Belong Together March [PHOTOS]

Posted By , and on 06.30.18 at 02:28 PM

  • Aimee Levitt

There were more than 700 Families Belong Together rallies across America today, including one in downtown Chicago. The rallies were ostensibly organized to protest the new government policy of declaring immigrant children "unaccompanied minors" and separating them from their parents at the border, but they also condemned the Trump administration's refusal to grant asylum to refugees from domestic and gang violence and the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the travel ban on residents of seven countries, five of which are majority Muslim.

At Daley Plaza - JAMIE LUDWIG
  • Jamie Ludwig
  • At Daley Plaza

An estimated 60,000 people gathered in and around Daley Plaza at 11 AM this morning, including a marching band, voter registrars, Captain America, and a family who might have been Aztec warriors. The heat index was above 100 degrees, but thousands stayed through the hour-long rally and the march afterward. (The column of marchers was so long that as some were returning to the plaza at the end of the 15-block route, others were still just leaving.) There was a handful of speakers, though the crowd was so vast that their voices didn't carry very far. One young woman spoke movingly about how her father may have been deported. A physician talked about immigrating to the U.S. from India when she was two years old in order to seek medical care. She described the "toxic trauma" she sees now in Chicago among children who live in constant fear of their families being split up. Two more young undocumented Chicagoans informed the crowd that they are part of the community here and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should be abolished. A final speaker said that abolishing ICE wouldn't be going far enough: the government needed to repeal the 2003 immigration bill that led to the establishment of ICE in the first place.

  • Aimee Levitt

At noon, the march stepped off from Daley Plaza, heading south on Clark to the federal building at 101 W. Congress, where the Chicago office of ICE is located. It stopped briefly so the band could play a rendition of "The Imperial March" from Star Wars before looping back north on Dearborn. A few marchers later attempted to occupy the building, but they were stopped and kettled by police, according to reports on Twitter.

Occupying the Picasso - JAMIE LUDWIG
  • Jamie Ludwig
  • Occupying the Picasso

  • Aimee Levitt

Inmates watched the crowd from the observation deck of the Metropolitan Correctional Center. - AIMEE LEVITT
  • Aimee Levitt
  • Inmates watched the crowd from the observation deck of the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

  • Aimee Levitt

  • Aimee Levitt

  • Philip Montoro

A slogan that never gets old - PHILIP MONTORO
  • Philip Montoro
  • A slogan that never gets old
Blessings from an Aztec warrior - PHILIP MONTORO
  • Philip Montoro
  • Blessings from an Aztec warrior
A water mister from the fire department cooled the marchers - PHILIP MONTORO
  • Philip Montoro
  • A water mister from the fire department cooled the marchers
The signs

  • Jamie Ludwig
  • Jamie Ludwig

  • Jamie Ludwig

  • Aimee Levitt

  • Jamie Ludwig

  • Jamie Ludwig

  • Aimee Levitt

  • Aimee Levitt

  • Philip Montoro

  • Philip Montoro

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Pride double standard? Bars upset after police forced some to close early after parade

Posted By on 06.29.18 at 03:53 PM

Police watch over a Pride celebration in Lakeview. - SUN-TIMES
  • Sun-Times
  • Police watch over a Pride celebration in Lakeview.

If you were celebrating Pride last Sunday night, you may have been forced to cancel your plans and head home early. For the past 48 years, queer people and their allies have commemorated the 1969 Stonewall riots every June with marches, parades, and bar crawls through gay neighborhoods. The riots themselves were a reaction of transgender and gay people to the constant police raids on their bars and are considered the landmark event that sparked the LGBTQ radical liberation movement and its subsequent parades. But this year, police successfully shut down postparade celebrations at many bars beginning around 10:30 PM, according to several witnesses and bar employees.

The police targeted a specific section of Boystown: Halsted between Addison and Belmont between Halsted and Sheffield, ending at the gay dance club Berlin. According to interviews with ten managers and bartenders, some of these bars agreed with the early shutdowns and even closed their own doors before the police asked. Other bar owners, especially those of bars that close at 4 AM, said the shutdown resulted in hours of profits lost.

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Sy Hersh on his rough-and-tumble Chicago past: ‘At some point I realized I was in a tyranny’

Posted By on 06.29.18 at 06:00 AM

Seymour Hersh was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1970. - BOB DAUGHERTY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Bob Daugherty/Associated Press
  • Seymour Hersh was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1970.

If Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour "Sy" Hersh is the closest thing that print journalism has to a superhero, then his origin story can be found in the first few pages of his new memoir, the aptly titled Reporter.

In 1959—a full decade before he broke the story of the cover-up of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam—the 22-year-old south-side native was a shoe-leather journalist pounding the Chicago pavement for the famed City News Bureau.

Hersh describes one night on the job when he sped to the scene of a fire not far from his father's cleaning store on the southwest side. There he discovered that an entire family, five people in all, lay dead among the burning embers of the shabby wood-frame house—possibly due to a murder-suicide. What a story, Hersh thought. But before he could file it, an editor butted in to ask if the victims were "of the Negro persuasion." When Hersh replied that the deceased family was black, his boss said to "cheap it out," which meant relegating the story to a single line in the next day's newspaper: "Five Negroes Died in a Fire on the Southwest Side."

"That was shocking to me," Hersh writes.

During another late shift, he overheard two cops discussing a robbery suspect who'd just been shot and killed, reportedly while trying to avoid arrest. One police officer, Hersh recalls, said something like, "So the guy tried to run on you?" The second cop replied, "Naw, I told the [N-word] to beat it and then I plugged him." Hersh later obtained a coroner's report and found that the suspect had been shot in the back, but when he wanted to write up what looked like a murder committed by Chicago police, his editor again told him no, there was no story. Hersh didn't push the issue any further, and the matter died there. It left him feeling "full of despair at my weakness and the weakness of a profession that dealt so easily with compromise and self-censorship," he writes.

Hersh learned a hard lesson by the end of his seven-month stint in his first journalism job: black lives on the south side didn't seem to matter as much as white lives on the north side. More broadly, he learned that those in power regularly prey on the powerless, and that the profession he was "smitten" with—journalism—often lets them get away with it.

"At some point I realized that I was in a tyranny," Hersh says.

Hersh, now 81, has spent much of the last six decades of his career as America's preeminent investigative journalist, doggedly exposing abuses of all kinds of power. He's shined a much-needed light on the excesses of the U.S. military (from My Lai to the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib in 2003); the deep state and intelligence community (such as the CIA's illegal surveillance of citizens); high-ranking government officials (he was especially a thorn in the side of Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Dick Cheney); and massive corporations (e.g., his 2001 New Yorker story on Mobil Oil's role in the corrupt world of oil acquisitions).

It hasn't always been easy. Hersh's combative style and take-it-or-leave-it philosophy with editors and others have meant a lot of burned bridges, and they're why he's jumped around to so many publications over his long career. In a review of Reporter, the New York Times (one of his former employers) labels Hersh a "lone wolf" for his tendency to hunt alone for the kind of difficult stories that helped take down presidents and change the public's attitudes toward wars—no matter which political party is in charge.

In an interview, Hersh expanded on the metaphor, explaining that he's a hunter and most people in the journalism world—or otherwise—are meat eaters. "The meat eaters are the guys who receive what the hunters get, but they don't quite understand the hunters. They don't really like them," he says. "I'm always going to have trouble as a meat eater. I'm always going to be the guy throwing dead red full of life on an editor's desk."

The Reader spoke with Hersh about his early life and career in Chicago and how it shaped him, the sad state of modern media, and, yes, Trump.

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Serpentwithfeet and more of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Posted By on 06.29.18 at 06:00 AM

Serpentwithfeet - COURTESY OF ARTIST
  • courtesy of artist
  • Serpentwithfeet

There are plenty of shows, films, and concerts happening this weekend. Here's some of what we recommend.

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Should Chicago cops have to pay for their own misconduct insurance?

Posted By on 06.29.18 at 06:00 AM

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (right) with his attorney Dan Herbert. The family of Laquan McDonald, a teen Van Dyke killed in 2014, received a $5 million settlement from the city. - ANTONIO PEREZ/ CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune
  • Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (right) with his attorney Dan Herbert. The family of Laquan McDonald, a teen Van Dyke killed in 2014, received a $5 million settlement from the city.

As of this month, Chicago is out another $22 million in police misconduct payouts. First, the city settled one lawsuit—brought by the family of Bettie Jones, an innocent bystander shot by police officer Robert Rialmo, who also killed Quintonio LeGrier in December 2015—for $16 million. A few days later, the City Council authorized a $6 million payment for two other police misconduct settlements.  A report about the cost of police misconduct settlements and judgments recently published by the Action Center on Race & the Economy, a group that researches racial injustice in the financial industry, estimates that Chicago has paid out more than $800 million for police misconduct lawsuits since 2004. The price tag could climb to more than $1 billion dollars when the cost of using bonds (aka borrowed money) to make these payments is factored in.

Currently it's taxpayers who are on the hook for all this. But do they have to be?

ACRE says no. Its report recommends making police officers take out liability insurance to cover them for misconduct lawsuits. "Officers whose behavior results in multiple misconduct claims will see their insurance premiums rise, creating a strong financial incentive for them to change their behavior," the report argues. Eventually, the insurance company would no longer want to cover officers who don't change their ways, and they'll thus become "unemployable." This would go a long way to to help change the culture of the whole department, ACRE argues. "Doctors have to take out malpractice insurance; so should police officers," the group says.

It's an idea that's gotten increased attention in the last few years—on both ends of the political spectrum. In 2016 community organizers in Minneapolis pushed for the city to make its officers take out liability insurance policies—though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. As the Atlantic reported last year, the rollback of DOJ oversight of local law enforcement means insurance companies may be the only institutions left with any leverage over police departments. Earlier this year a Cato Institute analyst opined that liability insurance for cops would save so much money its base premiums could even be subsidized by taxpayers: "We can take that pot of taxpayer money currently being used to pay damage awards for misbehaving cops . . . and use it to give them an insurance allowance," Clark Neily wrote in the New York Post. "When very-high-risk officers see premiums go up, they would have to pay the difference out of their own pockets."

Here's why this discussion is currently moot in Chicago: Since 1945, the state of Illinois has required the city to indemnify police officers. This means that the city, not the officer, has to pay out settlements and judgments when cops are sued in their official capacity. Though the law says that cops are not supposed to be indemnified "where the injury results from the willful misconduct of the police officer," in practice, no matter how egregious the situation, the city has always covered misconduct settlements and judgments.

According to a 2014 study of police indemnification around the country, this is reflective of national trends. Currently, the city is appealing a jury decision to award $44.7 million to Michael LaPorta, arguing that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the actions of CPD officer Patrick Kelly, who shot and nearly killed LaPorta, his friend, after a night of drinking while off duty in 2010. (Kelly has a long history of misconduct on duty as well, including shooting a man in the back and tasing a pregnant woman in the stomach. The city had already paid out more than a $1 million for his actions prior to the LaPorta verdict.)

Based on the high cost of police settlements, the city could have ample interest in lobbying Springfield for a change in the indemnification law. But even if that happened, there's the matter of the police union contract. It has an indemnification clause requiring the city to pay out judgments or settlements against officers.

And the city has shown no more willingness to fight the FOP on this clause than to fight for a change in state law. A 2016 City Council proposal to require liability insurance for CPD officers fizzled out, too. Even though many officers make close to six-figure salaries (as well as overtime), several experts told the Reader that premiums for liability insurance would likely be so onerous that they would discourage people from joining the force. Medical malpractice insurance premiums for doctors at highest risk of being sued—like surgeons and OB/GYNs—can be more than $100,000 per year.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Historic home destroyed in fire; ex-owner furious at county for failing to secure it

Posted By on 06.28.18 at 06:09 PM

A historic home in unincorporated Riverside burned to the ground Thursday morning. - KEN CIRCO
  • Ken Circo
  • A historic home in unincorporated Riverside burned to the ground Thursday morning.

A historic 125-year-old home in Riverside Lawn, described by former owner Judy Koessel as "waiting to be saved," burned down early Thursday morning.

At 1:48 AM, firefighters responded to the call and were warned en route that the structure was "totally involved," said Lyons fire chief Gordon Nord. The cause of the fire was still under investigation, he said. The house wasn't connected to a natural gas line, and neighbors and Koessel said it was frequented by squatters who had done a bunch of damage to the house even before the fire, in part because the county did a poor job of boarding it up.

  • Ken Circo

The stone home was designed and built in 1893 by Alexander Watson, who went on to live in it himself. (Watson also built the first pedestrian bridge to cross the river in the historic western suburb.)

The house had been preserved to keep the original woodwork and stained-glass windows. Koessel says the stone Victorian home was "very significant" and had been in spectacular condition.

But the house was one of nearly two dozen located in a floodplain, and in 2016 the Cook County Land Bank Authority slated it for demolition. The land bank was required to conduct an architectural survey before destroying the homes, and Koessel's home, at 3744 Stanley Ave., was determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. At one point a county official even told Koessel in an e-mail that the home could be used as a "Forest Preserve house or office." The demolition was put on hold.

Rob Rose, executive director of the Cook County Land Bank, said Thursday evening that the county had been awaiting word on what to do about the house from the Illinois State Preservation Agency.

The home before the fire - KEN CIRCO
  • Ken Circo
  • The home before the fire

"When we found out that this house was eligible, we sent the paperwork to the state agency," Rose said. "We were in a holding pattern waiting for the next step."

He added: "When we hear one of our buildings burned down, we're not happy about it or anything.

The state agency had earlier asked about the feasibility of moving the home, but Rose said it was too expensive.

"We did a cost-benefit analysis of relocation and determined it wasn't feasible with the cost of land and moving," he said.

Officials with the Illinois State Preservation Agency couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

The house also featured a mural by William de Leftwich Dodge, an American artist best-known for his mural in the Library of Congress. Koessel discovered this only when a previous owner pointed out the signature in the corner of the mural in the house.

"I put his name into the computer and a bunch of stuff came up," said Koessel. "[I] saw a black-and-white photo, and it had the same figures in a painting that my mural had in it. And it said it was at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago 1893."

After 15 years of research, Koessel determined her mural was the model for Dodge's larger mural for the Administration Building at the fair. The mural was removed from the house in July 2016 and cleaned and repaired. The Newberry Library plans to feature it at an exhibit in the fall, she said.

(Story continues below.)

The mural before it was removed and restored - JUDY KOESSEL
  • Judy Koessel
  • The mural before it was removed and restored
There was leaded glass and woodwork throughout the house. - JUDY KOESSEL
  • Judy Koessel
  • There was leaded glass and woodwork throughout the house.

But the rest of the home hasn't fared as well. After the county took it over when Koessel left in October 2016, the house was repeatedly broken into and vandalized, Koessel and neighbors said.

"The house was in pretty good shape after we left," Koessel said. "But then, in the early spring, problems started. The biggest problem is that the county did come through and board up the windows and the doors. But they didn't do the basement windows—which anybody who knows how to protect your house, the basement is the most likely place where people will break in."

Koessel said she became aware of the break-in when she saw paint splattered across the garage, the same color she'd used to repair chipped and cracked walls. She knew that vandals had made their way through the entire house when she saw scattered copies of Connoisseur magazine taken from her husband's drawing studio in the attic laying outside.

"I called the county, and the next day they came and boarded up the basement windows," continued Koessel. "I thought maybe there wouldn't be any more damage. But evidently through that summer and fall, somebody took their time and pried off one of the basement windows."

Because the house wasn't receiving electricity, the pumps Koessel used to keep it from flooding weren't running.

"That basement was filled with water at least seven or eight times," said Koessel. "What a shame, what a shame, what a shame.”

Rose said the county hadn't secured the basement windows because "they didn't think someone would fit." Following the initial break-in he says he instituted biweekly inspections designed to prevent vandalism and squatting. He said those found no evidence of anyone being inside the home in the weeks leading up to the fire.

Neighbors disputed that, however. In interviews, they told the Reader there were signs that someone had been inside in recent days.

And Koessel says her former neighbors told her the same thing.

"They'd say, 'Judy, it gets rocking and rolling in that house so crazy sometimes that we're, like, afraid to live [here] anymore,' so I wanted it torn down so that these people, my neighbors, could feel safe again," she said.

Because of all the damage to the home after she left, Koessel said she wasn't sad to see her former "fairy-tale" home burn.

"Honestly, I'm happy. I'm glad," she said Thursday. "It was so hard to see the house in decline."

Vandals broke into the home after the Koessels moved out. - JUDY KOESSEL
  • Judy Koessel
  • Vandals broke into the home after the Koessels moved out.

  • Judy Koessel

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Locking up Cubs legend Yosh Kawano also got Supreme Court OK

Posted By on 06.27.18 at 11:56 PM

Japanese-American internment camps were also upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Japanese-American internment camps were also upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In one of those quirky fates of timing, Yosh Kawano died the day before the U.S. Supreme Court approved President Trump's travel ban on people from several Muslim countries.

As any longtime Cubs fan can tell you, Kawano, 97, was the ageless clubhouse attendant made famous over the years by Jack Brickhouse, Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau, Harry Caray, and other legendary TV and radio broadcasters.

How many times did we hear Brickhouse allude to Kawano, followed by a cutaway to the man in his instantly recognizable white floppy hat, perched on the dugout bench?

He ran the clubhouse for more than 60 years, welcoming the likes of everyone from Ernie Banks to Ryne Sandberg to Kerry Wood.

What Brickhouse and the other announcers didn't mention was that Kawano—born in Seattle and raised in Los Angeles—was unceremoniously, unfairly, and most unconstitutionally plucked from his home and interned in a concentration camp during World War II. It was the same for thousands of other Japanese-Americans.

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Conjuring a cuddly spirit on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 06.27.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Jay Ryan
SHOWS: Mountain Goats at the Old Town School of Folk Music on 5/27 through 5/29

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Street honoring fascist Balbo to remain after aldermen cave

Posted By on 06.26.18 at 09:14 PM

Italo Balbo visited Chicago in 1933. - SUN-TIMES FILE PHOTO
  • Sun-Times file photo
  • Italo Balbo visited Chicago in 1933.

Last August, in the wake of the racist violence in Charlottesville, downtown aldermen Sophia King (Second) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) called for renaming Balbo Drive. The street honors Italo Balbo, a leader of the Blackshirts, the paramilitary wing of Italy's National Fascist Party, who later became Mussolini's air commander and governor of colonized Libya. The aldermen blasted Balbo as a brutal racist.

"We have inherited a legacy that honors and memorializes an individual who embraced white supremacy and who was part of the fascist onslaught which sought to take over the world," said Alderman King in a statement at the time. "Balbo is a symbol of racial and ethnic supremacy, and in this day and age we need positive symbols. It's high time we removed these symbols of oppression and anti-democracy from our city."

Last month King and Reilly introduced an ordinance that would have renamed the drive after Ida B. Wells, a former slave, journalist, anti-lynching activist, and woman's suffrage advocate.

But apparently the aldermen no longer feel that honoring a fascist is a problem. In the face of continuing opposition from local Balbo fans, the politicians have abandoned their efforts to rename the street that honors him, according to a report in the Sun-Times. The aldermen are instead now pushing for Congress Drive to be named after Wells. The full City Council is expected to approve the new proposal at Wednesday's meeting, the paper reported.

King and Reilly's offices didn't immediately respond to my interview requests this afternoon, but King told the Sun-Times that a major concern was the expense and hassle posed to business owners and residents who would have to change their addresses. However, there appear to be only three properties on Balbo whose addresses would have been affected by the name: DePaul's Merle Reskin Theatre at 64-66 E. Balbo, the university’s new 30 East upscale student apartments, and the Carter House Apartments at 1 E. Balbo, the building that houses the South Loop Club. Reilly previously said DePaul was in favor of the Balbo name change.

  • Sun-Times file photo
  • Ida B. Wells

I suspect the real reason King and Reilly gave up on removing the tribute to the fascist was stiff opposition to the plan from a vocal minority of Balbo fans led by Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans president emeritus Dominic DiFrisco. The street was named in Balbo's honor shortly after he led a squadron of seaplanes to Chicago's 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair, since many local Italian-Americans viewed him as a hero at the time. Recently Balbo boosters like DiFrisco have noted that the aviator opposed Mussolini's anti-Semitic laws and alliance with Hitler.

DiFrisco told me Tuesday that the aldermen's decision is a huge win for the city. "Ida B. Wells is getting her long-overdue recognition, and we are retaining a cherished part of Italian-American culture," he said.

But does a Blackshirt leader who organized the killings of unarmed civilians in the 1920s, paving the way for Mussolini's rise to power, deserve to be honored with a street name? "The founding fathers of the United States killed innocent people too," DiFrisco replied. "Atrocities are committed in all wars. . . . I'm sure people will continue to attack Balbo's legacy in Chicago, and we will continue to defend it."

Edward Muir, a professor of Italian history at Northwestern University, is one of those people—he said it's "a grave shame" that Balbo's street name will remain and labeled DiFrisco "a typical fascist apologist."

"Balbo was a fascist thug and a mass murderer as governor of Libya," Muir added. "We have a street named after him because he came here in 1933 as part of the fascist propaganda effort." The professor argued that Balbo was complicit in ethnic-cleansing efforts in North Africa, including concentration camps established for Berber rebels where thousands of people starved to death.

Erku Yimer, the former director of the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago and a scholar of Ethiopian history, agreed that it's disgraceful that Chicago continues to honor Balbo. "He organized the march to Rome that put Mussolini in power—even in Italy people have completely renounced him," he noted. As such, he argues, Balbo was indirectly responsible for the genocidal tactics that the fascists employed during their invasion of Ethiopia, including the use of carpet-bombing and poison gas against civilians. The latter temporarily blinded Yimer's father, who fought against the Italians in the Ethiopian peasant army.

"Whenever I drive on Lake Shore Drive and see the signs for Balbo Drive, I think of the Ethiopians who were persecuted by the fascists," Yimer said. "Absolutely the name should be changed."

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Lost battle on affordable housing means war on aldermanic prerogative will continue

Posted By on 06.26.18 at 05:49 PM

Forty-first Ward alderman Anthony Napolitano - BRIAN JACKSON/SUN TIMES
  • Brian Jackson/Sun Times
  • Forty-first Ward alderman Anthony Napolitano

Silence settled on City Council chambers Tuesday afternoon as zoning committee members voted narrowly to defeat an embattled proposal to build a new apartment building with 30 units of affordable housing near O’Hare airport. In a vote of seven to five, the committee sided with 41st Ward alderman Anthony Napolitano, who's been trying to derail the project for the last year. Though it's a loss for affordable housing advocates and the developer, the decision leaves opens the possibility of a federal court banning Chicago's age-old practice of "aldermanic prerogative."

As the Reader reported in January, Napolitano and his ward-level zoning advisory committee initially supported the 300-unit apartment building proposed by luxury developer GlenStar. But in the spring of 2017 the alderman reversed his position after tensions flared around a proposed affordable-housing building in nearby Jefferson Park. By then GlenStar had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing its proposal and conducting feasibility studies. The city's Plan Commission approved GlenStar's proposal last summer, with one member—44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney—saying there should be more on-site affordable housing than initially proposed. GlenStar complied, and, in full accordance with the city's Affordable Requirements Ordinance, planned to reserve 10 percent of the building—30 units—as affordable.

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