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Chicago news roundup: Lightfoot giving back $53K from lobbyist’s companies after Sun-Times report, Feds seek 5 years for man who bought gun used to kill officer Ella French and more

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be partly sunny with a high near 50 degrees. Tonight will be cloudy with a chance of rain and a low near 22. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 26. Sunday will be sunny with a high near 40.

Top story

More than a decade ago, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued an executive order that prohibited him and future mayors from taking any campaign money from lobbyists.

This year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has accepted more than $53,000 in 39 individual campaign contributions from 14 companies owned by Carmen A. Rossi, a registered city lobbyist. Rossi — who is also a city contractor and restaurateur and nightclub owner and who holds the liquor license for the Lollapalooza music festival — didn’t make any of the contributions to Lightfoot in his own name.

It isn’t clear whether Lightfoot’s taking the contributions from his companies would violate the ban Emanuel imposed on mayors taking political money from lobbyists.

Emanuel, now President Joe Biden’s U.S. ambassador to Japan, was asked by a Chicago Sun-Times reporter whether taking campaign money from businesses owned by a lobbyist would violate the “spirit” of his 2011 ethics order — without being told the question was regarding Rossi, whom Emanuel appointed to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in 2015.

Responding by email, the former mayor said: “I am in Japan. I don’t have records but definitely spirit. As to a literal interpretation. There is an ethics board for interpretation.”

Steven Berlin, executive director of the Chicago Board of Ethics, said Emanuel’s executive order doesn’t say whether it covers contributions from companies owned by a lobbyist and that the ethics board never has been asked to rule on that issue.

Emanuel’s executive order says anyone who violates the ban can be barred from lobbying city officials.

Emanuel got $19,300 in campaign contributions from Rossi and his companies between 2014 and 2018, but Rossi didn’t become a registered lobbyist at City Hall until after Lightfoot was elected mayor in April 2019. Two months later, Rossi hosted a fundraiser for the new mayor.

Emanuel’s order banning campaign contributions from lobbyists applies only to the incumbent mayor, not to those seeking the office, Berlin said.

Lightfoot and Rossi didn’t respond to questions about the contributions.

But, after this report was published online Friday, Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for Rossi, said the Rossi companies have now asked that Lightfoot return the contributions. Christina Freundlich, a campaign spokesperson for Lightfoot, said the mayor will give back the money.

Tim Novak and Frank Main have more on the campaign money here.

More news you need

  1. A woman accused of killing and dismembering the 69-year-old owner of a boarding home on the Northwest Side pleaded not guilty to murder charges Wednesday. Sandra Kolalou, 36, also pleaded not guilty to concealment of a homicidal death, aggravated battery, robbery and dismembering a human body in connection with the killing of Frances Walker in October, records show.
  2. Federal prosecutors are seeking a five-year prison sentence for the so-called straw purchaser of the gun used to kill Chicago Police Officer Ella French and seriously wound her partner. The Indiana man pleaded guilty in July to a conspiracy to commit federal firearm offenses and remains the only person convicted in connection with French’s August 2021 death.
  3. The future of a program aimed at helping formerly incarcerated Chicago residents is now uncertain. That’s because the company that was supposed to pay for it, cryptocurrency giant FTX, has imploded before paying most of its promised $1 million grant, reports Manny Ramos of the Illinois Answers Project.
  4. A legislative proposal in Springfield would allow state-licensed drug injection sites to open across Illinois in an effort to reduce fatal overdoses amid a nationwide opioid crisis that has hit Cook County particularly hard. The proposal is part of a larger push to treat the opioid crisis as a public health problem, rather than a criminal justice issue, our Tom Schuba explains.
  5. After more than 27 years as natural resources education program coordinator for Chicago in the Illinois Urban Fishing Program, Brenda McKinney is retiring. Dale Bowman, our outdoors columnist, has more on McKinney and her career here.
  6. United Working Families is launching a fundraising campaign to prevent what it calls “Chicago’s corporate donor class” from becoming an outsized influence in next year’s aldermanic elections. Our Fran Spielman has more on the group’s efforts here.
  7. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., poised to start a third term after a big November win, was elected to a spot in House Democratic leadership yesterday. Rep. Underwood is the first Black woman to win an elected position on the team since Rep. Shirley Chisholm, D-N.Y., back in the 1970s.
  8. Lastly, in the coming months, the Sun-Times will be holding listening sessions in different neighborhoods throughout the city to learn first-hand about the news Chicagoans want and need. Join us next Thursday at Taqueria Los Comales (3141 W. 26th St.) in Little Village and share your concerns and interests with members of our staff. Head here for more information.

A bright one

All aboard the Christmas tree ship

A special Christmas delivery aboard an icebreaker ship arrived yesterday at Navy Pier — not from the North Pole but from northern Michigan.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw, also known as the “Christmas Ship,” docked with 1,200 trees onboard from Cheboygan, Michigan. 

The ship sets sail for Chicago every year to deliver trees.

The Ada S. McKinley Community Services will distribute trees to families in need after they are offloaded, and tours of the ship will be open tomorrow afternoon, according to Chief Petty Officer John Masson.

Jeannette Greene, the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw, stands on a pile of trees on the deck of the ship, which is docked Friday morning at Navy Pier.

Jeannette Greene, the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, stands on a pile of trees on the deck of the ship, which is docked at Navy Pier this morning.

The tradition of the “Christmas ship” dates back to the late 1800s, reported Bob Chiarito reported in a story for the Sun-Times last year. Brothers August and Herman Schuenemann used a wooden schooner, the Rouse Simmons, to deliver trees to large crowds on the Chicago waterfront, earning Herman the nickname “Captain Christmas.”

But he, his brother and their crew were lost in a storm near Two Rivers, Wisconsin, in 1912. The Christmas Ship faded into history and might have stayed there. But in 1999, Chicago attorney Dave Truitt decided to revive the tradition — this time, with the Coast Guard’s help.

The Coast Guard has made the trip ever since.

Our photographer Pat Nabong has more photos from the Christmas Ship’s visit this year here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s one holiday season tradition that is uniquely Chicago?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: How should the Bears handle Justin Fields over the final month of the 2022 season?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Sit him out. These remaining games are useless. If he is the quarterback of the future are you going to risk a more serious injury.” — Dave Person

“Get him to play better so the fricken team can win or sit him down along with the rest of them rookies.” — Myrna Kar

“If they play him, it’s a sign that Eberflus may be a problem as head coach.” — Paul Elkins

“He needs to play and learn to play through pain. He has all off-season to rest up and get faster and stronger.” — Dave Ebert

“Sit him until you can get him an offensive line to protect him.” — Jimmy Nihiser

“He needs to play. Day-to-day.” — Lisa Shoemaker

“Sit him the remainder of the season. The Bears’ remaining schedule is tough. I love Justin’s heart but it’s not worth sacrificing him. No repeat of RG3.” — Michael Wilson

“Play him, not so many designed running plays. He needs the reps and experience, especially against the upcoming playoff teams.” — Rich Pacelli

“I really would like to see him beat the packers to end the losing streak, but my better side says let him rest for next year. OK, one more game — that’s it. Hahaha.” — Sam Jackson

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.




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