Stories by nick blumberg

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. 

Nearly 350 job seekers filled CTA headquarters the morning of April 28, 2023, for the agency’s fifth job fair of the year. (WTTW News)

CTA Adding Bus and Rail Workers, Touting Service Improvements; Mayor-Elect Mum on Keeping Transit Agency Leader

The CTA is still short more than 600 full-time bus and rail operators. As the transit agency tries to reverse service and staffing losses, it’s been putting a big focus on hiring.

(WTTW News)

Residents Sound Off on Priorities, Search Process for New CPD Superintendent

Backing from the rank and file. Removing racist officers. Protecting marginalized communities. Those are just some of the priorities Chicagoans said they have for the next police superintendent during a virtual forum held Tuesday.

Save A Lot is set to open at the site of a former Whole Foods at 63rd and Halted streets. (WTTW News)

How the Owners of Englewood’s New Save A Lot Hope to Win Over Skeptical Community Members

It’s been a year since Whole Foods made the surprise announcement it was shutting down its Englewood location. The store has been the site of controversy since it was announced that Save A Lot operator Yellow Banana was taking over the lease.

(WTTW News)

Residents Call for Police Accountability, Systemic Change at Forum on New CPD Superintendent

Commissioners heard comments on a range of issues. There were multiple calls for a new superintendent to come from within the ranks of CPD, and many community members said they wanted someone who will instill a culture of respect for residents.

(WTTW News)

Photo Exhibition Highlights the Lives, Personalities of Black Gay Men in 1980s Chicago

A new exhibition of his photographs at the Wrightwood 659 gallery in Lincoln Park is an evocative look at gay Black men in Chicago during a pivotal decade — and a window into a community that’s often been overlooked and stereotyped.

(WTTW News)

Demonstrators Threaten Walmart Boycott Over Chicago Store Closures

Many Chicagoans were shocked by retail giant Walmart’s announcement that it’s closing four stores this weekend — fully half of its locations in the city.

(WTTW News)

Chicago’s Failure to Make Crosswalks Accessible for Blind Pedestrians Broke the Law: Judge

Chicago was hit with a lawsuit over its overwhelming lack of accessible crosswalks in 2019. The lawsuit in 2022 became a class action covering the estimated 68,000 adults in Chicago with a vision-related disability.

The federal government plans to tear down the building at 208-212 S. State St., the shorter of the two properties between the threatened Century Building and Consumers Building skyscrapers, pictured last year before a sidewalk closure. (Preservation Chicago / Eric Allix Rogers)

Federal Government Plans to Demolish Century-Old Building Next to Threatened Historic Skyscrapers

The move is the latest development in a fight over historic preservation and courthouse security. The government has also been pushing to demolish the Century and Consumers buildings, two early 20th century skyscrapers located to the east of the Dirksen Federal Building.

Community leaders demonstrated outside a controversial new Save A Lot in Englewood on April 5, 2023. (WTTW News)

‘Shut It Down!’ Activists Rally at Preview Event for Controversial Englewood Save A Lot

Activists, community members and local elected officials have for months expressed their concerns to Save A Lot operator Yellow Banana about the poor reputation Save A Lot has among many Chicagoans, particularly Black residents.

Artist Rachel Steele will present “Soundpost: Remixing Transit” at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on March 30, 2023. (WTTW News)

Beyond Noise: Audio-Visual Artist Finds Inspiration in Chicago’s Transit

Artist Rachel Steele mixes sounds she recorded live on public transit and out in neighborhoods with musical instruments reflective of the city’s different cultures. Her show, "Soundpost: Remixing Transit," is on display at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this Thursday.

Customers inside UpRising Bakery and Cafe in Lake in the Hills. (WTTW News)

Owner of Bakery Targeted for Hosting Drag Shows Plans to Stay Open in a New Location

UpRising Bakery and Cafe owner Corinna Sac plans to relocate her business after months of harassment, protests and threats. The attacks came after the cafe announced plans last July to hold two family-friendly drag shows as part of an event series.

(WTTW News)

After Controversial Freight Rail Merger Approved, Northwest Suburban Communities Weigh Next Steps

Federal regulators just approved a merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern, with Chicago as part of the route linking Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

(WTTW News)

CTA, City Eye Community-Centric Development Around Future Red Line Extension Stations

Community-driven development centered around future CTA stations. That’s the idea behind a new “transit-supportive development” plan to revitalize South Side neighborhoods that are part of the proposed Red Line extension to 130th Street.

(WTTW News)

Lawmakers, Organizers Want to Force Lakefront Power Plant Owner to Clean Up Coal Ash Byproduct

Coal ash, the byproduct created when plants burn coal for power, contains potentially dangerous materials like arsenic, mercury and cadmium that can endanger nearby water supplies. Since coal-fired power plants use a lot of water to keep their equipment cool, they’re often near bodies of water like Lake Michigan.

A rendering of the planned Chicago Fire Club practice facility on former Chicago Housing Authority land. (Courtesy of Chicago Department of Planning and Development.)

City Inks Controversial Deal for Chicago Fire Practice Facility on Chicago Housing Authority Land

The facility is set to take over some 26 acres of Near West Side property that was part of the Addams-Brooks-Loomis-Abbott homes, known as ABLA. The Fire plans to build a “performance center” building and five and a half soccer fields.

(WTTW News)

Englewood Residents Overwhelmingly Back Reopening Racine Green Line Station. CTA Says It’s ‘Fully Committed’ to the Idea

After years of efforts to reopen the shuttered stop, there’s been momentum in recent months — including an outpouring of support at the ballot box last week, with 93% of area voters calling on the CTA to get Racine back up and running.

(WTTW News)

Englewood Residents Didn’t Want Save A Lot to Replace Whole Foods, But Lease Shows It Was Always a Backup Plan

Many community leaders and residents who spoke out at public meetings didn’t want to see discount grocer Save A Lot move in, citing its limited options and poor reputation among many Chicagoans. Despite that outcry, Save A Lot operator Yellow Banana has been announced as the new tenant in the grocery store space.

(WTTW News)

Illinois Lawmakers Eye Tougher Safety Standards For Uber, Lyft

Uber and Lyft are currently exempt from the so-called “common carrier” standard that applies to other forms of transportation like taxis, railroads and airlines. Some Illinois lawmakers want to change that.