Picture of the Chicago skyline.
Dec 2, 2021

Axios Chicago

Happy Thursday! On this day in 1942, scientist Enrico Fermi created the first nuclear chain reaction under the stands at Stagg Field on the campus of the University of Chicago.

🌤 Today's weather: Spring-like! Partly sunny with a high of 54.

Today's newsletter is 940 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: New ward map emerges

Chicago's City Hall. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Yesterday was supposed to be the deadline for Chicago's city council to approve a new ward map. Instead, the vote was canceled and a new proposal emerged later in the day.

Why it matters: The new ward map will change the course of political power in the city for the next decade.

  • The law says that if the ward map isn't voted on by December 1st, it's put on the 2022 ballot for voters to decide but can be removed if city council can secure 41 votes to pass the new map anytime up to the June election.
  • In other words: this deadline is for show.

Driving the news: The Latino Caucus held a press conference yesterday morning saying their members want no less than 15 majority-Latino wards (they currently have 13).

  • This proposal gives the Caucus 14 seats.

Takeaways: The new proposal would shrink the Black Caucus from 18 to 16 seats and remap the 34th ward, currently represented by Ald. Carrie Austin. The second-longest serving alderperson is currently under federal indictment for bribery. She is not going to seek another term in 2023, per Block Club Chicago.

  • The new map process was led in part by attorney Michael Kasper, who has experience in redrawing maps but also worked for longtime political boss Michael J. Madigan. So it's not a surprise to hear that Madigan's ally Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) and indicted Ald. Ed Burke (14th) are getting favorable treatment to keep their political empires intact.
  • This reportedly has Mayor Lightfoot threatening to veto any map that gives favor to Burke, though she wasn't wasn't at City Hall for the last-minute back and forth, instead attending meetings at the White House.

Between the (re-drawn) lines: The new map would carve out a majority-Asian ward that would include Chinatown. Current Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) isn't on board.

  • The mega-development Lincoln Yards would switch hands, moving from the 2nd ward to the 32d ward (helmed by finance chair Ald. Scott Waguespack).

What's next: "Well, it's going to be a mess," former alderperson and political science professor Dick Simpson tells Axios. "I think at the moment, it's likely to go to a referendum. And it may well end up in court."

  • Before the full council votes on this new map, they've set public hearings for December and January.
2. Vax and boosting ahead of Omicron
Source: Chicago Department of Public Health; Chart: Axios Visuals

As Chicagoans worry about the arrival of the Omicron variant, health officials say the best way to prepare — and to reduce current high levels of Delta — is to vaccinate and boost.

Why it matters: COVID-19 vaccination rates are still pretty low in certain communities and school groups where transmission is high.

  • And as Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) chief Allison Arwady explains, low vaccination rates actually drive new variants.

By the numbers: As of last week, 77% of Chicagoans 12 and up had gotten at least one shot.

  • 49.6% of CPS students 12 and up are fully vaccinated.
  • 12.6% of CPS students 5 to 11 have gotten their first shot.
  • 12 times more COVID cases happen in largely unvaccinated CPS elementary school students compared to the higher-vaccinated high school students.

Booster news: In anticipation of Omicron, the CDC strengthened its guidance this week on adult boosters, now recommending people "should" get them.

  • CDPH tells Axios that 23.3% of Chicagoans over 18 and 32.6% over 50 have gotten boosted.
  • This may seem astonishing since the CDC only opened boosters to all adults under 65 two weeks ago, but we know that lots of Chicagoans didn't wait that long.
  • Chicago seniors over 65 now have a booster rate of 45.5%, about 10 points higher than a few weeks ago.
  • These numbers mirror national data almost exactly.

Fun fact: Chicagoans who are most likely to be vaccinated are Asian women between 50 and 59 years old — in other words: Monica.

3. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏫 Marine Leadership Academy can't stay out of the news. First, a sexual misconduct scandal and now a staffer fired over sending anti-vaccination literature to parents. (ABC 7 Chicago)

📺 Attention Golden Girls fans! Your dreams have come true. The Northalsted neighborhood will host a first-of-its-kind fan fest this April. (Patch)

🏀 The Bulls will lose next year's 2nd round pick for tampering with Lonzo Ball during free agency. (Bleacher Nation)

4. Cubs swing big before lockout

Marcus Stroman of the New York Mets in action in September 2021. Yesterday, Stroman signed with the Cubs. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired this morning, leaving the league and the union without a deal and causing a lockout.

Why it matters: Everything from free agency to the start of Spring Training is now in doubt.

  • This is the first MLB work stoppage since the 1994-1995 players strike.

What's at stake: The owners would like to make changes to the game, including more playoff teams and a universal designated hitter. The players' union would like to secure a better share of league revenues.

Driving the news: The looming lockout had teams racing to secure top free agents before the CBA expired. This includes the Detroit Tigers, who signed former Cub Javier Baez to a six-year, $140 million deal.

What we're watching: The Cubs didn't want to take any chances missing out on starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. Stroman reportedly signed a 3 year, $71 million contract, just hours before the lockout.

What's next: Early this morning, MLB cancelled its Winter Meetings, which were supposed to start on December 6th.

  • The meetings are traditionally where teams discuss trades and free agents.
  • It seems the off-season could be over before it even started.
5. Where in the world is … Justin?
Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Justin used his vacation days to go explore. Where is he?

📬 Answer correctly and win some Axios swag, just in time for holidays.

🏝 Monica will be back on Monday.

🎸 Justin is still in awe of Monica's little ditty from yesterday.

Want free Axios swag? Refer your friends to Axios Chicago and get cool merch like stickers, totes, hats, T-shirts and more!