Monthly Archives: January 2018

Proposal to Help Those Living Near Chicago Executive Airport with Soundproofing Homes

Airplane at the sunriseIf you live in the area near the Chicago Executive Airport and find yourself struggling to deal with the constant noise from the jets and planes overhead, there may be a solution on the horizon.

According to the Daily Herald, the airport has recently kicked off plans for a proposal which would allow those living around the area to have their homes soundproofed. One out of every eight people in the United States aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, and sounds like a loud jet or airplane can really do some damage.

During a meeting back in November, Federal Aviation Administration officials and airport consultants answered questions from various people who live in and around their airport area. Noise exposure maps were available during the meeting to show residents if their home would qualify for the soundproofing. FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said they were to receive the proposal from the airport and will do something with it as soon as a decision is reached.

“We have to know what kind of noise mitigation may be needed, not only today but looking out five years from now,” Molinaro said. “So, that way, if they ask for (federal) taxpayer money to help them with homes and schools, at least we have an up-to-date idea of who really would need that kind of money.”

Recently, an almost $80,000 study was presented to the Chicago Executive board that would test the effectiveness of diverting planes from homes and over an industrial district. This study was to take six months but was ultimately rejected by the board.

Instead, the board wants to use that money to help residents living in jet-noise impacted areas to insulate their homes with soundproofing materials. 90% of the program would be paid for by the FAA, while 10% would be covered by Chicago Executive.

The project would cost about $3.5 million to help the affected homes. While this may seem like a good idea for many, some residents have their concerns. Phil Mader says his home was built in the early 1990’s and believes it may be too new to qualify under the guidelines for soundproofing.

While the meeting has been held and the proposal has been submitted, it is unclear when a decision would actually be made on the request for the funding.

Chicago’s Residents and Plants Are Battling the Freezing Temperatures

As the freezing temperatures hit Chicago, plants are in serious jeopardy of being damaged.

According to ABC Chicago, city residents had to face freezing cold temperatures and wind chill as low as negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit as they walked to their jobs during the first week of 2018.

“I can’t even describe it. It’s unbearable,” said Shirley Jackson, a Chicago commuter.

Officials with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) announce that city residents should immediately call 311 if any heating issues occur inside their homes. In a week’s span, city officials said that they received more than 600 calls about cold residences.

“Don’t wait,” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, executive director of OEMC. “If you feel like it is too cold in your apartment or your home, or your furnace is having an issue, by all means do not hesitate.”

In addition to staying as warm as possible both inside and outside of the home, it’s important that Chicagoans take better care of their plants during these freezing temperatures as well.

According to the Chicago Tribune, aboveground parts of trees and shrubs have bark to protect them from severely low temperatures, but evergreens and other plants are much more at risk.

“Depending on how long the cold goes on and how low the temperature falls, we may see a little more winter damage on evergreens than we sometimes do,” said Sharon Yiesla, plant specialist at The Morton Arboretum. “But it won’t be apparent until spring.”

One way to help prevent frost damage to plants is to lay mulch. There are two types of mulch: inorganic and organic, and this layer of mulch can help protect plants with shallow roots.

“The best way to prevent damage from freeze-thaw cycles is to make sure there’s a layer of mulch over the roots,” added Yiesla.

Homeowners can use wood chips, fallen leave, evergreen boughs, and other types of mulch to help insulate the soil and keep plants warm.

All-Day Jewish-Inspired Cafe, Half Sour, Opens In Printer’s Row

A new all-day cafe has officially opened in Printer’s Row. Half Sour, a Jewish-influenced cafe with deli accents, has embraced the spotlight of the South Loop corner that was once Blackie’s, an American Pub which closed down in June 2017.

The cafe, which opened on December 15, is apart of the growing trend of what The Chicago Tribune calls newish Jewish-style restaurants. Additional restaurants that have been popping up as part of the trend include Steingold’s, Milt’s Extra Innings, and Norm’s Deli.

Half Sour co-owners Emily and Jesse Bloom, with operating partner Elizabeth Norris, worked together at the Jefferson Tap and Grille before they were inspired to open the new cafe. The deli influence stems from Jesse’s family who ran Mort’s Deli, a Jewish deli in Minnesota.

The name from the cafe comes from the restaurant’s half sour pickles. “A half sour pickle is fermented for only one to three days,” said Norris to The Chicago Tribune. “So it’s more of a salted cucumber instead of a dill pickle. So it’s crisp, bright green and crunchy.”

According to Eater Chicago, Half Sour is proving to the City in a Garden that Jewish delis are sustainable as ever. What’s more, those of Jewish heritage will be able to enjoy culturally-inspired food they may otherwise only experience on a Birthright trip, which tens of thousands of American 18-to-26-year-olds attend every year.

Dishes that are artfully crafted by executive chef Greg Hageli, a former pastry chef of Band of Bohemia, include latkes with applesauce and creme fraiche, whitefish croquettes on dill aioli, and chopped liver with onion jam. The cafe also serves bagels, sandwiches, and avocado toast.

Those looking to feed a group might consider ordering Half Sour’s fish tower. The tower includes bagels, half sours, house-smoked sturgeon, lox, mussels, pickled mackerel, nori chips, black cod salad, and smoked trout onion dip to bring it all home. Half Sour also has a children’s menu including half corned beef on rye as well as avocado toast on challah.

Half Sour is located at 755 S. Clark St. and is open until 2 AM. For more information on specials, contact the cafe at 312-224-1772 or visit their website at www.halfsourchicago.com.

Chicago Public School Teachers Sue Charter School Operator Over Missing Pensions

Approximately 50% of the public school workforce is made up of teachers, many of whom are likely underpaid for the work they do. In Chicago public schools, a number of teachers were allegedly further underpaid by a charter school operator who did not report their employment and subsequently failed to pay pension contributions on their behalf. And now, the Chicago Public School Teacher’ Pension and Retirement Fund is fighting back by suing that operator, Prologue Inc.

In Chicago, licensed teachers do not participate in Social Security. The state pension code instead requires 9% of their salary to be put towards pension funding. In Prologue’s case, the operator agreed to pay 6.2% of this contribution and have employees pay the remaining 2.8% towards their pensions. But Prologue violated the state’s pension code by failing to report licensed teacher employment and employee contributions deducted from those teachers’ salaries. They also failed to pay its agreed upon 6.2% contribution. All told, an audit found that between 2013 and 2016, there was upwards of $130,000 in unpaid pension contributions and $1.4 million in underreported wages. The operator reported only six licensed employees in 2014, and in 2015 and 2016, they reported zero — despite the fact they had anywhere from 14 to 17 licensed teachers in their employ during that period. A lawsuit has been filed against Prologue for failing to report this information and failing to pay the pension money owed.

Jay C. Rehak, president of Chicago Public School Teacher’ Pension and Retirement Fund’s board of trustees, said in a release: “This is an egregious example of an employer taking advantage of its employees. This wasn’t just sloppy bookkeeping. This was fraud. The employer collected contributions from teachers, but did not turn over all of those contributions to the (CTPF). They also concealed teachers who were entitled to pension benefits. These unconscionable actions allowed Prologue’s leaders to take advantage of our members.”

Prologue used to operate the now-closed Joshua Johnston Charter School for Fine Art and Design, but their agreement was rescinded by the Chicago Board of Education in August of 2016. The BOE filed its own lawsuit against Prologue in March of 2017 that alleged breach of contract. In states like Texas, breach of contract claims must be filed within two to four years (depending on the contract), but the statute of limitations in Illinois is anywhere from five to 10 years. The Board of Education demanded financial accountability from Prologue after the operator refused to provide information and financial records.

But not even teachers are immune from trying to game the system. Some retired Illinois educators are able to take home pensions in the six figures due to illegal activity and technical loopholes. Some have even calculated unused sick and vacation days or more recent raises in salary to raise their pension payouts. These incidents show that there are educators at completely opposite ends of the spectrum, and according to many, the system is “irreparably broken.”