The Spin: Illinois sees record day in COVID-19 cases | Ricketts sibs, John Rogers among pro team owners contributing to presidential campaigns | Fauci virtually in Chicago

Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·9 min read

Illinois saw a one-day high in newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases, prompting Gov. J.B. Pritzker to announce he’s tightening restrictions on bar and restaurant operations and gatherings in yet another region of the state. As cases spike, here and around the country, the governor has reinstituted restrictions that have drawn the ire of businesses and elected leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Family members of Jacob Blake, Alvin Cole, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — African Americans whose killings by police across the country have prompted a national reckoning on race and justice — were part of a get-out-the-vote rally in Grant Park today.

A few blocks west, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown was among the police bosses in the hot seat at ongoing City Council budget hearings, the annual rite of aldermen grilling department heads about operations and their share appropriations for the upcoming year.

The police department’s rate of solving murders, a dismal 50% last year, has fallen to 41%. Chicago’s police superintendent also said he’s looking at bringing back some form the controversial merit promotion system — long criticized by many rank-and-file cops and decried in a U.S. Department of Justice report on the city’s policing practices.

And the Cubs-owning Ricketts family figures large in a new story about wealthy sports team owners and their political contributions from ESPN and influential poll tracker FiveThirtyEight. The big picture? Professional team owners lean right overall. Todd Ricketts, the finance chair of the Republican National Committee, is part of that lineup. But Laura Ricketts is one of the top donors to Democrats in the federal election.

Welcome to The Spin.

COVID-19: Fauci virtually in Chicago; Illinois announces new one-day high with 6,363 new cases

Data points: 6,363 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 — a new high — and 56 additional deaths reported in Illinois today. Details here.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker today took a cue from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chart-filled news conferences in the early days of the pandemic’s grip there. He and the state’s top public health official, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, have made no secret that they’re trying to figure how to deliver their message of wearing a mask and keeping social distance as the numbers climb — evidenced by each slide at his news conference this afternoon.

“Statewide we have a real problem on our hands and people’s lives hang in the balance,” the governor said during this afternoon’s news conference at the downtown Chicago Thompson Center.

More data points: Eight months into the pandemic, he pointed to the highest seven-day average in the spring — 2,565 in May, how it fell to 590 by mid-June and now sits at 5,043. Today alone, 6,363 new cases were announced.

While the state is testing far more people than in the spring, which is good news, Pritzker said, “… cases are rising at a much faster clip than our testing.” The governor explained that even as testing expanded in late June and late July, the state’s positivity rate was steady at between 2.5% and 3%. From late July to a few weeks ago it was largely below. 4.5%. Today it’s up to 6.9%.

McHenry County restaurants, bars file lawsuit challenging COVID-19 closure of their establishments, the Tribune’s Robert McCoppin reports.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was on hand for a virtual discussion here last night: He said a vaccine may be available by January, that the public should trust it and veered away from the question he’s been getting a lot lately: What are we to make of President Donald Trump calling Fauci an “idiot.” (Trump has also said he likes “Tony.”) Fauci says he’s got a thick skin. My Tribune colleague Lisa Schencker has the details here.

Other news — South suburbs urge gaming board to award license for new casino, the Daily Southtown’s Ted Slowik writes. The sooner dozens of towns can benefit from a fresh source of tax revenue, the better, he notes. Read the story here.

Gaming board pushes back new casino license approvals six months due to COVID-19, the Tribune’s Robert Channick reports.

Mental health among Black Chicagoans a concern as suicide numbers rise, the Tribune’s Alison Bowen writes.

Parents seek answers about masks, distancing, pods as CPS looks to reopen schools and plans for simultaneous teaching of kids who remain home — The Tribune’s Hannah Leone has the story here.

Park Ridge restaurants file suit against governor’s indoor dining ban; some plan to defy order, Jennifer Johnson writes in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot to extend hours for liquor sales at Chicago bars and restaurants amid COVID-19 complaints

From the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt: "Under pressure from bars and restaurants hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will reverse a curfew she imposed on liquor sales and allow those businesses to sell alcohol until 11 p.m.

“Lightfoot was quick to criticize Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to ban indoor service at bars and restaurants due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, but she also had been criticized by bars and restaurants over her own restrictions, which in some ways had been tougher than the governor’s.” Read the full story here.

The new five-part Chicago documentary, “City So Real,” from Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) begins airing tonight, and my colleague Michael Phillips writes in a 4-star review to seek it out “either to confirm your suspicions about how this city functions, or to affirm your idea of Chicago as the brash epitome of American character, from politics on down. Or up.” Details about where to watch it are here.

City Council budget hearings: Police in the hot seat

The Tribune’s John Byrne writes: Chicago police are solving murders at a worse rate this year than they did last year, officials said today.

Police officials revealed the 41% clearance rate, which has fallen from around 50% last year, during the department’s annual City Council budget hearing.

Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said the department is “hoping, obviously, to trend upwards” on solving murders, which are up in Chicago compared with last year.

“Obviously this year has been difficult for many different reasons, and the murder per capita has unfortunately gone up, but the detectives are doing an excellent job clearing all the cases that they can,” Deenihan said.

The Police Department budget is usually the most closely watched part of the mayor’s annual spending plan. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced she plans to eliminate over 600 vacant Police Department positions in 2021 to help close the city’s $1.2 billion budget hole.

On Thursday, police Superintendent David Brown said he’s keeping an open mind about reinstating some form of the department’s controversial merit promotions process, which interim Superintendent Charlie Beck suspended last year amid long-standing complaints that it led to cronyism in how the department made promotions.

“I have yet to determine whether I will bring that back or have some different iteration of merit,” Brown said. “But I will just say from a high level, we have to focus on diversity among all the ranks. And multiple choice tests doesn’t necessarily get us to that point,” he said, referring to promotional exams.

Some Black and Latino aldermen have said the merit program — which allowed officers to be promoted not just based on exam scores but also by proving their leadership skills to bosses in other ways — improved diversity in the department’s upper ranks.

Inside the political donation history of wealthy sports owners — including the Ricketts.

“American professional sports owners have contributed nearly $47 million in federal elections since 2015 … including $10 million to Republican causes and $1.9 million to Democratic causes so far in the 2020 election cycle,” according to research by ESPN in partnership with FiveThirtyEight.

Todd Ricketts is among the 13 owners who have contributed to President Trump’s campaign or Trump super PACs in the 2020 election cycle, with contributions from that baker’s dozen totaling $1.74 million, ESPN and FiveThirtyEight report.

Laura Ricketts and Chicago Sky co-owners John Rogers and Michael Alter are among 20 owners who contributed to Biden or one of his super PACs with overall contributions of $405,745. The data shows that Laura Ricketts is among the top donors among team owners while Todd and Laura’s brother Tom Ricketts, Cubs chairman, is listed as a “bipartisan” donor. Read the full piece here.

Retired judges endorse O’Brien in state’s attorney’s race against incumbent Foxx

From the Tribune’s Alice Yin: Patrick O’Brien, the GOP candidate in the Cook County state’s attorney’s race, racked up 20 endorsements from retired judges, his campaign announced Thursday. Fifteen of them are Democrats — one being Sheila O’Brien, a former state appellate justice who petitioned for the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollett case that has dogged the Democratic incumbent in the race, Kim Foxx.

“These judges are supporting my campaign because they know the integrity and professionalism that I will bring to the job,” O’Brien, also a retired judge in Cook County Circuit Court, wrote in a statement. “They have either worked with Kim Foxx’s office or have been watching her office closely over the last 4 years. What they unanimously see is that Kim Foxx has failed the people of Cook County.”

The support comes the same week another Democrat, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, came out blazing for O’Brien and in the process bucked his party line. But Foxx still has a blue wall of endorsements from high-profile politicians such as Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, who recorded a robocall for Foxx this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, both Illinois senators and Mayor Lightfoot.

Today’s the deadline for sending in your mail-in ballot application: If you miss it, here are some options, the Tribune’s Dan Petrella writes.

United Center to be polling place on Election Day: My Tribune colleague Kelli Smith has the details here.

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