Stories by Heather Cherone

California, Puerto Rico Removed from Chicago’s COVID-19 Travel Advisory

(WTTW News)

Unvaccinated visitors to Chicago from 48 states as well as Washington, D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands are urged to quarantine for 10 days or record a negative test for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their arrival, officials said.

Lightfoot ‘Disappointed’ in COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing at CPS

(WTTW News)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot told WTTW News on Monday night she was “disappointed” that efforts to test all Chicago Public Schools students and staff for COVID-19 had gotten off to a slow and confusing start. 

‘We’ve Got to Be Bold’: Lightfoot on 2022 Budget

Plus: 4 Chicago alderpeople react to the proposal

Mayor Lori Lightfoot appears on “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (WTTW News)

As Chicago emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot told WTTW News on Monday that city officials must be “bold and transformative” to address not only the immediate damage caused by the pandemic but also the city’s longstanding woes. 

Lightfoot Bets on Improving Economy, Uses Federal Relief Funds to Balance Budget

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presents her budget proposal for 2022 to the Chicago City Council on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (WTTW News)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to close a projected $733 million budget gap in 2022 relies on $385 million in federal relief funds and nearly $299 million in savings and efficiencies, but the plan contains “no new tax or significant fee increases” for Chicago residents, she said.

City Council Votes to Allow Marijuana to Be Sold — Legally — Downtown

(WTTW News)

Black Caucus Chair Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) said the City Council should act quickly and loosen the rules because the legal sale of cannabis is “raining hundred-dollar bills” and those hurt by the war on drugs should be able to take advantage of the gold rush.

City Council Finally Launches Search for City’s Next Watchdog, as Deadline Looms

(WTTW News)

More than two months after Inspector General Joseph Ferguson announced he would leave office on Oct. 15, the Chicago City Council on Friday finally took the first steps toward finding his replacement as the city’s watchdog.

Lightfoot Doubles Down on Plan to Go After Gangs’ Profits Amid Pushback

(WTTW News)

Intense criticism has not prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to rethink her plan to demand that the Chicago City Council give the city’s Law Department the authority to sue the leaders of Chicago’s gangs and “go after their blood money.”

City to Expand Efforts To Go Door-to-Door in Areas Where COVID-19 Vaccinations Are Lagging

(WTTW News)

Chicago officials will expand their efforts to bring lifesaving vaccines directly to those who have yet to be vaccinated by going door-to-door in more parts of the city while launching an effort to contact unvaccinated residents by phone.

Ethics Board Finds Probable Cause Ald. Gardiner Violated Ethics Ordinance Twice

Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th Ward) on the floor of the Chicago City Council. (WTTW News)

The Chicago Board of Ethics has found there is probable cause to believe that Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th Ward) violated the city’s Governmental Ethics Ordinance by using his office to retaliate against his political foes.

Feds Probe Gardiner for Bribery, Pay-to-Play: Sources

Ald. Jim Gardiner declined to respond to questions from WTTW News about the reports of an FBI probe while at City Hall on Tuesday for a meeting of the Chicago City Council. (WTTW News)

Federal officials are probing allegations that Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th Ward) took bribes and demanded payments before taking official actions, sources told WTTW News.

Chicago City Council Approves 8-Year Deal With Police Union

(WTTW News)

It took more than four years to negotiate a new deal with the police union, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded changes to the way officers are investigated after a 2017 probe by the U.S. Department of Justice found police officers routinely violated the civil rights of Black and Latino Chicagoans.

Gardiner Apologies for Profane, Misogynistic Texts as Effort to Censure Him Advances

Jim Gardiner appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Feb. 27, 2019, a day after ousting two-term incumbent Ald. John Arena (45th Ward) in the municipal election. (WTTW News)

Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th Ward) on Tuesday apologized on the floor of the Chicago City Council chambers for sending profane and misogynistic texts to a former aide about Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward) and two women who work at City Hall. 

Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Removed from Chicago’s COVID-19 Travel Advisory

(WTTW News)

The advisory now covers 48 states as well as Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s top doctor. “This is an encouraging snapshot of the nation’s daily COVID data, but by no means can we let our guard down now,” she said.

City Council Poised to Approve New Police Contract Despite Opposition from Civil Rights Groups

(WTTW News)

A police union contract years in the making heads to city council Tuesday. We talk with alderpeople about that and other city business.

Pay $20.5M to 2 Men Who Spent 23 Years in Prison for Murder They Didn’t Commit, Aldermen Agree

(WTTW News)

Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez, who were released in 2016 after serving 23 years in prison for the murder of Rodrigo Vargas, would each get $10.25 million if the settlement is approved by the City Council on Tuesday. 

City Set to Turn Up Pressure on Banks that Hold the City’s Cash to Lend Equitably

(WTTW News)

Treasurer Melissa Conyears Ervin said the measure was a “critical step” to combatting the disparity in mortgage lending in Chicago. 

Plan to Extend Efforts to Boost Businesses Owned by Black, Latino and Female Chicagoans Advances

(David Mark / Pixabay)

Members of the Chicago City Council unanimously endorsed a plan Friday to extend the city’s program that earmarks a portion of city contracts for firms owned by Black, Latino and Asian Chicagoans as well as women for another six years, without expanding its scope.

Life Ring to be Installed on Pier After Teen’s Death, Parks CEO Says

Are safety signs enough? Some activists are calling for life rings along the lakefront. (WTTW News)

CEO Mike Kelly’s announcement reverses the city’s longstanding argument that life rings along the waterfront would encourage people to enter the water and put themselves at risk of injury or death — and make the city liable.

Lightfoot Calls for City Watchdog to Probe Whether Ald. Gardiner Targeted Political Opponents

Jim Gardiner appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Feb. 27, 2019, a day after ousting two-term incumbent Ald. John Arena (45th Ward) in the municipal election. (WTTW News)

“No one should ever be denied access to city services because of their political opinion, whom they may have supported in an election,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Watchdog Asked to Probe How Ald. Gardiner Got Court Records on Political Foe

Jim Gardiner appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Feb. 27, 2019, a day after ousting two-term incumbent Ald. John Arena (45th Ward) in the municipal election. (WTTW News)

The watchdog for the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk has been asked to probe whether one of the office’s employees improperly accessed court records and sent them to Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th Ward), who faces allegations that he has used his office to retaliate against political opponents, WTTW News has learned. 

Aldermen Advance Plan To Allow Marijuana To Be Sold — Legally — Downtown

Workers put the finishing touches on the Sunnyside dispensary in Lakeview on Dec. 30, 2019, just two days before recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois. (WTTW News)

A push by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to allow cannabis to be sold legally downtown cleared a key city panel on Wednesday, even though it won’t allow Michigan Avenue to become a “pot paradise.”

Unvaccinated? ‘Don’t Travel,’ Chicago’s Top Doctor Urges as Travel Advisory Expands

(WTTW News)

Chicagoans who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 should not travel, Dr. Allison Arwady announced Wednesday, as officials expanded the city’s advisory designed to stop the spread of the still-surging virus to every state and territory in the U.S.

Key City Panel Endorses Proposed Police Union Contract

(WTTW News)

A final vote is set for Sept. 14 on an eight-year deal that offers more than 11,000 Chicago police officers annual average raises of approximately 2.5% — while imposing new rules on officers suspected of misconduct.

Affordable Housing Battle Brews on Far Northwest Side

(WTTW News)

The Chicago City Council may be forced to confront the role its decades-old tradition of giving aldermen the final say over housing developments in their wards has played in creating a hyper-segregated city rife with racism and gentrification. 

Ald. Waguespack Demands Apology from Ald. Gardiner Over Profane Texts

(WTTW News)

Ald. Jim Gardiner, elected in 2019, has been surrounded by controversy since he took office after defeating former Ald. John Arena. In 2023, he was elected to serve as the 45th Ward’s Democratic committeeperson, making him one of the leaders of the Cook County Democratic Party.

Chicago Officials Offering $100 Gift Cards as They Work To Hike Vaccinations

(WTTW News)

Chicagoans who get vaccinated by the Chicago Department of Public Health starting Saturday will get both a lifesaving inoculation against COVID-19 and also a $100 gift card, city officials announced.