Public Affairs

Research hub at Northwestern powers next-generation solar cell research

By Henry Ren
Medill Reports

Next-generation solar cells might power personal electronics such as watches and backpacks that could recharge your cell phone.

These solar cells are being tested and prototyped in a research hub launched this year by the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern University.

The ISEN research hub, named Glovebox Inert Atmosphere (N2) Thin-film Fabrication and Testing or GIANTFab, allows academic and commercial users to explore new materials for solar cells in a set of connected and airtight glove boxes that eliminate air interference. The goal is to find more efficient alternatives to expensive and rigid silicon solar cells, a game-changer for solar energy.

The GIANTFab is the only publicly accessible user facility in Chicago that offers a one-stop solution for users to both build and test solar cells without the interference of the air, said Nathan La Porte, ISEN’s Operations Director of the GIANTFab. Continue reading

Six candidates compete in 12th District primary as committee plans appointment

By Joel Jacobs
Medill Reports

With the March 17 primary fast approaching, six candidates are vying to fill the 12th District House seat held by former State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the Chicago Democrat recently appointed to fill former Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s seat.

The district consists of parts of Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Near North and Uptown and includes Boystown, Chicago’s main LGBTQ neighborhood. The district is heavily Democratic, so the winner of the Democratic primary will almost certainly become the next representative.

Meanwhile, the 12th District Democratic Committee has accepted applications to appoint a temporary legislator to the seat, which has been vacant since Jan. 21, when Feigenholtz officially stepped down and replaced Cullerton. The appointee will be selected by the committee after an open forum on Sunday at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N Halsted St.

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Chicagoans make a splash in Lake Michigan, raising over $35,000 for families in need

By Sally Ehrmann
Medill Reports

More than 300 brave souls took a dip in freezing-cold Lake Michigan on Jan. 25 to raise money for three Chicago families in need, part of the shivering tradition of the annual Chicago Polar Bear Plunge.

The event raised over $35,000 for families, to be split evenly. Jumpers paid a $30 registration fee and then chose to set up funding pages to raise more money for the cause from their donors. Other donations came from sponsors like Tito’s Vodka, FT Cares Foundation and Blake’s Seed Based foods. Continue reading

Chicago youth unemployment hits African Americans hardest, driving population declines

By Alison Saldanha
Medill Reports

More African Americans are out of school and out of work than among any other racial group in Chicago, according to a new report released recently by the Great Cities Institute of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Professor Teresa Cordova, director of the Great Cities Institute, linked this disparity to the city’s declining population trend, especially among blacks. As of 2017, Chicago’s population has  dropped by 904,500 to 2.7 million, or 25% since 1950. Some black majority neighborhoods have lost more than 50% of their population in less than four decades. Continue reading

Fourth annual Women’s March Chicago rallies thousands of supporters

By Shirin Ali
Medill Reports

Thousands of people gathered in Grant Park on Saturday to march for climate change solutions, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and getting out the vote, issues highlighted at the annual Women’s March since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

Women’s March Chicago organized the event and estimated that 10,000 people participated this year. Despite rain and snow, marchers rallied with enthusiasm and zeal with their, chanting, hoisting homemade signs and wearing pink hats.

Jill Conrad drove more than 80 miles from Ottawa to attend and many people arrived from out of state. Conrad carried a vibrant blue banner that read “Any Functioning Adult 2020,” a message that garnered lots of thumbs up as people snapped picture. Conrad  described the experience as one filled with “lots of good ideas.”

Summing up the protest, she said “It was a great day” and the best part was seeing the unity among the marchers, she said. “It’s good to see people out here together, men and women, black, white, all of [us]. That was the high point.”

Photo at top: Thousands of supporters attended Women’s March Chicago’s annual march on Saturday, January 18, carrying homemade signs that highlighted a variety of issues. (Shirin Ali/MEDILL)

Illinois hit hard amid nationwide e-cigarette and vaping lung injuries

By Shirin Ali
Medill Reports

Some 2,602 hospitalizations and 57 deaths nationwide are now associated with e-cigarettes and vaping since the outbreak began in summer 2019, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month in a status update.

The CDC also revealed Illinois has some of the highest concentration of e-cigarette and vaping associated lung injury (EVALI) hospitalization rates in the country. The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates over 30 counties across Illinois have reported cases of EVALI, with the most recent count at 214 cases and five deaths. Continue reading

Bill Weld positions his GOP presidential run as a moderate alternative to Trump

By Shirin Ali
Medill Reports

Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld, former Massachusetts governor, discussed his run for the presidency at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

His free-wheeling talk Jan. 27 covered the uphill battle campaigning against an incumbent, his support for impeachment and the bleak future he sees for the Republican Party.

“I would not be doing this if it was 2017 and the president had just been elected. We didn’t know enough then about how he was going to conduct himself in office. I felt, as time wore on, certainly by the beginning of 2019, that we were in extraordinarily dangerous times that I hoped I would never see in the U.S.,” Weld said.

He is one of two Republicans challenging Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary. Former Illinois congressman and conservative talk show host Joe Walsh is the other contender. A  recent poll from The Economist and YouGov showed Weld polling nationally at 2%, with Walsh at 3% and Trump coming in at 89%.

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As ward redistricting approaches, where will jail inmates count?

By Joel Jacobs
Medill Reports

When Chicago politicians redrew the 24th Ward in 2011, it contained a notable addition — a narrow, hook-like appendage that extended over a mile south, widening at the bottom to include the Cook County Jail.

As a result, jail inmates accounted for approximately one in six people in the new 24th Ward.

The City Council draws ward boundaries every 10 years based on the U.S. census, which counts jail inmates as residents of the place they are incarcerated at. On April 1, 2010 — the last Census Day — 9,633 people were held in the Cook County Jail. The following year, wards were redrawn with around 54,000 people each.

Even though the Cook County Jail’s population has dropped precipitously in the past decade, it still holds more than 5,500 inmates on average. With the 2020 census coming up this year, the question remains how the jail population will factor into next year’s redistricting. Continue reading

In the battle of Chicago’s budget deficit, community investment takes the hit

By Alison Saldanha
Medill Reports

Just after sunset on a December afternoon, squeals and laughter filled the basketball court of the Chicago Jesuit Academy, on Chicago’s West Side, as 60 students ages 8 to 13 dribbled balls and ran back and forth.

With a clipboard in his hand and a pen tucked behind his ear, coach Brandon Wilkerson called out to players to come forward, one by one, and try shooting into the basket. At 28, Wilkerson works in the after-school program run by the Westside Health Authority in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. As the floor pulsated with the pounding of basketballs, he said, “I see myself in these kids.”
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Chicago Police plans to tap city-wide LGBT liaison

By Adam Rhodes
Medill Reports

The Chicago Police Department plans to tap a city-wide liaison to the LGBT community, police officials told Medill News Service, months after an on-duty sergeant allegedly raped a transgender woman. The move follows the release of a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality that paints a bleak picture of how the city’s police treat transgender people.

Glen Brooks, director of community policing for the Chicago Police Department, said that while this will be the department’s first formal city-wide LGBT liaison, CPD officers have for years made informal connections with the LGBT community. Brooks said the new role is part of a consent decree between the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois aimed at reforming the department. The role will ultimately be tasked with ensuring that the department’s policies are inclusive and respectful.

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