Axios Chicago

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🐟 Happy Friday! Today is National Fish Fry Day, aka the first Friday of Lent. Whether you take it with vinegar or tartar sauce, try these spots.

Today's weather: Cloudy with a high of 33.

Today's newsletter is 862 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Lake Michigan losing its ice

Ice along the shoreline of Lake Michigan near downtown in 2021. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Even though parts of metro Chicago are dealing with rain and wet snow this morning, February 2024 has been unusually dry.

The big picture: Beyond almost record-breaking warm temperatures, downtown Chicago has seen little to no snow this month, and ice cover on Lake Michigan has reached a record low for this time of year.

Why it matters: Declining lake ice can reduce water levels, which can limit lake effect snow and harm ecosystems.

Context: The Great Lakes — the planet's largest freshwater system — are warming, causing wild fluctuations in lake water levels. They supply drinking water for over 30 million people, including Chicago residents.

Great Lakes ice cover, 1973-2024
Data: NOAA; Graphic: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

Zoom out: The absence of ice this winter coincides with record warm temperatures and a "lost winter" that residents of the Great Lakes states and Midwest have experienced, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

  • According to NOAA, Lakes Erie and Ontario have lake ice that is tied with historic lows, while Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron (typically some of the coldest) are at record-low levels of ice.
  • The below-average snow and ice and unusually mild conditions are probably tied to climate change and a more transient El Niño climate pattern.
  • This is also wreaking havoc on recreational industries reliant on winter weather.

What we're watching: If this warm and dry trend continues, we could have the warmest winter on record. (Meteorological winter ends at the end of February.)

💭 Justin's thought bubble: The warmest February on record coinciding with the retirement of Tom Skilling? Can't be a coincidence.

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2. Chicago wants your rat tales

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Chicago's inspector general wants to hear your rat tales.

Why it matters: Deborah Witzburg is seeking public input for a report on this pesky issue — part of a project aimed at bringing more accountability to local rodent control.

What they're saying: "This is an open casting call for lived experiences," Witzburg tells Axios. "We are looking to hear from people about problems they've seen, suggestions they have and concerns they have — whatever their experience has been so that we can build a project that speaks to real need."

What's next: Witzburg is urging Chicagoans who have dealt with rat issues to reach her office by phone 1-833-TALK-2IG, via an online intake form or email [email protected] by March. Reports can be anonymous.

  • "Once we've made findings and offered recommendations, we then need to put those in the hands of the people who can operationalize them and make them live out in the world," she says.

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3. Tips and hot links: Columbia College president resigns

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🧐 Columbia College president Kwang-Wu Kim is resigning from his post after the historic adjunct faculty strike. (Tribune)

🗳 The City Council voted again to reject a decision to allow police officers charged with the most serious crimes to have their cases heard out of the public eye. The issue is now expected to go to the courts. (Sun-Times)

🚨 The company that owns Shotspotter could end the city's contract for the controversial technology before the September date set by Mayor Brandon Johnson. (ABC 7)

🏥 Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve McMichael was admitted to the ICU last night after battling an infection. McMichael suffers from ALS. (NBC 5)

🏒 Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard made a surprise return to the ice last night after missing 14 games with a fractured jaw. (NBC Sports)

4. Best Day Ever: Arionne Nettles

Arionne Nettles. Photo courtesy of Chuck Olu-Alabi

Journalist Arionne Nettles grew up in Englewood and West Pullman, now lives in Roseland and is a fierce advocate for the greatness of the South Side.

What's happening: Nettles is out with a new book, "We Are the Culture: Black Chicago's Influence on Everything," which tracks the monumental impact Black Chicago has had on culture, from the blues to Ebony magazine to Oprah.

She shared what would make her best day ever in Chicago:

🥐 Breakfast: "A great croissant does wonders for my morning! Robust Coffee Lounge in Woodlawn is my favorite spot for a make-your-own breakfast sandwich. I do turkey, bacon, avocado and tomato on a croissant."

🏃‍♀️Morning activity: A run on the lakefront. "The best part is that there's likely a trail within 20 minutes or so from most places in the city. Just head east until you get to one!"

Lakefront path from museum campus
Lakefront path. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

🍤 Lunch: "You can often find me at lunchtime at Daisy's Po-Boy and Tavern in Hyde Park, sitting at the bar drinking a lunchtime hurricane and eating a shrimp po-boy with one of my favorite homegirls."

🕯Afternoon activity: Black Luxe Candle Co. in Wicker Park. "You can mix up your signature scent. There are so many fragrances to choose from, and you can do it while drinking as much wine as you want."

Keep reading

Photo of two sandwiches
Po' boy sandwiches at Daisy's in Hyde Park. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios
Sponsored event listings

Stay booked and busy

📅 Upcoming events around the city.

  • An Afternoon with Jahari Stampley at Highland Park Public Library on Sunday: The Herbie Hancock Institute for Jazz International Piano Competition winner performs with his mother, a Grammy-nominated saxophonist and bassist. Free and open to the public. Seating may be limited.
  • Chicago Bulls Club Red with Foggieraw at United Center on Feb. 28: Get a Bulls vs. Cavaliers ticket and enjoy an exclusive postgame concert with rapper Foggieraw through Club Red by American Express.

Hosting an event? Email [email protected].

5. First look: ⚽️ New Fire kits

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Fire FC

The Chicago Fire are getting back to basics ahead of their 2024 season.

What's happening: Before players hit the pitch in March, the club has unveiled its new jerseys (kits), a throwback to the glory days when the Fire won its only MLS cup in 1998.

The bottom line: Bye, bye blue. Welcome back to the "Men in Red."

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Photo of a jersey
Photo courtesy of Chicago Fire FC

Edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Yasmeen Altaji.

🫑 Carrie is eating a pepper and egg sandwich from D'Amato's for breakfast.

🌳 Monica is interested in signing up for the Black History Month Walk & Talk at LaBagh Woods next Thursday where participants will learn about Black environmentalists and how the preserves played a role in the underground railroad.

🕺🏿 Justin is going to the Beyoncé Renaissance Drag Brunch this weekend at the Walnut Room.

Want more Axios Chicago content? Check out our Instagram for extra stuff to do, behind the scenes photos, videos and more!