Stories by Nick Blumberg

A southbound CTA Red Line train is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

CTA Leaders Talk Service Boosts, Looming Challenges as Advocates Call For More Improvements

The CTA says in July of 2023, it delivered an average of 88% of scheduled rail service, compared to 71% in August of last year. And it says it delivered 96% of bus service this July, compared to 81% last August.

(Courtesy of Tutoring Chicago)

With Pandemic-Era Learning Losses Driving Demand, Tutoring Nonprofit Looking for Volunteers

Chicago students are still struggling to make up for COVID-era learning losses, and a local tutoring organization is trying to help students close that gap.

Elite Ambulance offices. (WTTW News)

Paramedics, EMTs Claim Chicago-Area Ambulance Company Illegally Forced Them to Pay For Red Light, Speed Camera Tickets

In a class action wage theft lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County court, plaintiffs say instead of contesting the tickets, which were incurred during emergency calls while running with lights and sirens, the company charged the cost of the moving violations against employees’ pay without their consent.

South lion at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Heather Paul / Flickr)

Art Institute, School of the Art Institute Workers Ratify Union Contract in a First for a Chicago Cultural Institution

Art Institute of Chicago Workers United was the first in a unionization wave that’s swept across local museums and cultural institutions.

Construction is underway at the Garfield Park Community Plaza on Aug. 11, 2023. (WTTW News)

Renovations Underway at Garfield Park Community Plaza, an ‘Oasis’ For Neighbors

Renovations are underway at the Garfield Park Community Plaza to create more play areas for kids, a stage, a covered roller rink and a sculpture designed by young people from the community.

Help wanted signs. (WTTW News)

New Measure Aims to Protect Illinois Temp Workers, Move Them Into Permanent Jobs

Some 800,000 Illinoisans are working in temporary jobs, according to industry estimates. That number has more than doubled over the last two decades.

“Two Country Future” is featured in the new show “Enduring Ties” at the Chicago Center for Photojournalism. (Courtesy of Alex Garcia)

Chicago-Based Photographer Documents ‘Enduring Ties’ With Cuba in Show at New Photojournalism Center

Alex Garcia’s pictures allow the humanity of his subjects to shine, free of preconceived notions. The show has celebratory moments as big as a fireworks show and as small as the back of a car. And it doesn’t shy away from the harsh conditions many Cubans face.

Standing with former Northwestern athletes, attorney Ben Crump speaks during a press conference addressing widespread hazing accusations at Northwestern University Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File)

First Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Female Northwestern University Athlete; Former Quarterback Also Files Suit

The hazing scandal at Northwestern University has widened to include a volleyball player who on Monday became the first female athlete to sue the university over allegations she was retaliated against by the coach for reporting her mistreatment.

(WTTW News)

Dawn Dumpster Din: Two More Trash Haulers Caught Flouting City Noise Ordinance

Under the city’s noise ordinance, private waste haulers can’t make pickups before 7 a.m. But WTTW News spotted trucks making multiple early-morning stops.

Former Northwestern University football player Lloyd Yates speaks at a July 19, 2023, news conference. (WTTW News)

‘You’re Overpowered’: Former Northwestern Players Allege Culture of Hazing, Abuse in Football Program and Beyond

A group of 15 ex-Northwestern athletes represented by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump and Chicago-based colleagues say they plan to file suit against the university in the near future.

Children playing at a “Light in the Night” event. (WTTW News)

‘Light in the Night’ Events Aim to Reclaim Safe Public Space for Chicagoans

Public safety isn’t just about addressing the root causes of crime or stopping people from picking up a gun. Sometimes, making a neighborhood safer is as simple as a water balloon or a bounce house.

(WTTW News)

CTA Board Approves More Amazon Delivery Lockers at Stations; Transit Leader Outlines Hopes for ‘World-Class’ System

The CTA touted the lockers as a convenience for customers and a way to reduce congestion and pollution from Amazon’s ubiquitous delivery trucks and vans. The program is a three-year deal, with two options to extend it by a year.

A company is pitching to turn the building at 62 S. Broadway in Aurora into a residential development. (WTTW News)

Company With Ties to Aurora Mayor, High-Level Employee Eyeing City-Owned Property

A company with ties to Mayor Richard Irvin and a high-level city official is interested in developing three city-owned properties in west suburban Aurora, information obtained by WTTW News shows.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, Nikolas Rodriguez, and Laura Ayala-Clarke on the night Rodriguez says they first met.

Ex-Employees of Aurora Mayor’s Girlfriend Claim She Stiffed Them Out of Weeks of Pay

Furniture Store Owner Laura Ayala-Clarke Denies Charges, Says Attorney is Handling Claims

Two former employees of Laura Ayala-Clarke, the girlfriend of Mayor Richard Irvin of west suburban Aurora, claim she failed to pay them for several weeks of work and isn’t running her business on the up-and-up. She recently was approved for a city grant. 

A decommissioned generating station in Waukegan is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

Environmental Activists Rally in Chicago for Tighter Rules on Coal Ash Byproduct

Right now, coal combustion residuals – commonly known as coal ash – aren’t subject to EPA regulation at many offline power plants. 

Museum of Science and Industry (zooey / Wikimedia Commons)

Museum of Science and Industry Workers Vote to Unionize Part of a Recent Wave in Chicago

This past weekend, many workers at the Museum of Science and Industry voted to unionize. According to unofficial results released by AFSCME, nearly three quarters of employees who voted cast a ballot in favor of representation.

Hundreds of acres of land in Sugar Grove are targeted for redevelopment. (WTTW News)

Developer Touts ‘Very Balanced’ Plan to Remake Hundreds of Acres of West Suburban Land, But Some Residents Still Skeptical

Hundreds of acres of vacant land in Sugar Grove has a developer looking to build housing, civic space, retail – and distribution warehouses. Some residents are uneasy the project would change the village’s small town feel. 

WTTW News Explains: Why Are There So Many Units of Local Government?

Illinios ranks first in the nation in the number of individual units of local government. WTTW News Explains what is going on with all of those property tax line items.

Laura’s Furniture in Aurora. (WTTW News)

Aurora Mayor’s Girlfriend Didn’t Disclose Previous State COVID Relief Funding When Asking for Local Taxpayer Cash

A review of the grant application for Laura’s Furniture shows the company misrepresented whether it had previously received COVID-related government funding.

Costume designer Ruth Carter appears on “Black Voices” on June 2, 2023. (WTTW News)

Oscar-Winning Costume Designer Ruth Carter on Spike Lee, ‘Black Panther’ and Feeling ‘Grown Up’

Ruth Carter is a groundbreaking costume designer known for her long collaboration with Spike Lee and her work on the “Black Panther” movies. She is the only Black woman to have two Academy Awards.

(WTTW News)

Rude Awakening: Tracking Illegal, Early Morning Trash Pickups

WTTW News saw private garbage hauler Groot making four separate pickups before 7 a.m. last week. It’s not just a nuisance — it’s illegal. Under Chicago’s noise ordinance, trash haulers are banned from work between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

At last week’s council meeting, aldermen also approved an additional $8,124 grant to the Aurora Business Center on top of a $75,000 payout the company received last year. (WTTW News)

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s Girlfriend, Ex-Business Partners and City Employee’s Husband Awarded Thousands in Taxpayer-Funded Grants

The owners of two Aurora companies — a furniture store and an office building — are in personal relationships with top city officials, WTTW News has found. An analysis of campaign finance records also uncovered that a majority of recent donations to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s campaign fund are from people doing business with or getting incentives from the city.

(Petr Kratochvil / Public Domain Pictures)

Despite Uber’s Campaign Against Tougher Safety Standards, ‘Common Carrier’ Bill Moves Ahead in Springfield

Uber has been pushing back hard against the common carrier proposal: emails and push notifications to customers, a reported six-figure ad buy on popular radio stations, web banners on news sites covering the General Assembly and plenty of lobbying.

(WTTW News)

DuPage County, Coalition of Suburbs Ask Court to Reconsider Massive Freight Rail Merger

Federal regulators approved the merger of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern in March, which would create a new route linking Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. The company plans to run an additional seven to eight trains each day along tracks shared by Metra’s Milwaukee District West line.

A Selena tribute show at the National Museum of Mexican Art. (Courtesy of National Museum of Mexican Art)

Performers, Drag Artists Pay Tribute to the Late, Great Selena With Joyous Live Show

This weekend, the Queen of Tejano Music is being celebrated with “Bidi Bidi Boom Boom: The Selena Tribute Dance Party” at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, where a group of performers and drag artists are bringing some of Selena’s legendary music to life for Chicago audiences.

An honorary street sign for Sam Bell is unveiled May 5, 2023, at Wood and Rice streets in West Town. (WTTW News)

City Unveils Honorary Street Sign for Sam Bell, Cyclist Struck and Killed by Driver

Sam Bell, 44, was struck and killed by a driver while biking along Milwaukee Avenue in River West last September. He was remembered as a dedicated mentor and organizer for the Midtown Educational Foundation, which works with low-income, underserved students in Chicago.