Illinois lawmakers are considering making Juneteenth National Freedom Day the state’s 13th official holiday. The Illinois Senate and House each passed their own versions of legislation this week that would make June 19 each year a holiday “to commemorate the abolition of slavery throughout the United States and its territories in 1865.” The Senate voted
Illinois lawmakers are considering making Juneteenth National Freedom Day the state’s 13th official holiday.
The Illinois Senate and House each passed their own versions of legislation this week that would make June 19 each year a holiday “to commemorate the abolition of slavery throughout the United States and its territories in 1865.” The Senate voted 48-0 on the plan Thursday, while the House on Friday voted 99-0 in favor of its own version on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Tribune teamed up with the Better Government Association to dig into every one of Chicago’s fatal fires since 2014 and made some startling findings. See more below.
And, U.S. health officials unpaused the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, after deciding that its risks did not outweigh the benefits. The move clears the way for states, such as Illinois, to resume its use — a move that’s expected.
A collaboration between the Chicago Tribune and the Better Government Association out today finds that since 2014, at least 61 people have died “in Chicago buildings where city officials knew of fire safety problems, sometimes for years, yet failed to crack down on property owners in time.”
“They died in apartments the city knew lacked smoke detectors, in abandoned buildings the city was supposed to tear down, in homes where tenants had sought the city’s help because there was no heat.
“City inspectors closed hundreds of complaints with little to no follow-up. City lawyers and hearing officers often took landlords at their word, never checking to verify promised repairs were completed. Tenants spent years living in unsafe conditions while City Hall lawsuits against their landlords stalled in court.
“Together, these findings reveal a failed system that endangers residents in a city repeatedly scarred by historic fires. Tenants cannot rely on the city to act promptly on their complaints or effectively enforce safety codes designed to protect them from fire. Instead, the Tribune/BGA investigation found, city officials routinely put the interests of landlords above the safety of residents.
“From 2014 through 2019, Chicago suffered 140 fatal residential fires. The BGA and the Tribune examined every one.
“In 42 of the fires, officials had prior knowledge of fire safety issues that remained unresolved at the time the flames broke out.
“The 61 people who died in these fires represent about a third of the 170 deaths in all the fires combined. The majority were Black.
“Responsibility for these failures lies with the city’s elected leaders, who cut back on inspections, eased regulations and failed to follow through on promises of reform after headline-making tragedies; with city lawyers and hearing officers who deferred to property owners; and with front-line inspectors and their bosses at the Department of Buildings — an agency created after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 specifically to prevent fire-related tragedies.” Click here for the investigative story from the BGA’s Madison Hopkins and the Tribune’s Cecilia Reyes.
From the Tribune’s Jenny Whidden: “An additional 136,525 coronavirus vaccinations were administered in Illinois Thursday as the state reported another slight downtick in the seven-day test positivity rate.
“The latest batch of shots brought the total number of doses administered in the state to 8,610,478, public health officials reported. As of Friday, 51.58% of residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
“The number of residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required two shots, or Johnson & Johnson’s one shot — reached 3,648,936, or 28.64% of the total population.” Read more here.
But as the Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Whidden also report: “Illinois public health officials were expected to resume distribution of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine after a federal officials said Friday that the shot’s benefits outweigh the risks of rare but severe blood clots.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration lifted an 11-day pause on the use of the vaccine after an advisory panel said it was safe to do so in combination with new warning about the risk of blood clots, particularly among women under 50.
“The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said Friday that the shot should be accompanied by a warning about the risk of blood clots. Health officials said they were aware of 15 cases of the unusual clots since the government authorized use of the vaccine and nearly 8 million shots were administered. Those who suffered from clots were all women, most of them under 50. Three died, and seven remained hospitalized.”
“Illinois and the city of Chicago followed federal guidance in pausing administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13 after reports of six women who’d experienced blood clots about two weeks after receiving a vaccination.” Read more here.
After touring Chicago State University’s vaccination site, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush met with local health experts on Thursday to discuss COVID-19 vaccines. Rush also urged Illinois residents to get vaccinated quickly in an effort to move past the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chicago Democrat’s admonishment marks a stark contrast from Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, of neighboring Wisconsin, who according to The Associated Press, on a recent radio interview questioned the push for widespread vaccinations.
“Stop playing Russian roulette with your grandparents and your aunts and uncles and your mothers and your daddies, stop playing Russian roulette with their lives and your lives. Get your shot. Get your vaccine,” Rush said, according to the news release.
Johnson, according to the AP, “questioned the need for widespread COVID-19 vaccinations, saying … ‘what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?’”
Johnson, who was being interviewed by a conservative talk radio host, “has said he doesn’t need to be vaccinated because he had COVID-19 in the fall. On Thursday, he went further, questioning why anyone would get vaccinated or worry about why others have not.” Johnson also said he would oppose any imposition of vaccine passports.
“The science tells us the vaccines are 95% effective, so if you have a vaccine quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?” Johnson said. “What is it to you? You’ve got a vaccine and science is telling you it’s very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine? And it’s to the point where you’re going to shame people, you’re going to force them to carry a card to prove that they’ve been vaccinated so they can still stay in society. I’m getting highly suspicious of what’s happening here.”
Speaking from Chicago, in remarks that can be viewed here, Rush also said, “If we were giving away Chicken McNuggets here tonight, the hall would be overflowing. And most of you who would be there don’t know what is in that Chicken McNugget. You trust McDonald’s. You ought to trust our doctors who are telling you that the only way we can meet this pandemic and stop our loved ones and neighbors, our loved ones from dying from this dreaded disease is that you and I get our vaccine.”
From the Tribune’s Whidden: “A bill that would make Juneteenth National Freedom Day the 13th official state holiday was unanimously approved by the Illinois House Friday, a day after the state Senate approved its own version of the bill.
“If either chamber approves the other’s bill, it will head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for his signature.”
“The Senate bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood, would make June 19 a school holiday and a paid day off for all state employees. If June 19 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday would be on the following Monday.
“Cook County established the day as an official paid holiday in December. It is not on the federal holiday calendar.” Read more here.
From the Tribune’s Michael Hawthorne: “Chicago would get more than three decades to replace toxic lead pipes under legislation that cleared an important hurdle Friday in Springfield.
“The Illinois House approved the measure on a 76-31 vote after stripping out a small fee that would have raised $200 million a year to help finance the replacement of lead pipes known as service lines, which were installed throughout the state during the last century to convey water into single-family homes and two-flats.” Read more here.
From the Tribune’s Ray Long and Rick Pearson: “Illinois’ top elections official told board members he became the victim of an internet extortion scheme after he exchanged ‘flirtatious’ messages and sent a picture to a person he met online.
“Steven Sandvoss, who is on administrative leave until his resignation takes effect at the end of June, detailed his encounters in a letter to the State Board of Elections in which he said a threat was made to ‘ruin’ him if he didn’t pay $3,000.”
“A former Illinois state representative and longtime supervisor of Worth Township was charged Friday in a plot to pay bribes to a relative of an Oak Lawn trustee in 2017 to get lucrative red-light cameras installed there.
“John O’Sullivan, 53, of Oak Lawn, was charged in a criminal information filed in U.S. District Court with one count of bribery conspiracy.
“Defendants charged via an information, rather than by grand jury indictment, typically intend to plead guilty. O’Sullivan’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.” Read the rest from the Tribune’s Jason Meisner and Ray Long here.
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