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Remap battles roll on into the holidays: Today's Juice

Crain's Chicago Business

Monday, November 22, 2021  |  Article  |  Greg Hinz

Pritzker hasn’t yet signed the congressional map the Legislature sent him. Republicans and both Black and Latino groups are challenging the Illinois General Assembly maps. And the Chicago ward remap is still in limbo.

Like most of us, politicians in Chicago, Springfield and Washington will be checking out early this week as the holiday season officially opens with Thanksgiving. But activity never entirely ends, and a couple of familiar subjects again should make some news.

Subject one is COVID, which, with the onset of colder weather, is increasing here again and ultimately affecting just about everything in public (and private) life.

In Chicago, keep an eye on the daily average COVID cases. As of Friday, they stood at 528, up 16% compared to the prior week. The percent positivity stands at 2.9%, up from 2.3% the prior week.

Vaccinations are steadily increasing, with just about anyone aged five or older entitled to shots, including booster shots. As of last check, a not unimpressive 77.4% of Illinoisans aged 12 and above had received at least one jab, and 70.9% were fully vaccinated—that according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But with downstate conservatives in particular arguing for “freedom” over vaccination, the disease continues to take a toll.

How bad will this wave get? No one knows for sure, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s talk a few weeks ago about ending his mask mandate soon clearly has become a non-starter.

Also still in the news is—sigh—remapping.

Pritzker hasn’t yet signed the congressional map the Legislature sent him. Aides say there’s no particular reason, but if he waits much longer talk will spread that the governor fears the maps face a real legal challenge, like the one Republicans and both Black and Latino groups have made to the Illinois General Assembly maps.In Chicago, the City Council Rules Committee and the Black Caucus still haven’t offered proposals on the ward remap, though the Latino Caucus and an independent group have.

The Rules Committee will hold another no-vote public hearing on Tuesday, so look for more details then. But the clock is ticking on a Dec. 1 deadline that, if missed, would force a referendum, only the second in recent decades.

In the meantime, Crain's has put together a Google Map where you can view Chicago's biggest real estate developments would shake out under various map proposals (keep in mind some of these projects, which take up several acres, could be split between wards). You can also look up your own address:Fresh off the city's reveal of new details of the five Chicago casino bids, Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar joins Crain's A.D. Quig in a Tuesday Q&A to talk about the strengths of all five of the casino bids and why the two with the steepest political climb aren't dead in the water. Plus, he details why he believes January will be a big month for return to work, teases a "lasagna" of city programs to help aging Loop buildings bounce back, and discusses whether corporate Chicago is doing enough to help working families. And right after the Thanksgiving break, Rep. Adam Kinzinger will join the podcast to discuss his political future, the subject of a fair bit of speculation nowadays. You can subscribe to "A.D. Q&A," the Tuesday podcast edition of Crain's Juice newsletter, right here.

In Washington, the big news of the week is likely to be President Joe Biden’s decision on whether to reappoint Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The decision could show how aggressively Biden wants to pursue abuses by both Wall Street and LaSalle Street or use the Fed’s powers to get financial institutions to act on climate change.

Also, after House passage of the $2 trillion Build Better Back Act, the question now is how much the Senate will push to change the wide-ranging human infrastructure bill. One key item for many Illinoisans: Will the House’s provision to boost the cap on the state and local tax deduction, a.k.a. SALT, stay or go? It’s now capped at $10,000 a year. The House bill would bump that to a bit over $80,000 a year, enough to cover not only middle-class families but a lot of truly wealth folks, too.

Two other economic notes to watch for this week: The Chicago Fed's national activity index comes out later today, and tomorrow, Biden is expected to “deliver remarks on the economy and lowering prices for the American people,” the White House announced Sunday, giving no details on the expected content.

On the lighter side: Biden will spend the holiday on Nantucket, after partaking in the annual ritual of pardoning turkeys (named Peanut Butter and Jelly this year, if you're curious).

The break will be a quick bit of respite. When lawmakers return, they'll have to figure out a way to fund the ongoing operations of the federal government and lift the debt ceiling.

You wouldn’t think that a job that includes handing out driver’s licenses, maintaining voter records and serving as the state librarian would spark an all-out, Chicago-style political scrum, packed with charges of nasty hijinks.  

But then you probably haven’t looked at the race for Illinois secretary of state. Greg Hinz explains.

• Here's the key to EV adoption in Illinois: If Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the number of electric cars on Illinois roads to soar to 1 million from 33,000 by 2030, he’ll have to assure drivers that tapped-out batteries won’t leave them stranded on a lonely stretch of highway. Crain's John Pletz lays out the stakes.

• U of I seeks muscle for faculty talent war: Rising enrollment has upped the need for professors. But Crain's Elyssa Cherney reports that without more funding—$36 million, in fact—to sweeten lagging salaries, accomplished faculty are "especially vulnerable" for poaching, officials warn. 

• Public transit is ready to innovate, but challenges remain: Regional Transportation Authority leaders agree with columnist Joe Cahill's examination of what transit needs to tackle, but they have another deadline in mind.

• Can Pete Buttigieg stay on track? The Transportation secretary—now arguably the most powerful in history—has been given wide discretion, and he’ll need to use it wisely if he wants to be president someday. Bloomberg Opinion columnist Matthew Yglesias weighs in.

• Thanksgiving travel to test airlines' mettle as demand returns: “The pent-up demand is a huge factor, especially if you didn’t get to see your grandparents or family members last year or had to cancel trips earlier this year. Our mentality now is, ‘Screw it, I’m going.”’Closing in on a deal that has eluded City Hall for decades, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration on Friday released new details on the five bids it’s received to build a major gambling casino in the city’s central area. Greg Hinz and A.D. Quig give a guided tour of each one.he Chicago hedge fund billionaire outbid a group of crypto investors under the name of ConstitutionDAO who said they raised more than $40 million to purchase the document. Sotheby’s, the auction house handling the sale, said the item is the most valuable historical document ever sold at auction.