All posts by thomasvogel

Child killer charged: ‘He’s gone forever. He was just a 9-year-old boy.’

By Thomas Vogel

The man charged Monday for the grisly killing of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee in November made incriminating statements while in police custody, boasting about the murder and describing plans to write a rap song about it, city and county officials revealed Tuesday.

During a press conference at Chicago police headquarters, however, authorities declined to reveal any more details about statements made by Dwright Boone-Doty, a 22-year-old Grand Crossing man already in custody on an unrelated weapons charge.

“This case stands out front and center,” said Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante. “We hope this development will bring closure.”

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As state’s finances sink, anti-tax group lets barbs, blame fly

By Thomas Vogel

Taxpayers United of America President Jim Tobin called Wednesday for Illinois taxpayers to oust Speaker of the House Michael Madigan in the upcoming March primary.

As lawmakers continue to grapple with the state’s pension system, which currently has more than $100 million in underfunded obligations, the TUA released its annual analysis of the Illinois’ Teachers’ Retirement System, tabulating the top 200 pension for former state teachers.

“He’s the biggest problem we have in this state,” Tobin said, referring to Madigan. “He’s the biggest single enemy of Illinois taxpayers.”

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If SCOTUS calls, shortlist veteran Judge Wood will answer

By Thomas Vogel

As a new faculty member at the University of Chicago Law School in 1981, Diane Wood had two children, both under age 2.

Balancing motherly duties with workplace commitments, Wood sometimes tapped one of her colleagues, Antonin Scalia, for help. As the father of nine, he had a steady stream of clutch babysitters, including his son Eugene, now a 52-year-old partner at a Washington, D.C., law firm.

“When my child-care arrangements fell apart, I would bring them to the law school and Gene would keep an eye on them and play with them and take them out and throw a ball around the backyard,” Wood said. “I knew the family quite well.”

Thirty five years later, Wood is rumored to be a possible candidate to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat vacated by Scalia, who died in February at a Texas hunting lodge.

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Calling funding cuts wrong approach, panel says higher ed should be a right

By Thomas Vogel

Mariane Magbanua fought back tears as she described the positive effect of higher education on her life. The daughter of immigrant parents, Magbanua is a first-generation college student, working toward a bachelor’s degree in public policy at DePaul University.

“I grew up thinking I only had one path,” Magabanua said. “Higher education is supposed to be the great equalizer.”

Magabanua’s remarks came as dozens of students and faculty gathered Tuesday at DePaul for a roundtable discussion on the status of higher education in Illinois, where funding for public universities is in limbo because the state is in its eight month without a budget.

As college affordability and universal access dominated the discussion, a few panelists, including State. Rep Will Guzzardi (38th) called for the public to embrace the idea that a college education is a fundamental American right, similar to public K-12 education.

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Urban League panel works out community trust issues

By Thomas Vogel
Video by Hannah Gebresilassie

Police tactics, mental-health awareness and youth engagement were top concerns for a panel of community leaders, government officials and media personalities assembled Tuesday for a community forum at the South Side headquarters of the Urban League of Chicago.

Representatives from Chicago Police Department, community leaders and citizens discussed issues around building trust within the Chicago community, coordinated by Chicago Urban League and Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL REPORTS)

The event, co-sponsored by the Campaign for Political Reform, comes at a low point in the relationship between city government and residents. Persistent crime, lack of jobs and decreased government services coupled with several recent high-profile police shootings, including the killing of teens Laquan McDonald, Quintonio LeGrier and Cedrick Chatman have contributed to the rocky relationship. The panelists, who each brought a different professional perspective, helped workshop solutions but acknowledged the complexity of the problem.

“It’s devastating to see the lack of trust,” said Alexa James, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, a mental health organization. “We have years and year of work to be done. This is a significant culture change.”

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Proposed law aims to take sting out of police spy-tech

By Thomas Vogel

State lawmakers are working to prevent local law enforcement agencies conducting investigations from violating the privacy of Chicagoans. Any resident using a phone to place a call, send a text message or browse the web may be at risk.

“Stingrays,” refer to a broad category of so-called cell site simulator devices, which, when activated, collect electronic communication from phones by imitating an actual cellular tower. Government agencies throughout the United States, including the Chicago Police Department, use the devices.

“We have to put in basic guardrails,” State Senator Daniel Biss (9th) said. “If you let the horse out of the barn, it gets difficult to control very quickly.”

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Feeling the heat, Chicago Police counter criticism, highlight ‘good works’

By Thomas Vogel

De-escalating a domestic dispute in Englewood. A drug bust in the Harrison District. A South Side foot chase to catch a carjacker. These are just a few of the instances the Chicago Police Department recognized Tuesday morning at its monthly Commendation Ceremony.

Designed to emphasize positive instances of crime fighting, the event offered the department a way to counterbalance the negative attitude many Chicagoans have adopted toward the nation’s second-largest police force following several embarrassing incidents.
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Commission approves Uptown high-rise project despite TIF tug of war

By Thomas Vogel

The city’s Community Development Commission approved Tuesday a development plan for a long-vacant property at Montrose and Clarendon avenues in Uptown, despite opposition from a coalition of neighborhood groups and dozens of residents.

The objections come at a time of heightened scrutiny at City Hall, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has received criticism on many fronts including its law enforcement and education policies. Residents questioned the need for more high-end dwellings in Uptown and criticized the commissioners, who are appointed by the mayor, for aiding Emanuel’s allies with Tax Increment Financing (TIF) at the expense of Chicagoans struggling to find affordable housing.

“Our city requires increased public service, increased public housing,” said Tom Tresser, an Uptown resident and coordinator at the TIF Illumination Project. “The TIF program is broken. Now we see TIFs hoarding dollars in wealthy communities and being used for rifle-shot, clout-driven projects of little or no public merit such as this one.”

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