Good Tuesday morning, Illinois. Another bit of normalcy: Chicago public health Commissioner Allison Arwady told aldermen Monday she expects block parties will return this summer.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is moving ahead with plans to sell the Thompson Center, the Chicago seat of state government that was designed by the great Helmut Jahn, named after Illinois’ longest-serving governor, the late Jim Thompson.

Jahn’s vision was a glass paneled building that symbolized openness and transparency of government. Instead, the Thompson Center, nicknamed a spaceship for its round and gleaming architecture, became symbolic of the state’s own financial morass. It was a money pit requiring repairs and upkeep that Illinois was unable — some say unwilling — to address.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar called the planned sale “a good business decision” worth pursuing whether or not the state is in dire financial straits.

“It wasn’t really a functional building,” Edgar, who spent 18 years working in the Thompson Center when he headed the Secretary of State’s Office and as governor, told Playbook. “It drew a lot of people visiting to see the architecture and the atrium, but from a work point of view it wasn’t the greatest place. And that should really be the No. 1 priority — an accommodating work environment.”

Gary Skoien, who oversaw development of the17-story building when he headed the Capital Development Board under Thompson, said the planned sale is disappointing. “The state never took care of the building. The state never reinvested in the building. So maybe the state is a better renter than an owner. With ownership, comes responsibility,” he told Playbook.

He said governors who succeeded Thompson didn’t put into the building what it needed. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich first suggested that the Thompson Center be sold, and then Gov. Bruce Rauner pushed for it to be auctioned off.

Pritzker says the building puts a strain on state finances because it needs hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs.

Illinois isn’t the first cash-strapped state to consider selling real estate — nor is it the first government entity to do so. Six years ago, Chicago Public Schools sold its vintage 20-story Loop tower for $28 million.

Though the request for proposals calls for Thompson’s name to be part of any of the property’s redevelopment, the building itself could be torn down.

Tribune’s Ryan Ori writes: “The 3-acre site is expected to be of interest to developers looking to raze the building. An ordinance introduced in March by downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), would pave the way to the site being zoned to allow one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city.”

Preservationists hope the building survives, saying it is an integral part of Chicago’s downtown. “It has a curvilinear shape next to very vertical structures. It breaks up the monotony” of the buildings around it in the Loop, said Rachel Ensor. “As an architectural historian, we worry that the land is so precious it will be sold, and the building removed.”

It’s the very thing Pritzker is hoping for. Offers on the Thompson Center are due by Aug. 16, and a buyer could be chosen by November.

Janice Jackson’s surprise announcement that she’s stepping down as head of Chicago Public Schools means Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be able to name her own team to lead the school system.

An executive search firm is already on the case.

Jackson’s exit at the end of the school year comes on the heels of Chief Operating Officer Arnie Rivera and education chief LaTanya McDade, the top executives under Jackson, also announcing they’re moving on. All three came in under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

After Jackson’s announcement, Lightfoot and Jackson talked about how they were able to form a friendship that allowed them to work together through the most challenging of times, including a pandemic and the longest teacher strike (in 2019) in three decades.

The tipping point, according to the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman, “was the increasingly contentious relationship between City Hall and the [Chicago Teachers Union], and Lightfoot’s meddling in negotiations over the 2019 contract and reopening this year which resulted in the union getting nearly everything it wanted despite the mayor’s tough talk, sources said.”

Jackson unloaded on the difficulty she’s had in working with the CTU. She said she got along fine with the union away from the cameras. But that didn’t carry over publicly. “The tactics that are used, I don’t agree with. And I do think that they make it difficult for good people to do these jobs,” she said at a City Hall news conference Monday.

The pandemic’s impact on the school system and stress that came with it also played a role in Jackson’s exit.

It’s a familiar story, writes Chalkbeat: “Jackson joins a wave of high-profile superintendents — including in Los Angeles, New York, and Broward County, Fla. — who have retired, resigned, or announced intentions to do so, in some cases citing similar fatigue.”


Chicago schools face leadership turnover, by Tribune’s Gregory Pratt, Hannah Leone and Karen Ann Cullotta.

Parents, teachers wonder what’s next, by Chalkbeat’s Cassie Walker Burke and Yana Kunichoff, and Block Club’s Hannah Alani

A brief history of CPS’s often briefly tenured CEOs, by WTTW’s Patty Wetli

Have a tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch:

At McCormick Place at 9 a.m. to give an update on Chicago’s reopening efforts.

At McCormick Place at 9 a.m. to give an update on Chicago’s reopening efforts. Then at 1 p.m. he’ll be in Sparta to encourage southern Illinois residents to get vaccinated.

No official public events.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday reported 28 additional deaths and 2,049 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease. That’s a total of 22,047 fatalities and 1,341,777 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from April 26 through May 2 is 3.4 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 4.6 percent.

FDA expected to OK Pfizer vaccine for teens within week: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for youngsters ages 12 to 15 by next week, according to a federal official and a person familiar with the process, setting up shots for many before the beginning of the next school year,” by The Associated Press.

Reaching ‘herd immunity’ is unlikely in the U.S., experts now believe: “Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent hesitancy about vaccines will keep the goal out of reach. The virus is here to stay, but vaccinating the most vulnerable may be enough to restore normalcy,” by The New York Times.

Pritzker says Illinois could reopen a bit more next week: It could mean offices, retailers, gyms, amusement parks, museums and zoos could operate at a higher capacity, reports Tribune’s Jenny Whidden.

NEW CANNABIS LOTTERY BILL: “A long-awaited plan to create 110 new recreational marijuana retail licenses and expand minority ownership in Illinois is expected to be introduced in Springfield this week. The new licenses would be in addition to 75 pending licenses that are to be awarded in a lottery for businesses with perfect application scores. A second lottery for 75 new licenses would be held for those scoring 85 percent or better, followed by a third lottery for 35 new licenses intended primarily for Black and Latino entrepreneurs,” by Tribune’s Robert McCoppin.

Securing $350M in school funding crucial for Democrats in state budget talks: “Suburban House Democrats are preparing to make education funding a sticking point as budget negotiations with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Senate heat up next week in Springfield. Securing the $350 million promised to Illinois public schools as part of the state’s evidence-based school funding model, which was left out of Pritzker’s budget proposal in February, is seen as critical by suburban Democratic state Reps. Fred Crespo and Stephanie Kifowit,” by Daily Herald’s J.J. Bullock.

Lawmakers evaluating permanent Standard Time, Daylight Saving Time, or no change: “Competing resolutions at the Illinois statehouse could have residents ditching the twice-a-year hunt to change all the clocks. The debate is over which time is best or whether to keep it status quo,” by Center Square’s Greg Bishop.

Hazel Crest Officer Becomes 1st Black President of Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police: Chief Mitchell R. Davis III joins NBC 5 to talk about an historic moment as he took on a title that no other Black man or woman has before. VIDEO interview.

Illinois economy shrinks 4% in 2020 despite 4th quarter growth: “Preliminary numbers released last week by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that the leisure, hospitality and food service sector was the hardest hit by the pandemic, reporting a nearly 30 percent drop in economic output for the year,” by Capitol News’ Peter Hancock.

GOP lawmakers ask for a criminal investigation by the state attorney general: “Some Republicans in the General Assembly, including House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, are calling for a criminal investigation into the Covid-19 related deaths at the state-run LaSalle Veterans’ Home. The push for a criminal probe comes after a state investigative report was released Friday that found there were widespread failures at the LaSalle facility and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs that contributed to 36 resident deaths there since November,” by Capitol News’ Sarah Mansur.

McCombie notices different tone in Springfield under new speaker: “Republican state representative encouraged about leadership term limits proposal. ‘We are cautiously optimistic,’ says state Rep. Tony McCombie. ‘We’re starting budget talks and we’re included this year,’” VIDEO interview with Local 4 News’ Jim Niedelman.

Laundromat vaccines? Chicago trying to figure out how to find people who still need the shots: “City health teams might come looking for unvaccinated Chicagoans at the laundromat, the grocery store or driver’s license offices as officials try to increase the rates of people getting the shots,” reports Tribune’s John Byrne.

Chicago police turn down city-provided Covid-19 vaccine: “Only about 25 percent of officers have gotten a shot at a city-run site, though they can go elsewhere. Experts say this could be dangerous for public health,” by WBEZ’s Patrick Smith.

City digs up interest in sites long neglected: “Proposals sought for key commercial stretches emphasize corner parcels and some architectural landmarks,” by Sun-Times’ David Roeder.

Cook County virtual weddings go off without a hitch — mostly: “Monday was the first day couples could have a downtown Cook County judge conduct their wedding via Zoom,” by Sun-Times’ Stefano Esposito.

Disturbing record — No bail for man charged with plowing truck into picnic because of ‘yuppies’ with dogs: Prosecutor arguing for Nielsen to be denied pre-trial release pointed to a felony record that includes a crime when he was 25 years old that was described as “a kidnapping for ransom and beating after he posed as a police officer,” reports WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell.

Secretary of state rivals meet virtually, pledge more online services, library help — and spirited race with ‘good dancing shoes’: “Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) laid out their campaign platforms on a Zoom call hosted by Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who doubles as the Northwest Side ward’s Democratic committeeperson. The only no show among the major Democratic hopefuls was former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias,” by Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton.

Travis Breeden announces he’ll run again against Rep. Lance Yednock: “Breeden say that one of the problems that is facing the state is the power that Democrats hold,” reports WCMY’s Steven Devine.

Michelle T. Boone Named President of Poetry Foundation: “Boone, a former cultural commissioner for Chicago, will take the helm after tumult over racial justice at the foundation, one of the country’s wealthiest literary organizations,” via the New York Times.

Chicago billionaire Mark Walter is buying up a small Colorado town — and locals are freaked: “He’s been very — I wouldn’t say ‘secretive’ — but certainly not forthcoming with what he’s going to be doing with the buildings.” The Daily Beast reports.

Jason Fried explains why he’s banning political discussions at Basecamp: “I totally understand some people are upset. We’re in the raw stage right now. Things will heal in time.” Chicago Inno reports.

Durbin, Duckworth ask federal VA to beef up protocols in Illinois veterans homes: “Democratic U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth on Monday asked for federal assistance to ensure Illinois veterans homes have proper infectious disease planning and protocols in place following the release of a stinging report detailing large-scale mismanagement at the LaSalle Veterans Home, where 36 residents died of Covid-19,” by Tribune’s Rick Pearson.

— A call-up for the Guard: Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Bobby Rush have asked the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., to request $75 million in funding from Congress for a renovation of the General Jones Armory on Chicago’s South Side. The original facility has been largely unchanged since 1931 and cannot be occupied at more than 50 percent capacity without renovations to modernize and expand parking capacity, the Illinois lawmakers wrote in a letter to General Daniel Hokanson. The limited and underutilized space is preventing the Illinois Army National Guard from competing for federal dollars to build readiness centers. The expansion would also create 770 part-time and full-time jobs and add 200 public parking spaces at Washington Park, Rush’s office said in a statement.

How the Supreme Court helps keep American law white and male, by Sarah Isgur in POLITICO magazine

Pro-Trump megadonors duke it out in Cornhusker country, by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt

Jenner hits California nerve by siding with GOP on transgender athletes, by POLITICO’s Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White

Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing, by The New York Times

Amy Campanelli has been named VP of Restorative Justice at the Lawndale Christian Legal Center. Campanelli served as the Cook County Public Defender from 2015 to this year. She previously was an assistant public defender.

Today at 11 a.m.: “Reset” on WBEZ examines Chicago’s aldermanic system and asks the question: “What if aldermen weren’t ‘mini-mayors’?” The show is part of the station’s week-long exploration into city government as part of its “Re-Imagine Chicago” series with the University of Chicago’s Center for Effective Government.

MONDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Bureau of Planning’s Michael Penicnak for correctly answering that Abraham Lincoln is featured on Indiana’s special license plates and to Playbooker Dale Swanson for noting that South Dakota’s plates show Lincoln in an image of Mt. Rushmore (tricky). WLS Radio’s John Howell answered Kentucky, which for a time also featured Lincoln’s cabin on its license plates.

TODAY’s QUESTION: Who’s the iconic Illinois architect who fled Nazi Germany? (I’ll pick the 10th correct answer.) Email to

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Stephanie Saltouros, former Lt. Gov. Neil F. Hartigan, PR consultant and lobbyist David Ormsby, former Preckwinkle chief of staff G.A. Finch, Mesirow Financial Community Engagement VP Ellie Forman, fashion consultant and designer Crystal McAuliffe, correspondence manager to Sen. Dick Durbin Chris Peleo-Lazar, and Illinois native and political pundit George Will, who turns 80.



May 4, 2021 at 07:12AM

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