Public Affairs

Extension denied: Pet coke piles must be covered by June 2016

By Sarah Kramer

The Chicago Department of Public Health denied a request on Monday to extend the deadline for covering the piles of petroleum coke stored at terminals along the Calumet River on Chicago’s Far South Side.

Koch Industries subsidiary KCBX Terminals asked the city in December to allow an 18-month extension – with a new deadline of December 2017 – for completion of the 1,000-foot-long enclosure to cover the pet coke storage piles. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the public health department have mandated that the piles be fully covered by June 2016. Continue reading

Humboldt Park residents stand up to HIV/AIDS

By Dawnn Anderson

Residents of Humboldt Park recently assembled to learn more about the disproportionate effects of HIV/AIDS in Latinos and African-Americans. Human rights activist Ricardo Jimenez led the discussion about the services offered at VIDA/Sida, a non-profit that serves the Latino LGBTQ and HIV positive community. Continue reading

Chicago Celiac Catholics celebrate communion in the low-gluten way

By Ellen Kobe

On a Saturday evening in January, Carol Shilson, a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Lincoln Park participated in a common experience among Roman Catholics: the Eucharist. As the sun went down and the church’s stained glass windows turned from vibrant colors to darkness, the Rev. Jeremy Dixon consecrated the communion — turning the bread and the wine into what Catholics believe is the actual body and blood of Christ.

From the left-side pews, Shilson made her way down the main aisle with the rest of the congregation, which sang a hymn, folded their hands and strode back to their seats while the wafers melted in their mouths and the burning sensation of wine seeped down their throats.

Holy Communion is a shared experience for Shilson and other Catholics. They are only required to go through these motions once a year, although the sacrament is more routine for many who go to Mass every Sunday or even daily.

But for Shilson, receiving traditional communion is a health hazard. She has Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder activated by ingesting a gluten protein in wheat. Continue reading

Chicago comic school artists react to Charlie Hebdo massacre

By Taylor Mullaney

In 2013, the Europe-based International School of Comics opened a new campus in Chicago. Six weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Annalisa Vicari, Emma Rand and Christopher Kutz, teaching artists from the school, said they do not fully excuse the publication’s drawings. Vicari, 29, Rand, 23, and Kutz, 41, shared how they think the attacks will affect art education and artists’ limitations moving forward.

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ObamaCare sign-up runs smoothly after changes

By Margaret Anderson

After’s rocky start in 2013, healthcare workers and officials made Sunday’s enrollment deadline run more smoothly by extending the hours for free enrollment assistance at 26 locations across Chicago.

There were 82 locations with extended hours across the state, up from no more than 10 locations last year, according to Brian Gorman, director of outreach and consumer education for Get Covered Illinois.

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VIDEO: Early voting for municipal elections remains popular

By Adriana Cargill

With election day for Chicago’s new mayor quickly approaching on February 24, early voting has already begun. The last mayoral election counted 73,000 early votes. At the end of the first week of early voting 21,000 ballots have been cast so far.

The city started its early voting program in 2006. In the beginning, early voter turnout was low, hovering in the tens of thousand. That changed during the 2008 presidential election when a whopping one-fourth of all votes cast in the city were early ballots. Since then, 12 to 17 percent of votes in every election have been cast early.

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Bronzeville Residents Protest Construction of Mariano’s

By Melissa Schenkman

A group of Bronzeville residents braved below-zero temperatures on Thursday, February 5, 2015, to make their voices heard.  Led by J. Brian Malone, the executive director of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, the group protested Alderman Will Burns’ and the City’s plans to build a Mariano’s Supermarket on a site originally planned for affordable housing.

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Free Street youth debate on stage: All lives matter or no lives matter

By Kate Morrissey

One year ago Tuesday, Deonta Mackey was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in the Pullman neighborhood when he tried to rob the officer at gunpoint at a gas station.

“Track 13,” a play created by a youth ensemble composed of members from the Young Fugitives ensemble and members from the youth ensemble at Free Street Theater, uses Mackey’s death as a jumping off point to explore different perspectives about young people of color and their struggle with police violence in Chicago. Continue reading

Measles vaccination rates at public schools lowest in poorest areas

By Emily Hoerner

Less than 90 percent of students at 14 Chicago Public Schools were vaccinated for measles last school year, according to data by the Illinois State Board of Education. Nearly all of those schools are located in low-income neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides.

Francis M. McKay Elementary in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood had only 80.8 percent of students vaccinated last year, while Legacy Elementary Charter School in North Lawndale had 84.8 percent of children vaccinated against the measles. Both neighborhoods hosted more than one school with low vaccination rates. Continue reading

High Wi-Fi Demand Promising for New Library Program

By Phoebe Tollefson

Rebecca De Santiago takes her daughter, Itzel, to Pilsen’s Lozano Public Library after school to help her with homework. They need a computer with Internet access and the library has it – for two hours a day.

“Es un lujo con nosotras,” De Santiago said of Internet access. “Como somos madres solteras, no es una prioridad.”

Her words were simple: It’s a luxury with us. As single mothers, it’s not a priority. De Santiago said paying rent and building up savings come first on her limited income. Instead of scrounging the money for in-home access, De Santiago relies on library computers, which allow patrons two, one-hour sessions per day. She said she could not afford the $9.95-a-month Comcast broadband service available to parents of Chicago Public Schools students on free or reduced lunch. Continue reading