Third Coast Today

Welcome to Third Coast Today, our curated, of-the-moment rundown of the latest news in Chicago politics, education, business and finance. We'll cover Chicago, the state of Illinois and other news of interest to our arts-and-culture fiend readers. Catch it here for updates every weekday or check it out on our home page--in the first right-hand column.

Downtown Parking Fines Could Triple This Week

Downtown parking fines could triple this week if the City Council moves to pass an ordinance meant to curb parking in traffic and bike lanes. “The city has designated hundreds of curbside loading accommodations for the delivery of freight downtown — yet delivery vehicles continue to regularly obstruct lanes of traffic to make their deliveries – often when curbside loading is available to them,” said Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), in a statement to the Sun-Times. The ordinance passed out of the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Monday, and is expected to be approved by the full City Council on Wednesday. Fines will go from $100 for a violation to $300. (Sun-Times)

Tribune Analysis Shows Alarming Amount of Lead in Chicago Tap Water

An alarming amount of lead has shown up in the water in Chicago homes, a recent analysis from the Chicago Tribune shows. Lead was found in the tap water of nearly 70 percent of 2,797 homes the Tribune tested over the past two years. Three out of every 10 tested showed levels in excess of 5 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in bottled water by the FDA. Under Chicago’s plumbing code, individual property owners are responsible for maintaining service lines, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said it’s up to homeowners to replace the lines. But that leaves many Chicagoans at risk. The Mayor’s Office said it was making efforts when asked why the City hasn’t removed lead service lines. “Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, he has made it a priority to improve Chicago’s overall water quality and infrastructure,” read a statement. “Today, the city’s water exceeds the standards set by the (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) for clean, safe drinking water. And the Department of Water Management continues to take a proactive approach to mitigating lead in our water system and is continually evaluating additional methods of lead mitigation.” Lead exposure has lead to more than 400,000 deaths a year, according to a study from The Lancet, a London-based medical journal. (Chicago Tribune)

Developers Unveil Plans for New Skyscraper Next to Tribune Tower

The owners of the iconic Tribune Tower announced plans Tuesday morning for a $1 billion project, which would include building a new skyscraper next to the building that would become Chicago’s second tallest. Golub & Co. and CIM Group say they plan to convert the Tribune Tower building into condos and retail, and build a 1,422-foot high-rise next door, where a parking lot currently sits. The plan adds 700 residences and 200 hotel rooms. Construction on the new tower would begin in 2019, and residences inside the current tower would begin being occupied in 2020. The Chicago Tribune will move from the property in June. (WGN)

Patti Blagojevich “Disappointed” in Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear Former Governor’s Appeal

Patti Blagojevich, wife of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is currently serving a 14-year sentence on corruption charges, says she was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to refuse to hear an appeal to the former governor’s case. “Rod, Amy, Annie and I could not be more disappointed in the decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Blagojevich, in a statement on Monday. “From the beginning we’ve had faith in the system and have felt the court would bring Rod back to us. Now, with the judiciary no longer an option, we’ll have to put our faith elsewhere and find another way.” Blagojevich appeared Monday on Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who gave her a platform to appeal to President Trump for a pardon. “My husband is probably the only person in the history of the United States who is serving any kind of sentence for simply asking for campaign contributions,” she said. “Never took a bribe, never took a kickback … yet he serves a sentence that’s twice as long as anyone else.” (Sun-Times) (Fox)

Spending in Gubernatorial Primary Exceeded $150 Million

Spending in the Illinois gubernatorial primary exceeded $150 million, with the lion’s share of cash coming from incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner and billionaire JB Pritzker, who will face off in the general election in November. The Illinois governor’s race is on par to be the most expensive in U.S. history, a record set in the 2010 California gubernatorial race at $280 million. Rauner spent about $176 per vote, while Pritzker spent about $119. (Sun-Times)

Illinois Votes to Ratify Equal Rights Amendment 36 Years Late

The Illinois Senate voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment after an astonishing 36 years, becoming the 37th state to ratify the 1972 amendment. “I think voting to ratify the ERA helps give voice to these women and say, ‘We hear you, we are with you and we agree,” said Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsored a resolution to pusht the amendment through the Senate. “It’s high time we provide equal rights to women across the country.” The amendment guarantees equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex, and needed 38 states to ratify the change to the Constitution. Illinois was one of 15 states to choose not to ratify the amendment before the 1982 deadline, which makes the approval largely symbolic. Still if three more states ratify it, Congress could extend the deadline and the amendment could go into effect. (US News & World Report) (Chicago Tribune)

Aviation Cop Fired for Harming Passenger During Incident Sues City, Airline

A former Chicago aviation police officer is suing the City and an airline for being fired after he helped drag a 69 year-old man off a United Airlines flight when the man refused to give up a seat he paid for after being requested to do so by flight staff. James Long was one of several police officers who forcibly removed David Dao last April in an incident that garnered national attention after a video of the situation went viral. Dao was asked to give up his seat after the airline overbooked the flight and alleged they needed to make room for employees. He refused, and the subsequent encounter with Long and other officers resulted in Dao receiving a concussion, broken nose, and losing two front teeth. Long, who was fired, is suing for damages resulting in the loss of his job, including benefits, vacation, insurance coverage, punitive damages, and legal fees. (Reuters)

Poll: Governor Rauner 3rd Least Popular Governor in the Nation

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is the nation’s third least popular governor, with an approval rating of just 26 percent and a disapproval rating of 60. According to a new poll from Morning Consult, Rauner’s approval rating dropped 10 percentage points in the first three months of this year. While he won the March primary election, it was a narrow victory – 51.6 percent over challenger Rep. Jeanne Ives, who received 48.4 percent. Rauner faces billionaire JB Pritzker in the November general election. Pritzker’s campaign wasted no time using the poll to criticize the governor. “After Bruce Rauner’s disastrous record almost lost him the primary, the most vulnerable incumbent is stumbling through the general election and losing support by the day,” said Pritzker campaign communications director Galia Slayen in a press release. “Illinoisans know they can’t afford another four years of a failed governor that fatally mismanages the Quincy Veterans’ Home and drives the state economy into the ground.” (Morning Consult)

Pritzker Criticizes Rauner for Siding With Trump on National Guard at Border

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said he would send National Guard troops to the border if President Donald Trump requested them from the state. “Frankly, the president is the commander-in-chief of our military,” he said at an event in Springfield on Tuesday. “Illinois has not been requested to send troops. If we are requested, I believe we’ll honor that request.” Rauner’s rival in the November gubernatorial election, billionaire JB Pritzker, blasted Rauner on Twitter for the statement, writing that Rauner “needs to stand up to Trump’s blatant racism and political pandering. This is an unnecessary and irresponsible use of our National Guard.” (Capitol Fax)

Chicago Tribune Workers Push to Unionize

For the first time in more 171 years, journalists at the Chicago Tribune could have a union. “Greetings. We’re the journalists of the Chicago Tribune and its community publications, and we proudly announce the formation of the Chicago Tribune Guild,” a Twitter account bearing the same name wrote Wednesday. “We’re unionizing to protect the future of the newspapers we love and bring readers the best journalism possible.” The Tribune has traditionally taken a hard line anti-union stance. An open letter signed by 46 employees aired many grievances with working conditions at the Tribune, and urged their colleagues to sign on. “…A series of corporate owners — Tronc being only the most recent — has jeopardized our ability to do great work,” the letter reads in part. “Regular raises, cost-of-living adjustments and job security are non-existent. The cost of our healthcare benefits has significantly increased. Our maternity and paternity policy is inadequate….Our primary goal in forming a union is to give us, the Tribune’s journalists, a voice in setting the course for the publications we hold dear.” Members of the Guild also criticized the habit of executives giving themselves large paychecks and other compensation while rank and file employees and newsroom resources go underfunded. “They have looted the company, and the Tronc executives have paid themselves outsized salaries,” said Charlie J. Johnson, a homepage editor at the Tribune. (Robert Feeder) (NPR)