Chicago Community Catalyst Fund Still Waiting to Make First Investments

By Brian Baker
Medill Reports

More than a year after it was first announced, the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund has not yet hired investment managers who will be charged with finding investment opportunities–mainly loans to existing small businesses–in underserved Chicago neighborhoods.

Even then the rollout will be slow. The fund will deploy its first capital to investment managers over the next six months and funding should reach Chicago businesses in low-income neighborhoods by the end of the year, according to City Treasurer Kurt Summers.

The city expects to allocate $50 million to the fund this year and $25 million in each of the following two years. The money will be managed by professional investors who will have discretion over where investments are made.

“I don’t want a single politician to be responsible for these investment decisions,” Summers said Wednesday.

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Organizers prepare, but won’t predict turnout for Women’s March Chicago

By Cade Shultice

After last year’s unprecedented turnout, organizers for Women’s March Chicago will not put an estimate on the number of attendees expected at this year’s march on Saturday. The 2017 march, held a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, exceeded expectations when an estimated 250,000 people showed up, compared to the expected 50,000.

Organizers say that based on last year’s experience, there is no good way to predict attendance with accuracy. Despite uncertainty regarding crowd size, Women’s March Chicago is still optimistic for  healthy attendance based on support through social media.

Photo at top: Fawzia Mirza, women’s rights activist and supporter of Women’s March Chicago, speaks at the organization’s press conference that was held Tuesday at City Hall. (Cade Shultice/MEDILL)

Oak Park Democrats host Women’s March prep party

By Hannah Wiley

The Democratic Party of Oak Park hosted a sign-making party on Wednesday in preparation for Women’s March Chicago.

Photo at top: Diana Lauber, Myrna Lovejoy, Doreen Sterba-Dezur and Peggy McGrath wear hats knitted by Sterba-Dezur (Hannah Wiley/MEDILL)

Jobless claims hit 45-year low

By Juliette Rocheleau
Medill Reports

The U.S. initial jobless claims for the week ended January 13 plunged to 220,000, its lowest number in almost 45 years, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday, pointing to a robust labor market.

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Experts say blockchain technology will be useful in many industries

By Alexa Adler
Medill Reports

As bitcoin prices fluctuate, indicating uncertainty about the ultimate viability of cryptocurrency, other use of its underlying blockchain technology is increasing and may represent the future of information transfer technology in many industries, including banking, and to some extent, healthcare.

In downtown Chicago, cryptocurrency experts gathered Wednesday evening to discuss future uses of blockchain in multiple industries before an audience of many developers at a Future of Blockchain meetup.

“I think everybody views bitcoin as the first proof of concept of blockchain and everybody is waiting to sort of see what’s next, what happens, and how does it evolve,” said Dr. Tejas Shastry, vice president of data science at GreenKey Technologies.

In blockchain transactions, data is transmitted and stored in multiple nodes distributed throughout the cloud. While it has potential applicability in many industries, some industries might be better suited for it than others, the experts said, notably industries that handle transactions and data fully digitally.

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The era of big seaweed is upon us

 

Marine researcher Loretta Roberson believes rethinking how we grow seaweed has the potential to clean up oceans, replace fossil fuels and protect coastlines from violent weather. She’s headed to Puerto Rico early this year to put her theories to the test.

 

By Rebecca Fanning
Medill Reports

On the southern coast of Puerto Rico, there’s a place where abandoned sugar plantations dot the shoreline, residents of illegal homes dump waste directly into the ocean and blooms of green algae rise to the surface, a visual reminder of the water pollution that’s present here. Known to many as one of the island’s largest estuaries, Jobos Bay is framed by two major power plants and several economically depressed towns. It’s also the site of the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a federally protected area recognized for its seagrass beds, coral reefs and mangroves.

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The River Whisperer

 

The co-director of the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise dishes on the waterway’s history, its recent transformation and the ‘craziest thing’ he’s ever seen while hosting a tour.

 

By Emily Clemons
Medill Reports

Chicago offers plenty of activities for visiting tourists and adventurous locals alike – ghost tours, gangster history jaunts and more dazzle spectators while perpetuating the urban legends of the Windy City.

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One man working to separate myth from reality is Tom Carmichael, co-director of the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady. Since joining the foundation in 2007 and becoming a tour director in 2009, Carmichael has been witness to the Chicago River’s transformation and ever-developing history, and has introduced thousands of tourists to the buildings along the river’s banks.

Carmichael spoke with Medill Reports about his 10 years volunteering with the Foundation, and how not even a body in the river will get in the way of a quality cruise.
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The Cretaceous Shuffle

After 17 years front-and-center, the Field Museum’s toothy crown jewel Sue is moving upstairs to make way for an even larger predator.

By Adam Cohen
Medill Reports

Almost 67 million years after her death, the world’s most famous dinosaur named Sue is moving once again. In February, the Field Museum’s iconic Tyrannosaurus rex will be taken down from her prominent perch in Stanley Field Hall and moved to a new exhibit on the institution’s second floor. In Sue’s place will go an arguably even more awe-inspiring specimen – a cast of Patagotitan mayorum.

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Fighting the war against phosphorous

Almost a year after the settlement between environmental groups and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, progress is inching forward in reducing dangerous levels of phosphorous in the Chicago River.

By Morgan Levey
Medill Reports

It’s common knowledge amongst environmentalists that phosphorus is a harmful nutrient in bodies of water, making them uninhabitable for marine life by spurring algae growth and choking oxygen levels. It’s particularly destructive in waterways that flow out of cities, where highly polluted effluent spreads downstream, contaminating tributaries and entering larger bodies of water.

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Chicago sits nearly 800 miles away from the Gulf of Mexico, yet phosphorus from the Chicago River has a damaging reach and historically has been the single largest contributor to what scientists call the “dead zone,” an area in the Gulf roughly the size of New Jersey where fish can’t survive. And closer to home, phosphorous has been detrimental to the water quality of the lower Des Plaines and Illinois rivers.

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Last dance in the Big Easy

The new ‘funkumentary,’ Do U Want It?, is director Josh Freund’s cinematic love letter to the band Papa Grows Funk and the New Orleans music scene.

By Morgan Levey
Medill Reports

For 90 minutes on a winter evening a vortex opened in Chicago’s Davis Theater and the crowd was transported down south, to the land of crawfish boils and funk music. Do U Want It?, a feature-length documentary about the former New Orleans-based band Papa Grows Funk, made its Chicago debut as part of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival. Billed as a “funkumentary,” the film examines the joy of making music in New Orleans, but the hardship of making it big anywhere else.

Medill Reports sat down with Josh Freund, one of the film’s co-directors and a Medill alum (BSJ 2012), after the movie’s screening.

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