Stories by Jared Rutecki

Adam Ballard is pictured on a cracked sidewalk in front of a beauty salon near his Pilsen home. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Who Decides Which Chicago Sidewalks Get Repaired? Patchwork of Programs Creates Geographical Disparities, Rewards Most Complaints

Bad sidewalks can be found all across Chicago, but the slow pace in getting them repaired is tied to a lack of funding and the city’s complaint-based approach to maintenance, experts say. While a shared cost program has improved some areas, it has also caused disparities.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Newly Released CPS Security Guard Disciplinary Records Shine Light on Serious Cases at Roosevelt, Mather High Schools

Files released to WTTW News in public records requests identify 42 district security personnel disciplined between January and October of 2023. The records included individuals terminated in cases with a controversial video in Albany Park, and a sexual assault investigation in West Ridge. 

Farragut Career Academy High School, 2345 S. Christiana Ave., is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

CPS Security Guard Charged With Sexual Assault of Student Previously Cleared Backgrounding Process Despite More Than 20 Arrests, 4 Convictions

Following a Farragut Academy employee’s arrest, an examination of his criminal history raises questions of whether the district was or should have been aware of his 25 past cases for activity like burglary and aggravated assault.

Richard Yates Elementary School is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

Suspended CPS Security Guard is 3rd Fired Chicago Cop Hired by District After Being on City’s Do-Not-Hire List

The man’s brief tenure as an officer ended after he testified as a witness in a sexual assault case for the defense without informing the city. He worked for years at schools including Yates and Amundsen as both a coach and a security guard before his suspension.

A still image from a video taken of the demolition of the Crawford Coal Plant smokestack, April 11, 2020. (Alejandro Reyes / YouTube)

City Health Official Watchdog Said Should Be Fired for Role in Smokestack Implosion Promoted, Will Oversee Environmental Inspections and Enforcement

Dave Graham, who a watchdog report said should be fired for “willful bureaucratic negligence” in the 2020 incident that covered Little Village in dust, is now in charge of environmental inspections and enforcement.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

CPS Suspended 2 Security Guards Last Month. Both Were Previously Fired Police Officers and Named on Chicago’s Do-Not-Hire List

Two former Chicago Police Department employees were suspended from jobs at Lane Tech and Kenwood Academy. Chicago Public Schools says its revamped program is working, but omits key details.

(WTTW News)

Half of Chicago Schools Are Under Herd Immunity Levels for Measles, But Rates Have Improved Over Past Year

A combination of economic factors, health access and misinformation pushed childhood vaccination figures down to dangerous levels in recent years for many illnesses, including measles, experts said.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Chicago’s Murder Count Makes National Headlines, But Accurately Talking About Crime Data Requires Nuance

Chicago is the center of attention when it comes to talking about crime data in a national context. Experts caution that interpreting numbers without examining the underlying influences can lead to misunderstandings. 

File photo of a railroad crossing. (Jared Rutecki / WTTW News)

From Delayed Ambulances to Late Buses, Some Chicago-Area Communities Hit With Lengthy Blocked Train Crossings

Many of the country’s worst rail crossings are located in diverse suburbs south and southwest of Chicago

Many of the country’s worst rail crossings are located in diverse suburbs south and southwest of Chicago. Some will be helped by big construction projects while others get creative finding potential solutions.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Police Departments Are Gradually Adopting a More Detailed Program to Report Nationwide Crime Data. Chicago Recently Became the Largest User

Illinois responses to the more nuanced system improved from the previous year.

The nuanced data is valuable to state agencies making budget decisions, but also is used by citizens, researchers, advocates and nonprofit organizations targeting specific issues.

(WTTW News)

How a COVID-19 Exodus Affected Illinois Government Staffing, Salary Spending

DCFS gained more than 100 employees between 2021 and 2022. Public health employees declined.

WTTW News analyzed state salary data and found some departments got smaller or had a noticeable uptick in employees leaving. Even in agencies that grew, employee churn was evident. We walk you through the numbers. 

(WTTW News)

Merger of Large Train Companies Approved Despite Opposition from Northwest Suburbs

The Surface Transportation Board approved the merger of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern. Illinois congressional members and transit agencies previously expressed opposition to the move.

An overturned rail car is pictured at the crash site in East Palestine, Ohio. (Environmental Protection Agency)

Illinois Is No Stranger to Train Derailments Involving Hazardous Materials. Could an East Palestine Disaster Happen Here?

Federal data show 272 hazardous materials releases involving trains in Illinois in the last decade. Predicting when and where environmental problems will manifest is difficult, but the risk is real.

Voters cast their ballots on Election Day on Feb. 28. 2023, at Healy Elementary School, 3040 S. Parnell Ave. (WTTW News)

Early Voting Was Up, But Chicago’s Election Day Turnout Was Sluggish. Find the Latest Numbers

There were 507,852 total ballots cast by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and the total citywide turnout for voters stood at 32.1%, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. 

A naloxone kit from the Chicago Recovery Alliance is pictured in a file photo. The organization is among those working to deal with an influx in xylazine. (Kristen Thometz / Chicago Tonight)

FDA Action Targets Xylazine Shipping Enforcement Because of Growing Health Concern

The veterinary drug was connected to a rising death toll in Cook County and across the state. The new restrictions aim to prevent the drug from entering the U.S. market for illicit purposes.

A naloxone kit from the Chicago Recovery Alliance is pictured in a file photo. The organization is among those working to deal with an influx in xylazine. (Kristen Thometz / Chicago Tonight)

Cook County Sees 17% Spike In Overdose Deaths Tied to Veterinary Drug Xylazine. Harm Reduction Groups Say Its Presence Is Spreading.

Data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office shows 146 opioid-related deaths last year where xylazine was listed as a primary cause, marking a 16.8% increase from 2021. Local harm reduction organizations have also seen an uptick in its use.