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The deadly mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket yesterday, just a week after a gunman went on a rampage that left eight people dead at three Atlanta-area spas has prompted a fresh round of gun control debate in Washington.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Illinois’ senior U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, met today and offered the latest snapshot of the partisan divide with, as The New York Times reports, Democrats pushing for restrictions and Republicans balking at those proposals and calling for bipartisan reform.
At the White House, President Joe Biden called on lawmakers to close loopholes in background checks on those making gun purchases and to ban assault rifles.
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue; this is an American issue. It will save lives — American lives — and we have to act,” Biden said, siding with fellow Democrats.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker today signed into law a sweeping series of measures that includes creating a commission to study and implement reparations for descendants of enslaved African Americans, the Tribune’s Jenny Whidden writes. Meantime, the Evanston City Council last night approved a $400,000 housing grant program, described by one alderman as a first step in the suburb’s landmark municipal reparations program, Genevieve Bookwalter writes for the Evanston Review.
Eligible residents would qualify for up to $25,000 that could be used for anything from a down payment to closing costs on a home purchase.
Even with spring in the air and the promise of greater vaccine supplies, Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned yesterday that if a small uptick in cases turns into a flood, she’ll have no choice but to reverse course and reinstitute restrictions on businesses and other aspects of daily life. The city is seeing a rise in cases among residents ages 18-39. The city’s top public health doctor doubled-down on the message this afternoon.
And Chicago state Rep. La Shawn Ford resigned from the board of Loretto Hospital in the latest fallout over executives at the small West Side safety net hospital improperly giving doses to ineligible residents — some of them well-connected.
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Two mass shootings in a week reignites gun-control debate
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning that was scheduled before the mass shootings, Durbin said it’s time to do more than pause in prayer for the slain and injured and pass laws that might prevent another mass shooting, The New York Times reports.
“I could ask for a moment of silence for the mass shooting in Boulder last night. And after that is completed, I could ask for a moment of silence for the shooting in Atlanta six days ago,” the Illinois Democrat said. “But, in addition to a moment of silence, I would like to ask for a moment of action. A moment of real caring.”
From The New York Times: “Even before the recent shootings, Democrats had already begun advancing stricter gun control measures that face long odds in the 50-50 Senate. House Democrats passed two bills this month aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks for gun buyers, by applying them to all gun buyers and extending the time the F.B.I. has to vet those flagged by the national instant check system.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the panel, echoed fellow GOP lawmakers in saying those bills go too far, the Times reports.
The suspect in the Boulder mass shooting was reportedly armed with an AR-15 rifle, a lightweight semi-automatic rifle, while a 9 mm handgun was found in the car of the suspect in the Atlanta spa shootings, The Associated Press has reported.
To date, there have been seven mass killings in the U.S. this year, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.
The database also notes that 2020 saw the smallest number of mass shootings, likely because of the pandemic — a fact that former President Barack Obama seized on in a statement issued today about the Atlanta and Boulder killings.
“A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country,” the former president wrote. “We shouldn’t have to choose between one type of tragedy and another.”
Read his full statement here. Among other things he calls out “cowardly politicians” for bending to the powerful gun lobby and for elected leaders to make it difficult for people to buy “weapons of war.”
Downtown alderman’s move could clear way for one of city’s tallest skyscrapers on Thompson Center site
From the Tribune’s Ryan Ori: “A downtown alderman is proposing a zoning change that could clear the way for the James R. Thompson Center to be replaced by one of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers.
“Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, wants to allow more than 2 million square feet of space on the sprawling state-owned site, at 100 W. Randolph St., that is up for sale. The proposed ordinance is expected to be introduced Wednesday to the City Council’s zoning committee, and it could be up for a vote by the committee — and eventually the full City Council — as soon as April, he told the Tribune Tuesday.” Ori has all the details here.
State Rep. La Shawn Ford steps down from Loretto Hospital board
State Rep. La Shawn Ford issued a statement saying he resigned yesterday from the Loretto Hospital board, explaining: “I am very disappointed with the recent developments at The Loretto Hospital regarding its use of coronavirus vaccine entrusted to the hospital.”
He said he resigned “because I strongly disagreed with how the reprimand of the hospital leadership was handled.” My Tribune colleagues Lisa Schencker and Alice Yin have the full story here.
As Schencker and Yin write, “The hospital has drawn scrutiny since Block Club Chicago reported the hospital improperly administered vaccine doses to Trump Tower workers; Loretto officials later acknowledged that it had improperly given vaccines to Cook County judges, after reporting by WBEZ.
“Block Club Chicago also reported that more than 200 members of Loretto CEO George Miller’s church in south suburban Oak Forest received vaccinations through the hospital.”
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Mayor Lightfoot, city’s top public health doctor warn about uptick in COVID-19 cases, won’t hesitate to reinstate restrictions
The Tribune’s Alice Yin writes: “Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned the city, particularly its younger adults, on Tuesday that coronavirus metrics were once again creeping into a danger zone that resembled a previous second surge during last October.
“She echoed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Monday remarks that cautioned the city will lose its recent gains under its reopening plan if younger adults do not ‘remain diligent’ in masking and social distancing.” Read the full story here.
Lightfoot said at a news conference yesterday, “I’m concerned because we’re starting to see a little bit of uptick in our daily cases. And we’re seeing that amongst the 18- to 29-year-old cohort, as well as the 30 to 39” age group.”
Lightfoot reminded that while the lifesaving vaccinations are here, they’re in short supply.
“(T)he COVID-19 is still here, folks. It is still real. It is still deadly and unfortunately it’s still sending people to the hospital, every single day. So we’ve got to remain diligent, we’ve got to continue wearing masks, we’ve got to make sure that we’re continuing to social distance.”
The mayor also warned that business and other restrictions will be reinstituted, if need be: “We don’t want to have to take steps back in our reopening,” the mayor said, adding: “But we will step back and have to close back down if we are not diligent.”
Michigan, 6 other states moved up in Chicago’s emergency travel order, Yin also reports.
About 1,000 Illinois prisoners to be released under COVID-19 lawsuit settlement, the Tribune’s Jason Meisner and Annie Sweeney report.
Wisconsin Republicans vote to take control of COVID-19 relief money from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, The Associated Press reports.
Ald. Sophia King vs. Ald. Michele Smith on residential museum rules
From the Tribune’s John Byrne: “A South Side alderman is withdrawing her proposal to set tougher zoning guidelines for museums such as those planned for civil rights icon Emmett Till and blues legend Muddy Waters in residential Chicago neighborhoods, after facing pushback from cultural groups that worried the new rules would have a chilling effect.”
Ald. Sophia King, 4th, the sponsor of the ordinance, decried what she said was a “coordinated campaign” to defeat her proposal by an organization that wants to set up a museum in a house in Lincoln Park Ald. Michele Smith’s North Side ward.
In response, Smith said the arts community is “grateful that she is withdrawing the ordinance” and called it “disappointing” that King “continues to try to make this personal.” Read the full story here.
During a news conference yesterday, Mayor Lightfoot said the outcry over the proposal suggests it was “highly problematic” and an “overreach.”
“By completely banning these kind of residential museums — it’s an overreach for ... the narrow issue she’s identifying,” Lightfoot told reporters.
Evanston council OKs first round of funding in first-in-the-nation reparations program as Pritzker signs law to study similar move
“Evanston aldermen Monday evening approved the first expenditures in the city’s landmark municipal reparations program designed to compensate Black residents for codified discrimination,” the Evanston Review’s Genevieve Bookwalter writes.
The $400,000 in grants will come from a larger $10 million reparations program — the first of its kind in the nation when Evanston City Council approved it in 2019 — funded through recreational marijuana sales tax revenue along with some donations.
Ald. Sue Simmons said after the vote: “It is, alone, not enough.”
“We all know that the road to repair and justice in the Black community is going to be a generation of work. It’s going to be many programs and initiatives, and more funding.”
Ald. Cicely Fleming, 9th, cast the lone vote against the measure, maintaining “what we have here before us tonight, I would counter, is a housing program with the title reparations.”
She said the housing program does not allow “people to dictate the terms of how they are repaired.” Full story here.
RELATED: Gov. J.B. Pritzker today signed into law a sweeping series of measures that includes creating a commission to study and implement reparations for descendants of enslaved African Americans,” the Tribune’s Jenny Whidden reports.
The measures also are “aimed at expanding access to state contracts for minorities and women, cracking down on high-interest payday loans and providing job protections for people with criminal records,” Whidden writes.
The new laws represent the economic reform pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda. Read the full story here.
Other news: Utility watchdog urges legislation to give Illinois residents a say in water privatization, the Tribune’s Morgan Greene reports.
Campaign mode: Skokie Caucus pulls endorsement of Village Board candidate over ‘misogynist memes’ shared on Facebook, Brian L. Cox reports in the Skokie Review.
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