Winter 2019

Pritzker condemns corruption, celebrates economic gains

By Jackson Elliott
Medill Reports

Protecting corruption in Illinois government is “no longer acceptable,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said in his 2020 State of the State address to the Illinois legislature last Wednesday.

His remarks followed the guilty plea of former State Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) on Tuesday for corruption charges.

Lawmakers responded to his statement with applause that rapidly escalated into a standing ovation.

“It’s no longer enough to sit idle while under-the-table deals, extortion, or bribery persist,” the governor said. Continue reading

High Illinois taxes drive out business

By Jackson Elliott
Medill Reports

Scott Schnurr wanted to buy a fully equipped 30,100 square-foot building in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, but high property taxes convinced him to look for real estate elsewhere.

The building had stood empty for two years. If not for the taxes, it could have housed a hundred jobs for Schnurr’s water heater installation company, DRF Trusted Property Solutions.

The property taxes on the building were around fifty thousand dollars. “On a 10% profit, I’d have to do five hundred thousand dollars of business just to pay the taxes to be there,” the chief executive said. Continue reading

Mapping the way to five of Chicago’s spiciest restaurants

By Harrison Liao
Medill Reports

In a way, the term “spicy food” is a misnomer. Adding heat to a dish is a global game changer for the palate but  can be achieved with myriad techniques and ingredients – from herbs to pastes and sauces to fresh chili peppers and peppercorns. Spice, in this sense, can taste and mean something different for almost everyone.

Here in Chicago, that diversity finds zesty representation in the city’s culinary subculture of spicy food. There is no committee of judges or unified industry association to deliberates on whether to serve something hot – and when it’s hot enough. But many Chicago restaurants feature spiciness somewhere on the menu, all for different reasons.

Every spicy dish, it turns out, has a back story. Here are a few of them you can encounter as you trek to restaurants across the city.

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Dew Suriyawan shares the art of authentic Thai food

By Harrison Liao
Medill Reports

I didn’t know anything about Chinese food until I found out how much I didn’t know about Chinese food.

My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s from Hunan, a landlocked province in central China. They had me in 1994 in Ann Arbor, while they were pursuing graduate engineering degrees at the University of Michigan. The first food I ever put in my mouth was sourced with simple, affordable ingredients and recipes passed down to them from my parents’ upbringings. I thought this was Chinese food in its totality.

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Christkindlmarket draws worldwide crowd to Chicago

By Allegra Zamore

The Christkindlmarket has been bringing the holiday spirit to the city of Chicago since 1996 attracting a wide variety of visitors throughout the years. From mulled wine and roasted nuts to German beer and schnitzel, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Vendors like Frank’s Ornament House even hire German natives to work the market each year to add a touch of authenticity to the downtown experience. Sarah Arnold says it’s just like Germany, but without the snow. The market opens every year just before Thanksgiving and stays open until Christmas Eve.

Photo at top: Vendors like Frank’s Ornament House attract a steady stream of visitors at the Christkindlmarket. (Allegra Zamore/MEDILL)

Meet TV Chef, Inventor, and ‘Fit Foodie’ Mareya Ibrahim

By Harrison Liao
Medill Reports

For today’s health-conscious eaters, it is all too easy to get lost within the maze of contradictory nutritional advice.

Nearly 80% of Americans surveyed  “come across conflicting information about food and nutrition,” and 59% reported that “conflicting information makes them doubt their choices,” according to a 2018 study conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Although more people believe they are eating healthier now, what that really means is more confusing than ever, according to the same study.

That’s where Mareya Ibrahim — author, TV Chef and inventor of Eat Cleaner products  – hopes to enter the fray. Her products are designed to wash fruits and vegetables more effectively than water, removing potentially harmful particulates and keeping produces fresh longer, according to Ibrahim.

“The only all natural, patented produce wash, Eat Cleaner® is the tasteless, odorless and lab-tested line of food wash and wipes that is up to 99.9% more effective than water in cleaning wax, pesticide residues and soil from commercially and organically grown produce,” according to the Eat Cleaner website.

She has been featured in segments on ABC, Fox News, the Food Network, https://eatcleaner.com/USA Today and other media as “The Fit Foodie” chef. She also has a new free Thanksgiving recipe book available to everyone.

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Meet ‘Big G’s’ Spicy Pizza Pioneer Jaime Gamez

By Harrison Liao
Medill Reports

Picture your dream pizza.

Whether it’s monstrous Chicago deep dish or a bright, red Naples style pie, you can envision a few common savory traits — cheese stretching at the seams with the physics-defying grace of an Olympic gymnast, steam rolling off of shimmering tomato sauce and crust decorated with deeply blackened blisters.

But one feature that might not come to mind for most pizza lovers? Sizzling spiciness.

That’s one thing Jaime Gamez, 38, hangs his hat on at his Chicago pizzeria, Big G’s in Wrigleyville at 3716 N Clark St.

Gamez believes, “without a doubt,” that he has the spiciest pizza in Chicago. He calls it the “Dance with El Diablo.”

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Artists talk freedom in Buenos Aires, a city that embraces street art

Clara Seung Lee and Karleigh Michelle Stone
Medill Reports

BUENOS AIRES —

The city of Buenos Aires bares its beauty in multi-faceted ways, from the sensuous tango dancers luring tourists in the streets of Caminito, to the aroma of Porteño cuisine that triggers an immediate appetite to anyone walking by during lunch or dinner time.

But, arguably, one of the most underrated features of Buenos Aires is its love for and dedication to street art.

“Street art” has its stereotypes. People will most likely think of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, or even illegal graffiti. But there is absolutely nothing illegal or secretive about the murals and public art seen on walls throughout Buenos Aires. Street art is not just accepted, it’s very much appreciated by this South American city.

Artists from abroad — including female artists and artists with political agendas — are all welcome to paint without restriction, just as long as they get the permission from the property owners.

In the middle of the mid-summer heat, Martín Ron, Nicolás Romero, and Tano Verón all seemed happy to discuss their artwork with a paintbrush in hand.

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Solar Decision: The long road and hard work required to bring solar energy to Puerto Rico

By Noah Broder
Medill Reports

For people in the mountain town of San Salvador in Puerto Rico, recovery from Hurricane Maria was a community effort. “This community was the one that cleaned up this community after the hurricane, nobody else,” said resident Tara Rodriguez Besosa as she stood in the center of this rural town.

San Salvador is a small town about 30 miles south of San Juan in the municipality of Caguas. It is the most rural and least populated town in the municipality, and like other small towns across the island, Besosa said they were without power for nearly a year following the hurricane.

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Northwest Indiana residents grapple with implications of dead swans

By Lauren Robinson
Medill Reports

Northwest Indiana is a region of many small refuges. For its human occupants, that might be a quiet spot on Whihala Beach facing north, toward Chicago’s glimmering skyline. For wildlife, that might be a bird sanctuary by a casino in Hammond — or perhaps a discharge of warm water from a British Petroleum plant into an otherwise frozen Lake Michigan. The oil refinery, like the ArcelorMittal steel factory and Whiting Metals, spans hundreds of acres of real estate in the area, and its machinery stretches into the sky, a metallic forest visible from afar.

Carolyn Marsh, who is my tour guide on a cold, gray weekday in February, is no longer naive about the competing realities of the natural world and industry. When she moved to Whiting in the 1980s, she had her eyes fixed northward, from that refuge on Whihala Beach that factored into her decision to buy a home here. “I did not know how bad the pollution would be,” she says. “Nobody talked about it because there were jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

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