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China's ex-leader Jiang Zemin, an influential reformer, has died at 96

Chinese President Jiang Zemin sings a selection from “Beijing Opera” on the last day of an eight-day visit to the U.S. on Nov. 2, 1997, in Los Angeles.

Hector Mata/AFP via Getty Images

Hector Mata/AFP via Getty Images

Former Chinese leader and general secretary of the country’s ruling Communist Party Jiang Zemin died at the age of 96, state news agency Xinhua announced. The cause of death was leukemia and multiple organ failure.

Jiang was a divisive and colorful figure at the forefront of political life for 15 years. Even after retirement, analysts say, he exercised influence — and in his last years, served as a counterweight to China’s current leader, Xi Jinping.

Jiang got his break to be party leader in the aftermath of the chaos of the student-led protests centered on Tiananmen Square in 1989. China was a pariah. Jiang was tasked with restoring stability within a divided Communist Party — and rehabilitating the image of a government that had ordered the military to fire on its own citizens.

In a 2000 interview, CBS journalist Mike Wallace called Jiang “a dictator, an authoritarian.” And Jiang objected.

“Very frankly speaking, I don’t agree with your point,” the Chinese leader said in English. “Your way of describing what things are like in China is as absurd as what the Arabian Nights may sound like.”

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The “Shanghai gang”

At first, Jiang was thought to be a weak and transitional figure — a surprise choice for the next party leader — but few other officials were trusted and other, more liberal officials had been purged.

Then-Mayor of Shanghai Jiang Zemin (left) gives a tour to Queen Elizabeth II (center) flanked by Chinese Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian (right), and Hong Kong Gov. Geoffrey Howe at the Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai on Oct. 15, 1986.

Yoshikazu Mikami/AFP via Getty Images

Yoshikazu Mikami/AFP via Getty Images

By 1993, he was also named head of state, in addition to party leader, and only relinquished his last title in 2004, all the while increasing his influence.

“He managed to steer China from great difficulties to great promise,” says Jia Qingguo, the former dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies. “China became — under his leadership — more open to the outside world, more liberal and China’s economy became more dynamic.”

Born on Aug. 17, 1926, in southern Jiangsu province to a prosperous family, Jiang joined an underground Communist cell in 1946. After the Communist Party won control of China, he was assigned to build relations with the Soviet Union and worked in the Stalin Automobile Factory in Moscow, where he learned to speak Russian.

An engineer by training, he rose through the ranks as a technocrat, eventually heading the Ministry of Electronics Industry in the 1980s.

Left: General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin waves before boarding his flight for Moscow, on May 15, 1991, in Beijing. Right: Zemin shakes hands with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (R) on May 16, 1991, in Moscow.

Mike Fiala/AFP via Getty Images; Vitaly Armand/AFP via Getty Images

Mike Fiala/AFP via Getty Images; Vitaly Armand/AFP via Getty Images

But he remains most closely associated with the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai, where he was mayor before being plucked away to become overall head of the Communist Party. In Shanghai, he championed foreign investment and built up a network of proteges and associates he later helped promote up the ranks of party leadership — a power base analysts of Chinese elite politics termed “the Shanghai gang.” Those connections later let Jiang retain significant influence long after he had officially left the top echelons of power.

The “Three Represents”

Jiang’s main ideological innovation was a broad theory called the “Three Represents,” officially enshrined into Communist Party orthodoxy in 2002. He wanted to allow entrepreneurs and capitalists to join the party, and his theory underpinned the ideological somersaults necessary to permit it.

“This has been instrumental in ensuring that the party remains relevant. But of course the nature of the party has changed tremendously,” says Willy Lam, a senior fellow at U.S. think tank the Jamestown Foundation and one of the first people to write a biography of Jiang.

The move was controversial, but it ultimately ensured the party’s continued grip on power by co-opting a rising class of self-made entrepreneurs and China’s middle class. “It is no longer the party of the workers and peasants,” Lam says. “What we have seen is a new aristocracy has risen up the ranks. It is now the party of the rich and powerful.”

Communist Party Secretary General Jiang Zemin delivers his reports to the opening of the 14th Chinese Communist Party Congress on October 12, 1992 in Beijing.

Mike Fiala/AFP via Getty Images

Mike Fiala/AFP via Getty Images

Jiang’s ideological flexibility cemented his legacy of combining growing economic freedoms with the absence of meaningful political liberalization, though his term was marked by the relaxation of political controls on press and free expression.

“We were not afraid of any kind of punishment then for covering stories,” said Alfred Wu, a political science professor at National University Singapore who was then a Chinese state media reporter. “The only advice from my senior editors was not to criticize Jiang himself.”

An economic liberal, but not a political liberal

Yet despite his ties to policies known as “reform and opening” in the 1980s, Jiang was no political liberal himself. When student protests roared through the country in 1989, he sacked a well-known newspaper editor and supported the execution of three student demonstrators. A decade later, he ordered the mass arrests of adherents of Falun Gong, a spiritual sect.

His political longevity mean he presided over China during other pivotal historical moments whose implications are still felt today.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin (center left) takes part in the official handover ceremony, marking Britain’s return of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997, in Hong Kong. This ended 156 years of British colonial rule over the territory.

Paul Lakatos/AFP/Getty Images

Paul Lakatos/AFP/Getty Images

In 1997, Jiang oversaw the return of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control. Standing on the same stage as the then-Prince Charles of Britain, Jiang assured nervous residents that “Hong Kong residents shall enjoy various rights and freedoms according to law,” under Chinese rule — an assurance critics say was eviscerated in 2020, when Beijing imposed a controversial national security law on the territory.

Later, Jiang fought to speed up China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2001 – bringing China in line with international legal norms, and forced it to open up hitherto-closed sectors of the economy.

His mark continues to be felt in China’s military, which under his watch began an ambitious modernization effort to upgrade its weapons technology and management, an effort analysts credit with shaping it into a globally-competitive fighting force now seen as a serious challenger to the American military dominance in Asia and feared by many to be threatening the democratic island of Taiwan.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin inspects the People’s Liberation Army garrison on July 2, 1998, in Hong Kong. Jiang came to Hong Kong for the celebrations of the first anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule and to open a new airport.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

In 2002, Jiang peacefully relinquished the title of party general secretary to his successor, Hu Jintao — the first and only orderly transition of power in Chinese Communist history. But he retained his position as chairman of the country’s powerful Central Military Commission — the de facto commander in chief — until 2004.

A larger-than-life personality

In person, Jiang was known for his larger-than-life personality, often displaying a theatrical streak that entertained world leaders and frustrated his dour Communist colleagues.

China’s President Jiang Zemin raises his glass in a toast during a state dinner held in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Oct. 26, 1997. The dinner was hosted by Hawaii Gov. Benjamin Cayetano (right) and his wife Vicky Cayetano (left).

George F. Lee/AFP via Getty Images

George F. Lee/AFP via Getty Images

“Back then, we all found him very annoying. Jiang had many flaws. He was attention-seeking, and liked performing,” Zhang Ming, a retired political science professor in Beijing, told NPR several years ago.

Jiang delighted in quoting the Gettysburg Address in English and singing in public. During various state functions over the years, he danced cha-cha with then-Philippine President Fidel Ramos while delivering a rendition of Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender, picked a Hawaiian guitar while festooned with a flower lei, and waltzed to an accordion with the wife of French President Jacques Chirac.

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With a wide grin, khaki pants hiked way above the waist and his trademark coke-bottle glasses, Jiang also became an unlikely pop culture icon among young Chinese born long after his party chairmanship ended. His resemblance to a cartoon amphibian spawned a generation of popular memes dubbed “toad worship” on Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat.

“Too simple, sometimes naïve,” he chastised a Hong Kong reporter in 2000 —now a popular internet quip.

Jiang’s rule “feels more and more in the past”

As cloistered leader, Jiang was never a man of the people, but Zhang, the retired professor, believes Jiang will be remembered fondly.

“In retrospect, we feel his era was alright. We miss it,” Zhang said. “That is the tragedy of China. The country hasn’t changed for the better, so we miss the past.”

Increasingly, Jiang’s rule feels more and more in the past as the market-oriented, internationally minded China he presided over crumbles under current party leader Xi Jinping, who has rebuilt absolute party control over Chinese society.

Images of Jiang impatiently checking his watch and snoozes as Xi Jinping laid out his vision for a “new era” of China during the 19th Party Congress, a national gathering of party representative, went viral in 2017.

Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin checks his wristwatch during the opening session of China’s 19th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Oct. 18, 2017. Chinese President Xi Jinping was at the podium giving a 3 1/2-hour speech to outline his grand vision for a “new era” of China.

Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Mark Schiefelbein/AP

China analysts say Jiang’s political influence and health waned in his old age. In recent years, Xi purged Jiang’s loyalists, especially in the military, once one of Jiang’s political strongholds, through his controversial anti-corruption campaign.

Jiang was not present at the last party congress in October, where Xi secured a landmark third term in power. Rumors of Jiang’s death have circled for decades, but each time he would reappear in public days later.

This time, however, the rumors were true.

President Jiang Zemin arrives to preside over the Hong Kong handover ceremony on June 30, 1997, in Hong Kong.

South China Morning Post via Getty Images

South China Morning Post via Getty Images

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An Oklahoma country singer married on Saturday, and died a few hours later

Country singer Jake Flint died Sunday, hours after getting married, according to The Oklahoman.

Flint married his wife Brenda on Saturday and by Sunday morning, he had died in his sleep. He was 37.

“We should be going through wedding photos but instead I have to pick out clothes to bury my husband in,” Brenda Flint wrote on Facebook.

A cause of death has not been determined.

Flint, a native of Holdenville, Oklahoma, began making music at a young age after his dad bought him guitar lessons shortly after being diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s disease. He released two albums, I’m Not OK in 2016 and Jake Flint in 2020.

Brenda Cline, his manager, said she “loved him much like a son.”

“The funniest, most hilarious, hardest working, dedicated artist I have ever worked with in my career,” she said on Facebook.

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Twitter will no longer enforce its COVID misinformation policy

Jeff Chiu/AP

Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus.

Eagle-eyed users spotted the change Monday night, noting that a one-sentence update had been made to Twitter’s online rules: “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

By Tuesday, some Twitter accounts were testing the new boundaries and celebrating the platform’s hands-off approach, which comes after Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk.

“This policy was used to silence people across the world who questioned the media narrative surrounding the virus and treatment options,” tweeted Dr. Simone Gold, a physician and leading purveyor of COVID-19 misinformation. “A win for free speech and medical freedom!”

Twitter’s decision to no longer remove false claims about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines disappointed public health officials, however, who said it could lead to more false claims about the virus, or the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

“Bad news,” tweeted epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, who urged people not to flee Twitter but to keep up the fight against bad information about the virus. “Stay folks — do NOT cede the town square to them!”

While Twitter’s efforts to stop false claims about COVID weren’t perfect, the company’s decision to reverse course is an abdication of its duty to its users, said Paul Russo, a social media researcher and dean of the Katz School of Science and Health at Yeshiva University in New York.

Russo added that it’s the latest of several recent moves by Twitter that could ultimately scare away some users and even advertisers. Some big names in business have already paused their ads on Twitter over questions about its direction under Musk.

“It is 100% the responsibility of the platform to protect its users from harmful content,” Russo said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

The virus, meanwhile, continues to spread. Nationally, new COVID cases averaged nearly 38,800 a day as of Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — far lower than last winter but a vast undercount because of reduced testing and reporting. About 28,100 people with COVID were hospitalized daily and about 313 died, according to the most recent federal daily averages.

Cases and deaths were up from two weeks earlier. Yet a fifth of the U.S. population hasn’t been vaccinated, most Americans haven’t gotten the latest boosters, and many have stopped wearing masks.

Musk, who has himself spread COVID misinformation on Twitter, has signaled an interest in rolling back many of the platform’s previous rules meant to combat misinformation.

Last week, Musk said he would grant “amnesty” to account holders who had been kicked off Twitter. He’s also reinstated the accounts for several people who spread COVID misinformation, including that of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose personal account was suspended this year for repeatedly violating Twitter’s COVID rules.

Greene’s most recent tweets include ones questioning the effectiveness of masks and making baseless claims about the safety of COVID vaccines.

Since the pandemic began, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have struggled to respond to a torrent of misinformation about the virus, its origins and the response to it.

Under the policy enacted in January 2020, Twitter prohibited false claims about COVID-19 that the platform determined could lead to real-world harms. More than 11,000 accounts were suspended for violating the rules, and nearly 100,000 pieces of content were removed from the platform, according to Twitter’s latest numbers.

Despite its rules prohibiting COVID misinformation, Twitter has struggled with enforcement. Posts making bogus claims about home remedies or vaccines could still be found, and it was difficult on Tuesday to identify exactly how the platform’s rules may have changed.

Messages left with San Francisco-based Twitter seeking more information about its policy on COVID-19 misinformation were not immediately returned Tuesday.

A search for common terms associated with COVID misinformation on Tuesday yielded lots of misleading content, but also automatic links to helpful resources about the virus as well as authoritative sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said Tuesday that the problem of COVID-19 misinformation is far larger than one platform, and that policies prohibiting COVID misinformation weren’t the best solution anyway.

Speaking at a Knight Foundation forum Tuesday, Jha said misinformation about the virus spread for a number of reasons, including legitimate uncertainty about a deadly illness. Simply prohibiting certain kinds of content isn’t going to help people find good information, or make them feel more confident about what they’re hearing from their medical providers, he said.

“I think we all have a collective responsibility,” Jha said of combating misinformation about COVID. “The consequences of not getting this right — of spreading that misinformation — is literally tens of thousands of people dying unnecessarily.”

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Strong thunderstorms and tornadoes are predicted across parts of the South

Weather forecasters are warning of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes across parts of the South.

National Weather Service

National Weather Service

Weather forecasters are warning of the potential for strong thunderstorms and tornadoes across a wide swath of Mississippi, as well as smaller sections of Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee on Tuesday evening and overnight.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center called it “a particularly dangerous situation.” Larger cities at risk include Jackson, Greenville, Tupelo, Vicksburg and Clinton in Mississippi.

A tornado watch was issued for parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“This needs to be taken seriously and have plans to move to your safe place if necessary,” the Jackson, Miss., office of the National Weather Service said. “Continue to monitor info as it becomes available.”

A tornado was confirmed near Vaiden, Miss., in the center of the state on Tuesday afternoon. Forecasters warned of a regional tornado outbreak being possible from northern Louisiana into north-central Mississippi and western Alabama.

Hail stones hit the windows of City Hall in the small town of Tchula, Miss., on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported, with residents taking cover.

“It was hitting against the window, and you could tell that it was nice-sized balls of it,” Mayor Ann Polk told the AP after the storm passed through.

Storms in central Mississippi were intensifying, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said on Tuesday afternoon, and would move northeast to impact north-central Alabama.

The weather service also warned of strong wind gusts reaching 70 mph and very large hail.

For Wednesday, the weather service said there was a marginal risk of severe thunderstorms and “a tornado or two” as storms move east into Georgia and parts of Florida. Large cities including New Orleans, Atlanta, Montgomery and Mobile are in the area at risk on Wednesday.

The U.S. has the most tornadoes in the world, with about 1,200 a year.

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Men Fatally Shot 12-Year-Old Girl On Her Birthday As They Aimed At Rival Gang Member, Prosecutors Say

WEST ENGLEWOOD — Three men were shooting at a rival gang member in March when they shot and killed a 12-year-old girl who was celebrating her birthday with her family, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Malik Parish, 22, and Abdul Ali, 20, were arrested Sunday after they tried to evade officers who spotted them in a stolen car on the Far South Side, prosecutors said. Both were ordered held without bond Tuesday on first-degree murder charges in the March 1 killing of Nyzireya Moore.

The third person involved in that shooting has not yet been charged, authorities said.

The shooting happened around 7:48 p.m. March 1 in the 2300 block of West 72nd Street, police said. 

Parish, Ali and the third man had left a home near 72nd and Oakley streets when a rival gang member drove past them in a black Mercedes and turned north on Oakley, prosecutors said. About two minutes later, the three men shot at the car as it drove off, prosecutors said. 

Nyzireya, who turned 12 that day, was riding in the back seat of her mother’s car heading north on Oakley at the same time the men opened fire, prosecutors said. A bullet shattered the back window, striking Nyzireya in her head, prosecutors said. Nyzireya died from her injuries three days later, prosecutors said. 

Nyzireya was out celebrating her birthday when she was shot, according to the Sun-Times.

In an obituary, her family described her as the “TikTok Queen, the party slayer, edge control killer, fashionista, smart, humble, respectful, spoiled, creative, adventurous and the best big sister.” 

Police found 25 shell casings from three handguns at the intersection, prosecutors said. Supt. David Brown called the shooting “heinous, reckless and senseless,” according to the Sun-Times

“We want to send a strong message to these violent offenders that this won’t be tolerated in the city of Chicago and that there will be a price to pay in the criminal justice system for you,” Brown said. 

Police released surveillance video of the shooting later in March as authorities and Nyzireya’s family pleaded for people to come forward with information. Various cameras captured the three men, all wearing hoodies, from when they left the home to when they opened fire, prosecutors said.

Parish and Ali were arrested Sunday near 104th Street and Perry Avenue in Fernwood, prosecutors said.

The two were among four people spotted getting out of a stolen Ford Mustang and going inside a nearby house, prosecutors said. They ran away when officers approached them near the car, prosecutors said.

Police found the fob key to the stolen Mustang in Parish’s pocket, prosecutors said. He also was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

Ali ran from officers with a handgun in his right hand, prosecutors said. He ran through a gangway where he dropped a 9mm Glock loaded with 19 live rounds, prosecutors said. The gun had an extended clip capable of holding 31 rounds and a functioning automatic switch, prosecutors said.

Ali also was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and criminal trespass to a vehicle. 

Parish and Ali will appear in court again Dec. 19. 

Darius Turner, 22, also was arrested during the same incident Sunday, prosecutors said. Officers recovered a loaded handgun with an extended magazine, prosecutors said. He was charged with being an armed habitual criminal, prosecutors said.

Preliminary tests showed none of the guns officers found during the arrest were used in Nyzireya’s shooting, prosecutors said.

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5 Protesters Arrested Outside Pilsen Church As Workers Remove Beloved Statue After Monthslong Standoff

PILSEN — The battle over a beloved statue inside a shuttered Pilsen church came to a crescendo Wednesday as work crews removed the Michelangelo replica and police arrested five people protesting the project.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has wanted to remove the La Pietà statue from St. Adalbert’s Church, 1650 W. 17th St., for months, but protesters blocked the removal on multiple occasions. The church closed in 2019 as part of a consolidation but longtime parishioners have focused on preserving the statue amid their battle with the archdiocese, which wants to sell the land.

On Tuesday morning, crews successfully removed the statue, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus, through a hole in one of the closed church’s walls that was created for the removal. It was loaded onto a flatbed and brought to its new home at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, 2127 W. 22nd Place.

A small group of protesters were arrested Tuesday after trying to block the truck carrying the statue outside St. Adalbert’s, a police spokesperson said. Charges were pending.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Former parishioners block the truck carrying the La Pietà statue, which was removed from St. Adalbert’s and moved to St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Pilsen on Nov. 29, 2022, after months of activism to keep the statue in its original home.

Beginning in September, residents rotated shifts to watch over the statue, camping outside to block it from being removed. The transfer of the statue raised concerns among parishioners about whether the archdiocese will properly seal the hole once the statue is removed and if it will accelerate the demolition of the parish. 

Workers previously tried to move the statue in October, but were again thwarted by protesters.

Anina Jakubowski, a former St. Adalbert’s parishioner and student, said she got a text from friends early Tuesday letting her know workers were finally taking the statue. She raced to Pilsen from her home in Downers Grove to be there as the statue was removed, she said.

“‘Oh no, the thing that we dreaded — it’s happening,’” Jakubowski said raced through her mind.

Javier Yañez, a former choir boy at St. Adalbert’s, said he worries about the possibility of the church turning into a luxury development.

“We can change potentially change the fabric of this community, from one day to the other if we don’t do the right thing here,” said Yañez, who has a history of local politics in the ward.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Judy Vasquez looks on as La Pietà statue, which was removed from St. Adalbert’s Church after months of activism to keep the statue in its original home, is moved to St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Pilsen on Nov. 29, 2022.

St. Adalbert’s future

In the last four years, the archdiocese has twice gone under contract to sell the property — once to a music school and another time to a residential developer — but both deals have fallen through. 

The property — consisting of the sanctuary, rectory, convent, school and a parking lot — spans 2.1 acres in the heart of the changing neighborhood.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) has worked to downzone the church site for years in an effort to force any developer to engage with Pilsen neighbors and St. Adalbert’s former parishioners.

Sigcho-Lopez’s ordinance passed the zoning committee in May, despite a representative from the archdiocese at the time saying it would likely sue the city if it passed. It was set to go before the next City Council meeting, but allies of the mayor blocked the vote.

Sigcho-Lopez subsequently filed a complaint with the Inspector General’s office against Mayor Lori Lightfoot, accusing the mayor of interfering in the rezoning to help the archdiocese.

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Affordable Housing Near Lincoln Square Brown Line, Other Projects Approved By Key Zoning Committee

LINCOLN SQUARE — An affordable housing project that would bring 63 apartments to the heart of Lincoln Square received key city approval Tuesday.

The six-story, 63-unit development at 4715 N. Western Ave. is planned for a parking lot across the street from the Western Avenue Brown Line station. It will include ground-floor commercial space and 18 public parking spaces.

The project was one of numerous items approved by the City Council’s zoning committee Tuesday, including an affordable development in Lakeview and residential units and a hotel on Motor Row in the South Loop. Each development must now be approved by the full City Council.

The Lincoln Square development has been controversial and underwent several revisions since it was first proposed in 2020.

Developer Community Builders was pre-approved for highly competitive tax credits in December 2021 after years of tense community meetings on bringing low-cost units to the increasingly expensive Lincoln Square area.

The city’s housing and planning departments approved an early version of the developer’s proposal last year but later said the developer needed to cut back parking and move the building’s entrance to secure final approval for the tax credits.

The latest compromise was ironed out in July after months of back-and-forth between the developer, neighbors, business owners, 47th Ward officials and city departments.

“It was very challenging to thread the needle, not just with the community but with city departments. But at the end, I think we settled on something that our community is very excited about, in particular activating a very important corner within a broader Lincoln Square commercial corridor that is already very thriving,” Ald. Matt Martin (47th) said at Tuesday’s zoning hearing.

The building will include a range of studios, one bedrooms and two bedroom apartments.

Lakeview Lutheran Church building

Credit: Provided
A rendering for an affordable housing development 835 W. Addison St. in Lakeview

The zoning committee also approved a housing development in Lakeview that will bring 37 affordable units to the neighborhood.

The project at 835 W. Addison St. would convert the current Lakeview Lutheran Church building into a new development, which would include space for the church on the ground floor and affordable units on higher floors.

The six-story building was first approved for a zoning change in 2020, but has been revised to accommodate technical changes to come in line with new transit-oriented development rules passed by City Council this summer, zoning attorney Liz Butler said.

“As the alderman of this ward and an area that is really difficult to find partners for affordability in our ward, we’re excited to to bring this forward again,” Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said. Tunney is also the chair of the City Council’s zoning committee.

Motor Row Historic District

Credit: Provided
A rendering for a proposed mixed-use residential and hotel development at 2222 S. Michigan Ave. in the South Loop

At 2222 S. Michigan Ave. in South Loop, alderpeople approved a mixed-use development that hopes to bring 38 residential units, 18 hotel rooms and a restaurant and event space to a historic Motor Row building.

The project is being led by former Bears defensive end Israel Idonije, who hopes to add an additional floor and rooftop patio to the building, which once was a showroom for the Hudson Motor Company.

“This is one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings along Michigan Avenue in the Motor Row Historic District. I’m really excited about Mr. Idonije and his team’s plans to create a residential, hotel, restaurant, speakeasy, commercial space with a rooftop venue here at this location,” area Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said Tuesday.

The zoning committee also approved a mixed-use development in Chinatown, a four-unit mixed use building in West Town, and other projects.

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St. Ignatius Hockey Players, Parents Sue Semi Driver, Trucking Companies After Indiana Crash

LITTLE ITALY — Parents of 16 St. Ignatius College Prep JV hockey players injured in a crash this month in Indiana are suing the truck driver who hit the players’ bus.

The lawsuit alleges that on Nov. 12, the truck driver, Victor Santos, 58, had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit. He ran a red light, crashing into a bus carrying 23 student-athletes in Warsaw, Indiana, according to the lawsuit.

The crash sent all 23 of the players and their two coaches to a local hospital. Three students were initially in critical condition.

One of those students remains hospitalized, according to a news release from the Cavanagh Law Group, which is representing the parents and students behind the lawsuit.

Before the crash, police were warned a semi-truck driver was swerving and speeding on a highway in Warsaw, local police Captain Brad Kellar said.

Santos failed a sobriety test, police said.

Credit: Provided/Warsaw Police Department
The school bus flipped over after a semi-truck hit it from behind while running a red light on an Indiana highway Saturday night.

Police charged Santos with four counts of causing serious bodily harm while operating a vehicle and 22 counts of criminal recklessness. His bond was set for $75,000, according to police.

The lawsuit names Santos and trucking companies N&V Trucking Express, B&W Cartage Company, Inc., B&W Cartage, Inc. and B&W Cartage International, Inc. as defendants, according to a news release.

Santos was previously charged in Indiana with failure to comply with federal motor carrier safety regulations and failure to register under the unified carrier registration system, according to the law group.

“He was previously charged, in Indiana, with violations of the federal motor safety carrier act.  He never should have been on the road, much less hired to be behind the wheel of a semi-tractor trailer,” Timothy Cavanagh, an attorney representing the players, said in a statement. “Santos and the trucking companies must be held responsible for the egregious conduct that has left these young men with lifelong physical and emotional injuries.”

Many of the students who were injured are back at school, but several have not been well enough to return, according to the news release.

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Ald. Scott Waguespack Will Run Unopposed To Represent Bucktown, West Lakeview

BUCKTOWN — Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) will run unopposed for the second election in a row to represent Bucktown and parts of Lakeview and Lincoln Park in City Council.

Waguespack was the only candidate to submit nominating signatures necessary to claim a spot on the Feb. 28 ballot for the 32nd Ward Council seat, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Also running unopposed are alds. Brian Hopkins (2nd), David Moore (17th), Walter Burnett (27th) and Matt Martin (47th).

Waguespack was first elected to represent the 32nd Ward in a close runoff election in 2007. He then won handily in 2011 and 2015 before running unopposed in 2019.

For years a progressive voice in City Council who butted heads with former mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel, Waguespack has emerged as a close ally of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Waguespack endorsed Lightfoot in her 2019 bid for mayor and was named chair of the powerful City Council finance committee when she took office.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) speak at a City Council meeting on June 22, 2022.

Waguespack said Monday he was “pleasantly surprised” to learn no candidates had submitted petitions to challenge him in next year’s election, essentially guaranteeing him another four-year term in City Council.

Waguespack said the lack of a challenger means he can focus on ward issues such as public safety and continue “cleaning up” the operations of the finance committee, which was for years run by Ald. Ed Burke (14th). Burke was indicted in 2019 on federal racketeering, bribery and corruption charges.

“We have so much work to do still that it feels good not to have an opponent so we can focus on work. I just feel like I still have so much more work to do that this will be helpful to be able to focus on that,” Waguespack said.

Under the new city ward map approved this year, the 32nd Ward boundaries will shift east and slightly north to include all of Bucktown, parts of Roscoe Village and Lincoln Park and the Lincoln Yards megadevelopment along the Chicago River.

Lincoln Yards controversially received $1.3 billion in city subsidies in April 2019 after a drawn-out City Council fight.

Waguespack voted against those subsidies, and he has vocally opposed the development.

But this spring, Waguespack advocated for including the site in the 32nd Ward during the remap process, butting heads with Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who hoped to keep it in his control.

Ultimately, the map supported by Waguespack and members of the council’s Black Caucus was approved by a 43-7 vote in May.

Waguespack said while Lincoln Yards is moving forward, there’s still work his office can do to hold Sterling Bay and other partners accountable to the surrounding community.

“I think what we’re going to do is try to make sure that everything that’s done is transparent and as open to the public as possible,” he said. “And where there are things that we can do, that we respond appropriately with the neighborhood in mind, as opposed to just the developer.”

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Here’s How You Can Support Block Club Chicago This Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday, and you’ve probably gotten several emails already with flashy ads asking for your support. Unlike many of the folks you’re hearing from, Block Club doesn’t have a giant fundraising team and marketing department honing an end-of-year pitch. Our business team has three people because our budget overwhelmingly funds the news — the reporters who are out in the neighborhoods, keeping you informed.

When you needed clear answers in a sea of misinformation during the pandemic, our reporters hit the pavement every day to ask tough questions and hold our leaders accountable. We launched a free hotline to help Chicagoans, balancing public health reporting with the context of your real, human stories of struggle and loss.

We exposed sweeping racial inequities in traffic stops across Chicago. We blew open the Loretto Hospital vaccination scandal and revealed COVID-19 testing companies were giving inaccurate and fake results. And we’ve exposed wrongdoing in Chicago’s aldermanic offices, acting as a much-needed watchdog.

Our reporting has changed laws and led to criminal FBI investigations, the closing of hundreds of questionable COVID-19 testing sites and the ousting of top officials.

While other news outlets, large and small, have made cuts, our reporters have been a constant presence you rely on. They care so deeply about Chicago and work every day to make this city a more equitable one. We see it behind the scenes, and we know it’s evident in the journalism they produce.

So, this Giving Tuesday, we want to show them some love. Any tax-deductible donation you make today will go directly to our reporting team— the ones who bug your alderman and show up to neighborhood meetings so you don’t have to.

We’ve made it easier than ever to support Block Club Chicago: Click here to see all the ways you can donate to help fund our work. And, of course, if you aren’t already a subscriber, please consider joining today.

Thank you for keeping local news alive in this great city, 

Jen Sabella
Executive Editor + Co-founder 

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: