Stories by Heather Cherone

Progressive Groups, Aldermen Slam Lightfoot For Using Federal Relief Funds to Cover Police Costs

Demonstrators march in Chicago on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 to show their support for removing police officers from schools. (WTTW News)

Progressive aldermen and community groups slammed Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday for using $281.5 million in COVID-19 federal relief funds to cover the cost of salaries and benefits for Chicago Police Department officers.

City Shuts Down Lan’s In Old Town For Hosting Maskless Party

(Photo by Lightscape / Unsplash)

Inspectors found 27 people in the Chinese restaurant on the day before Valentine’s Day not wearing masks or following social distancing rules, according to a statement from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Chicago Police Botched Response to Protests, Unrest After George Floyd’s Death: Watchdog

Protesters and police officers wearing riot gear have a standoff near Daley Plaza on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

The Chicago Police Department was “under-prepared and ill-equipped, and thus critically disserved both its own front-line members and members of the public,” according to the inspector general’s report, the first in-depth examination of the police department’s response to the unrest. 

Indoor Dining, Drinking Expands in Chicago, Lightfoot Announces

A restaurant worker in Chicago preps the grill. City officials on Tuesday said rules around indoor dining at bars and restaurants will be relaxed. (WTTW News)

Chicago officials announced Tuesday they will allow indoor dining and drinking at bars and restaurants to operate at 40% of their normal capacity, or no more than 50 people.

Italian American Pride Banners Replace Columbus Statue — Without a Permit

(WTTW News)

Last summer, three Christopher Columbus statues were removed after violent altercations between police and protesters. For months, the sites sat empty. But last fall, a display of Italian American pride banners appeared in place of the former statue in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.

City’s Final Overtime Bill for 2020: $367M

(Jürgen Polle / Pixabay)

Since the city earmarked approximately $180 million in 2020 for overtime costs for all city departments, the final bill is more than double what the city budgeted, according to city data.

2nd More Transmissible COVID-19 Variant Discovered in Rock Island: Officials

(WTTW News)

A variant of the coronavirus first discovered in South Africa and believed to be more transmissible is present in Illinois, state health officials announced Thursday.

Lightfoot, Preckwinkle Won’t Follow Pritzker’s Plan to Start Vaccinating People with Underlying Health Conditions

Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle appear on “Chicago Tonight” on May 14, 2018 and Oct. 16, 2017, respectively. (WTTW News)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said if the city and county were to follow the plan laid out by the governor, it would add additional stress to a vaccination effort that has left many scrambling to find an available appointment.

Chicago Must Do a Better Job Keeping Recyclables Out of Landfills: Aldermen

(WTTW News)

Less than 9% of the trash produced every year by Chicago residents is kept out of landfills — a rate that has not budged for four years. 

Chicago, Suburban Cook County to Allow Indoor Dining, Drinking to Expand — Slowly

(WTTW News)

Starting Thursday — the beginning of the Valentine’s Day weekend — bars and restaurants in Chicago and suburban Cook County can seat no more than 50 people or 25% of overall room capacity, up from a maximum of 25 diners or drinkers, officials said.

Durbin, Duckworth Turn Up Heat on Biden to Keep Chicago’s Top Federal Prosecutor

U.S. Attorney John Lausch appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Nov. 13, 2019. (WTTW News)

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth intensified their push on Wednesday to convince President Joe Biden to keep John Lausch, Chicago’s top federal prosecutor, in office until a permanent replacement is confirmed.

Chicago To Get New Top Federal Prosecutor as Biden Dismisses Lausch

U.S. Attorney John Lausch appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Nov. 13, 2019. (WTTW News)

The decision by the U.S. Department of Justice was swiftly condemned by Illinois’ two Democratic senators, both close allies of President Joe Biden.

Pritzker: No Income Tax Hike Needed to Close State’s $3B Budget Deficit

(NikolayFrolochkin / Pixabay)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker told lawmakers Tuesday that he will not propose hiking the state’s income tax on individuals to close the state’s projected $3 billion budget deficit in 2022.

City Lifts Travel Order for Visitors from Puerto Rico, Alaska, North Dakota

(WTTW News)

The two states and the territory join Hawaii as the only areas with fewer than 15 new COVID-19 cases per day, per 100,000 population, officials said.

CTU Delegates OK Deal to Allow In-Person Learning to Resume

A preschool student listens as her teacher talks during class at Dawes Elementary School at 3810 W. 81st Place on the Southwest Side, Monday morning, Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Chicago Sun-Times / Pool)

The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body voted Monday night to ask its members to approve a deal that would allow in-person learning to resume at Chicago Public Schools for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close in March 2020 — and avert the second strike in 15 months.

CTU Leader Karen Lewis Dies After Long Illness

Karen Lewis appears on “Chicago Tonight” in March 2016. (WTTW News)

The former chemistry teacher who went on to battle former Mayor Rahm Emanuel throughout her tenure as the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, and nearly ran for mayor herself, has died. She was 67 years old.

Chicago Family and Support Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler Resigns

Family and Support Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler appears in a “Chicago Tonight” report on March 27, 2017. (WTTW News)

After six years at the helm of the city department responsible for caring for Chicago’s most vulnerable residents, Lisa Morrison Butler announced her resignation. In a letter to aldermen, she said her last day would be Feb. 26.

Pritzker Extends Ban on Coronavirus-Related Evictions Until March 6

(WTTW News)

Illinois’ ban on most evictions will enter its 12th month as the second wave of the pandemic eases and the vaccination effort gains steam.

CTU, CPS Reach Framework to Allow In-Person Learning to Resume

(WTTW News) of the Chicago Teachers Union are reviewing the framework of a deal that would allow in-person learning to resume at Chicago Public Schools for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close in March 2020 — and avert the second strike in 15 months.

Feds Give Obama Presidential Center Green Light After 4-Year Review

Design rendering of the Obama Presidential Center. (Courtesy of The Obama Foundation)

The Obama Presidential Center can be built in Jackson Park after a federal review that lasted nearly four years concluded the $500 million project will have “no significant impact” on the federally protected park.

8 Additional Cases of More Transmissible COVID-19 Variant Discovered Across Illinois: Officials

(WTTW News)

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in samples of COVID-19 positive tests taken outside of Chicago and suburban Cook County for the first time, according to a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Library Workers Should be Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Immediately: Union, Aldermen

(WTTW News)

If the mayor insists on keeping the libraries open, employees should be eligible for the vaccine along with teachers and other front-line essential workers, union leaders, employees and aldermen said.

Arctic Blast to Close City COVID-19 Testing Facilities

(WTTW News)

Four city-run COVD-19 test facilities will be closed from Friday through Wednesday as an arctic blast bears down on the city, officials announced Thursday. The facilities require staff members and volunteers to work outside to test people inside their cars.

No St. Patrick’s Day Parades Again This Year, City Confirms

The Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band performs in Chicago. (Facebook photo)

The decision by city officials to cancel St. Patrick Day parades in 2020 was one of the first signs that COVID-19 was going to upend every aspect of normal life — and the fact that the parades will not take place this year is more evidence the pandemic is far from over.

City Shuts Down Unlicensed Club Operating Out of Tax Preparation Office

A Google Street View of the building at 10305 S. Martin Luther King Drive, dated July 2019. (WTTW News via Google Maps)

Inspectors found 26 people inside a Roseland storefront on Friday who had paid a cover charge in an establishment licensed only for tax preparation services, according to city officials. The illegal club featured a DJ and dancers — but no masks or social distancing, they said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Top City Council Ally Steps Down

Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward, speaks with “Chicago Tonight” in Belmont Cragin as part of our In Your Neighborhood series on Jan. 7, 2021. (WTTW News)

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) announced Tuesday he will no longer serve as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader, an indication that tensions between the mayor and a majority of the City Council remain high.