Axios Chicago

Picture of the Chicago skyline.

December 06, 2022

๐Ÿ… Happy Tuesday, and welcome to National Gazpacho Day โ€” because who doesn't want some cold summer soup right now?

โ˜๏ธ Today's weather: Cloudy with a high of 44.

๐Ÿ™ Thank you to our Axios Chicago members for their support! Become a member today.

Today's newsletter is 744 words โ€” a 3-minute read. Edited by Everett Cook and copy edited by Rob Reinalda.

1 big thing: Leaf composting plunges

bags of leaves in an alley

Bags wait in an alley to be picked up and composted by city crews. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

As requests for leaf pickup rose to record levels in 2021 and '22, the amount of yard waste actually collected by the city plunged by nearly 60%, per data Axios obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Context: For at least a decade, the city has required residents wanting to dispose of yard waste to call 311 and put it in bags outside their carts for collection and composting by the Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS).

Why it matters: The new data indicates the department is actually doing worse. It suggests workers are either ignoring thousands of resident requests or illegally dumping yard waste in landfills.

  • Illinois has outlawed yard waste in landfills since 1990, because it creates the powerful greenhouse gas methane.
Data: Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation; Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

What they're saying: DSS officials could not explain why yard waste collection has dropped so dramatically while requests rose over the past two years, but they did tell Axios they have to improve their data collection.

The intrigue: The department this fall hired two longtime compost advocates, including Carter O' Brien, who watchdogged DSS for years on its leaf composting practices.

  • We want to "embrace organic waste as an opportunity as much as an obligation," O'Brien tells Axios. "Organic waste collection, be it leaves, pumpkin smashes, or composting at community gardens, is just a whole different way to redefine the city's relationship with waste."

๐ŸŽƒ Of note: The city this year launched pumpkin smashes that diverted 12 tons of compostable waste from the landfill.

  • And next month, it will host many Christmas tree mulching programs at local parks.

2. Map of the Day: Housing prices

Explore this interactive map. A map showing the change in Chicago-area home prices, by ZIP code, between July and October 2022. Note: "Typical" refers to the average home value in the middle 30% of estimated home values in a region; Data: Zillow; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

While most local homeowners saw tax bills rise this year, their home prices stayed flat or dipped from summer to fall.

Zoom in: In the city, the biggest drop happened in the South Shore (-4.3%), according to recent Zillow data.

  • Meanwhile, Garfield Park saw an almost 3% increase.

Zoom out: In the wider metro area, Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Gary, Indiana, saw the biggest price drops.

  • Dekalb County saw the biggest price increases.

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3. Tips and hot links

Illustration of a restaurant-style neon sign featuring the Axios logo, and reading "Tips & Hot Links."

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿš” Candidates for new district police councils include both CPD supporters and would-be de-funders. (Sun-Times)

๐Ÿ’ฐ A former CTA employee was charged with stealing $350K in retirement funds. (WGN)

โœ‚๏ธ Pepsi expects to cut hundreds of jobs in its North American headquarters including Chicago. (Wall Street Journal)

๐ŸŒฎ New Logan Square restaurant Omarcito blends Latin American cuisines and offers a Cuban-flavored twist on quesabirria. (Tribune)

๐ŸŽธ Jack White is playing a surprise show at Empty Bottle tomorrow. Online tickets go on sale today at noon. (BlockClub)

4. Readers sound off on Christmas trees

Plant decorated as a Christmas tree

Mike N.'s holiday Schefflera plant and Jess A.'s tree from Superior Evergreens. Photos courtesy of Mike N. and Jess A.

It looks like you are split right down the middle on the great Christmas tree debate, with real trees enjoying a tiny piney edge in our informal poll.

  • Real-tree fans: 83
  • Artificial-tree lovers: 82

Between the lines: Our readers like real trees way more than the rest of the country, where about 85% of trees on display are artificial.

  • But at least one PBS poll suggests Democrats choose fresh trees more often than Republicans. And we are in Chicago. Just saying.
  • If you're wondering which is more sustainable, it depends on how long you use a fake tree and where you buy and dispose of your real tree.

Your top tree opinions:

๐ŸŒฟ Mike N.: "For several years, I have celebrated the holidays and sustainability at the same time by decorating my 8-9-foot-tall Schefflera plant with lights and ornaments. No piney smell, but no cleanup either.

  • This year, my 6-foot-tall avocado tree (grown from a pit!) will get the treatment."

๐ŸŒฒ Jess A: "We got the most beautiful Christmas tree at Superior Evergreens, 7950 W. Belmont!"

Mario G: "We went to Sprout at Chicago and Damen this year, but usually Christy Webber on Grand. They had no trees bigger than 8' this year and we usually get a 10-footer."

๐Ÿฅƒ Steve J: "I always get my tree from Phyllis' Musical Inn, because whatโ€™s better than a shot and a Christmas tree."

๐Ÿฌ Barbara M: "Got my tree at Wayfair."

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Take your career to the next level

๐Ÿ’ผ Check out whoโ€™s hiring on our Job Board.

  1. Employee Communications Manager at Morningstar.
  2. Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Zeno Group.
  3. Head of Regional Business Development - Funds and Managed Accounts Group at Northern Trust.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a Job.

5. Where in the world is ... Monica?

Woman jumping in the air

Monica joyously leaps somewhere in the city. Photo courtesy of Wen Huang

Where's Monica this week? Here's a hint:

  • It's a former Field on a street that's great
  • Where the Christmas windows always rate
  • There's a Walnut Room with a great big tree
  • And some Frango mints you can gift to me

๐Ÿ“ซ Reply with the correct answer to be entered into a drawing for some free Axios swag!

Our picks:

๐Ÿฅช Monica is bummed she didn't make it out to Northfield to try this Italian beef collab between Hofherr Meat Co. and her old colleague Kevin Pang at America's Test Kitchen.

๐Ÿ– Justin is trying to burn off some PTO before the end of the year.

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