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.

Civil Liberties Groups Ramp Up Opposition to Drone Expansion

Civil liberties groups are fighting back against proposed legislation in Springfield that would allow police to surveil crowds with drones equipped with facial recognition technologies. On Friday, lawmakers in the House rejected legislation which amends current limits to drone surveillance that would’ve allowed police to use them without obtaining a warrant at any public or private event that has more than 100 people in attendance. “This is a disturbing extension of surveillance, it can be misused in so many ways,” Democratic state rep Kelly Cassidy” said on Friday. On Monday, two separate amendments to the legislation were introduced that would increase the crowd size required, put limits on facial recognition software, and add requirements for reporting on the usage of drones, or set a time limit on how long the footage could be kept before being destroyed. “The Chicago Police Department’s long history of violating the rights of protesters is well known and includes unlawful surveillance and targeted abuse of people working to make this a more just city for our most marginalized residents,” wrote the Chicago National Lawyers Guild, one of many groups opposing the legislation, in a statement. (Chicago Reader)

Chicago Firefighter Dies in Line of Duty

A diver with the Chicago Fire Department died and two others were injured while searching for a man who fell overboard Monday evening. Juan Bucio, a 46 year-old man who joined the department in 2003 and became a member of the dive team in 2007 became separated from the rest of his team during a rescue operation. He was found by backup divers and taken to Stroger Hospital and pronounced dead at 10:02pm. “The entire Chicago Fire Department’s prayers go out to the family of Firefighter Juan Bucio who tragically passed away answering a call of a person in the water near 2600 S. Ashland,” CFD tweeted. In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said “our hearts are heavy.” “When the call came for help, Juan Bucio was that special type of person who answered,” said Emanuel. “He will be missed, but his service and his selflessness will be remembered.” (Sun-Times)

Aldermen: Honor Ida B. Wells; Rename Balbo Drive

Chicago aldermen have introduced an ordinance to strip the name of an Italian fascist aviator from East Balbo Drive and rename it for Chicago journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells. See the story.

New Report Shows Negative Effects of Chicago School Closings

A new report from the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research confirmed what many educators, parents, students, and activists long-held about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial closing of nearly 50 public schools in 2013 – they had a negative effect on students. Researchers compiled information from data, interviews school students and staff at six welcoming schools. “Staff and students from both closed and welcoming schools reported that the planning process for merging schools was not sufficient, resulting in feeling unprepared for the start of the school year,” the authors said in their key findings “In addition, interviewees used the word “chaotic” to describe the process of moving schools, saying it was difficult to adequately prepare schools in time to receive students.” (Full report at UChicago Consortium on School Research)

Obama Presidential Library Takes Another Step Forward

The Chicago City Council approved plans Wednesday in a 47-1 vote for the Obama Presidential Library, ignoring concerns of neighborhood residents regarding displacement and gentrification. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who placed a call to Obama after the vote, called the move a “giant step toward creating a living testament to the Obama legacy and an economic, educational and cultural engine in the South Side of Chicago.” Residents and community activists however, have been pushing for a Community Benefits Agreement to protect themselves from displacement. “Whether or not there is displacement in Woodlawn, due to the development of the Obama Center and University of Chicago, will depend on whether or not a Community Benefit Ordinance is passed to stop displacement” said Sharon Payne a spokesperson for the Obama CBA Coalition in a press release. The next step in the process is a federal review, since Jackson Park, where the center will be located, is on the National Register of Historic Places. (ABC7)

City Council Postpones Vote on New Police Academy

The Chicago City Council postponed a planned vote on building a new $95 million police academy Wednesday on the in Garfield Park on Tuesday amid a contentious City Council meeting that saw hundreds of protesters in and outside the building. Community activists opposed to the academy, some who lined up as early as 7:30AM to attend the meeting, say they want the money to go to resources for the community such as schools and mental health clinics. Proponents, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel argue that the increased training will help fulfill recommendations by former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department, and has the potential to be an economic engine in the neighborhood. The vote was delayed via a parliamentary procedure proposed by Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and David Moore, and the matter will be taken up again on Friday. (Visu.News)

State Rep. Cassidy Says House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Office Took Retaliatory Action After Criticism

State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-14th District) says she was forced to resign from a part-time position with the Cook County Sheriff’s office in retaliation for criticism of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment allegations in the Statehouse. Cassidy says Madigan’s office called the Sheriff’s just days to check on her employment just days after she publicly rebuked Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment claims. “It was very chilling, … It felt like a warning, very clearly,” said Cassidy. “It was clear to me that this would be the first of an unlimited number of shots at me, and I respect the sheriff [Tom Dart] too much and the work they do. But I felt like the only way that I could bring an end to this is to come out.” Cassidy resigned, but said she did so because the check-in was a form of retaliation. In a letter, Madigan said he had “never taken any action” regarding Cassidy’s outside employment, or asked anyone to do so. (Sun-Times)

NoCopAcademy Activists Allege They Were Threatened with Arrest For Flyering on L Trains

Community activists organizing against the new $95 million police academy the Chicago City Council’s budget committee is scheduled to vote on Tuesday say they were threatened with arrest by the Chicago police if they went through with a “train takeover” on Monday. The group, dubbed NoCopAcademy, has been pushing to get Mayor Emanuel and the City Council to put the brakes on funding a new $95 million police academy on the west side and instead, put the money towards other public services and schools in the community. They had planned a series of “train takeovers,” a peaceful action where activists ride the L, pass out fliers, and talk to commuters about their issue but say that police were stationed at many Loop entrances who threatened to arrest them if they went through with it. “CPD did not allow #NoCopAcademy organizers on the trains and stationed police at every platform nearby, threatening arrest if any “disruption” aka passing out flyers happens,” tweeted the group. “We utilize this tactic for political education, and they know it’s effective.”

Low Wage Workers Protest Outside McDonald’s HQ, at Capitol in Springfield

Hundreds of fast food and other low wage workers along with community activists protested outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters and later at the Capitol building in Springfield on Monday to demand higher wages and union rights. Monday’s actions – where many risked arrest and some were escorted out of the building by Capitol Police in Springfield – are part of a broader six-week campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience organized by the labor movement called the Poor People’s campaign, named after the historic Memphis sanitation strike organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. “We are cooks and cashiers who work behind the company’s counters, grills and fryers across the country,” read a letter delivered to McDonald’s headquarters by workers. “And we are calling on McDonald’s to use its massive power and wealth to lift up people of color and our communities rather than keep us locked in poverty.” In Springfield, demonstrators also called for a statewide $15 an hour minimum wage and protections against voter suppression.

Supporters of CBA for Obama Library Rally Ahead of Plan Commission’s Decision

Supporters demanding a Community Benefits Agreement be attached to the proposed plan to build the Obama Presidential Library in Jackson Park rallied on Wednesday and Thursday morning ahead of The Chicago Plan Commission’s decision on whether or not to move forward with the proposal. Community activists have long been calling for a Community Benefit Ordinance to be put in place before the library is built that would set aside 30% of new and rehabbed housing for low income and working families, freeze property taxes for long time residents, and independently monitor hiring. “Whether or not there is displacement in Woodlawn, due to the development of the Obama Center and University of Chicago, will depend on whether or not a Community Benefit Ordinance is passed to stop displacement” said Sharon Payne a spokesperson for the Obama CBA Coalition, in a Thursday morning press release. Others say they want the library to move forward. “There’s a right to be concerned every time — I understand the skepticism but in the name of progress we have to find a way to move forward,” said Ghien Forman. Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle were in Chicago yesterday to speak with the first class of Obama Foundation Fellows on Wednesday. “Learn from each other, share experiences, and support each other,” said Obama. (NBC5)