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Alderman Taylor gets candid about Chicago politics during podcast taping

By Sidnee King
Medill Reports

“I hate City Hall, it’s the devil’s den,” said 20th Ward Ald.  Jeanette Taylor at a recent live podcast taping.

As election season ramps up, the conversation on what ideas, policies, and people are truly electable becomes more critical at national and local levels. This discussion was the central component of the first taping of a live podcast series, Unelectable, the product of a partnership between Black Youth Project 100 and Chicago-based podcast AirGo Radio. 

Taylor laid it on the line for the series aimed to engage Chicago voters in deep-dive candor about Chicago politics and the electoral process by inviting city leaders who have made waves in the political sphere. The inaugural taping featured two women behind organizing efforts that captured the entire city’s attention over the last year: Taylor and Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacey Davis Gates.

Taylor took on City Hall and the fight for a Woodlawn community housing agreement as she spoke to attendees that packed out The Silver Room, a black-owned boutique at the corner of East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue.

AirGo hosts Daniel Kisslinger and Damon Williams began the meeting by inviting the crowd to grab a mic and share policies they believe would be beneficial to Chicago’s population but seem ‘unelectable.’ Williams said the hope for events such as this is to create community forums to flush out their thoughts on “impactful issues dismissed as being too big or unrealistic by mainstream media.” 

The conversation touched on a range of controversies from universal healthcare to housing as a human right, something Taylor spoke about passionately as her ward is presently battling with the city for more affordable housing protections. 

Taylor criticized fellow aldermen for their inactivity on ordinances for low-income housing proposed by community organizers last year. She cited her own experience before she entered the political arena. As a Woodlawn resident, she said she felt underappreciated by the officials that represented her neighborhood and has vowed to engage 20th Ward residents in a way that respects their concerns and their tax dollars.

An example of this is the weekly open office hours that Taylor hosts at the aldermanic office on South Wentworth Avenue every Thursday. She also gives her constituents her personal cell phone number– which she shared with attendees at the end of the event. 

The rookie alderman is a professed “organizer first,” who never saw herself as an elected official. But now that she has a seat in city hall, she says she’s fighting for people in Woodlawn to be able to stay because she doesn’t see herself as any different from the low-income residents in her community. 

Gates also touched on affordable housing, which was a controversial topic during the CTU’s strike negotiations between the Chicago Board of Education and Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Last year, critics admonished CTU leadership for requesting resources for homeless students in its list of demands, but union leadership didn’t back down on the issue.

During the panel discussion, Gates was adamant that a student’s housing-security is directly related to education, and educators should not be told that it’s not in their job description to be concerned. 

“Don’t apologize for it,” she said. 

Gates also encouraged the attendees to continue to organize around the changes that they had earlier expressed they’d like to see in Chicago. 

This wasn’t Black Youth Project 100’s first time partnering with Taylor or Gates. The organization aligned itself with Taylor and the coalition sponsoring the proposed community benefits agreement with the Obama Foundation in hopes of preventing rent and property tax hikes that could displace close to 40% of Woodlawn’s residents when the Obama Presidential Library opens. BYP100 also supported CTU in its teachers strike last fall. 

Photo at top: AirGo hosts Damon Williams (left) and Daniel Kisslinger (right) open the floor to discuss electoral politics in Chicago at the first taping of their ‘Unelectable’ series. (Sidnee King/MEDILL)

Private sector hops on COVID-19 testing as the nation lags behind

By Yun Hao
Medill Reports

After President Trump declared a national emergency Friday due to the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives of Roche Diagnostics, Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, and some other private sector companies stood together behind the president, and each addressed their decisions of confronting the coronavirus collaboratively.

Normally you view us as competitors, but today we’re focused on a common competitor, and that’s defeating the spread of coronavirus,” said Brian Cornell, CEO of Target Corp., during the press conference held by the President. “We look forward to work with the administration to do our fair share to alleviate this growing threat.”

FDA also sped up its approval process for tests developed by commercial labs. Roche Diagnostics, a Swiss-based multinational healthcare company, was the first beneficiary, as the test method they developed was approved within only “a few hours” after they submitted their application. Dr. Deborah L. Birx, U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, said that this expedited process sets a “record time.” Continue reading Private sector hops on COVID-19 testing as the nation lags behind

Northwestern students find stress relief in high-intensity boxing

By Selah Holland
Medill Reports

Classes. Grades. Stress. Clubs. Homework. These words probably trigger thoughts of school and, more specifically, college. Higher education is notorious for cultivating high-pressure environments, making it challenging for students to prioritize their personal well-being.

At a top school such as Northwestern University, students are often seeking ways to relieve their stress. And while physical activity has been proven to improve mood,  high-intensity workouts, such as boxing classes at TITLE Boxing Club in Evanston, deliver an extra boost.

Northwestern sophomore Rachel Philips, 20 (pictured below), warms up for a boxing class and talks about how boxing gets her to a different space.

Photo at top: Northwestern sophomore Rachel Philips, 20, wraps her hands before the boxing class begins. (Selah Holland/MEDILL)

On the Clock: Medill’s 2016 NFL Draft podcast looks at defensive back prospects the Bears might choose

Jordan, Peter and Tolly continue their draft preview series by taking a look at the defensive back prospects in this year’s NFL draft. First, they rave over Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and talk about some cornerback prospects the Bears might consider. Then, they go over a few notable safeties that could be considered in the second round.

Continue reading On the Clock: Medill’s 2016 NFL Draft podcast looks at defensive back prospects the Bears might choose

Volunteers phone bank for Asian American civic engagement

By Shanshan Wang
Audio by Jenny G. Zhang

Rebecca Ozaki has been trying to encourage Asian Americans to vote through phone banking, which she hopes will be effective in getting them to the polls.

“Why we call is because a lot of people may not be told what difference they can have by voting in their communities,” said Ozaki, executive assistant at the Asian American Advancing Justice, Chicago. “We need to empower the Asian American community to make sure that they know how much their votes matter, and how much power they have in electing officials that make decisions for us everyday.”

Continue reading Volunteers phone bank for Asian American civic engagement

Volunteers Count Chicago’s Homeless

By Harry Huggins

Hundreds of volunteers canvased Chicago late Jan. 26 to count every person sleeping in the city’s parks and underpasses.

I drove around Chicago’s Near West Side with Dorothy Yancy, Phoebe DePree and Carolyn Hankins-Page for five hours that night as part of the annual point in time count. The survey takes place in ever major American city, and it helps the federal government decide how much money a city receives for homelessness prevention in the coming year.

Continue reading Volunteers Count Chicago’s Homeless