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Chicago news roundup: Tragedy looms over Juarez, tax refunds for Cook County homeowners 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 cloudy with some showers and a high near 43 degrees. Similar weather will continue into tonight with rain and snow showers likely and a low near 30. Tomorrow will be cloudy with a high near 34.

Top story

In Pilsen, mass shooting looms over Juarez, once considered ‘sacred ground’ for community

When gunfire erupted outside of Benito Juarez Community Academy last month, it felt as if tragedy had struck Teresa Fraga’s family, though she wasn’t related to the two teens who were fatally shot.

“Any kid who goes there is going to a school that was built by families. So to me, Juarez — and I think students see it that way, that they see it as a sacred ground where it’s, like, blessed,” Fraga told our Elvia Malagón in a recent interview.

For many in the Pilsen community, the Dec. 16 mass shooting, which also wounded two other teens, hit a nerve because the high school is so intertwined with the neighborhood’s history. In the days following the shooting, some students returned to school before winter break while others stayed home. Students led a vigil and march around the neighborhood to decry gun violence. And residents signed up for shifts to hand out hot chocolate and snacks to students outside the school as a memorial grew for Nathan Billegas, 14, and Brandon Perez, 15.

Fraga, now 80, and her family had lived in various parts of the country working in agriculture before settling in Pilsen in the 1960s. At the time, there wasn’t a neighborhood school and the community faced high dropout rates as the nearest high school — the Carter Harrison Technical High School in South Lawndale — struggled with gangs and racial tensions.

“It was very noticeable — your child dropped out (in) 10th grade,” Fraga said. “So in a meeting, somebody said what we need is a high school, and it just rang throughout the neighborhood. People started talking to people.”

In the 1970s, Fraga was part of a group of parents and community leaders who pushed Chicago Public Schools to build a high school by leading a boycott where parents kept their kids home, organized marches and vigils. In 1974, about 85% of students in Pilsen-area schools boycotted class for five days, according to a Sun-Times story published Oct. 2, 1977. Their activism eventually led to the construction of what is known today as Benito Juarez Community Academy, Fraga said. A photo published Sept. 16, 1977, in the Chicago Daily News from the school’s dedication ceremony shows a group of people holding a banner: “Benito Juarez HS was won by the community struggle.” The community celebrated with a block party that they named Fiesta Del Sol, which remains an annual summer festival in Pilsen, according to the festival’s website.

The movement to create a neighborhood high school spurred more activism as leaders went on to start other community organizations focused on children and women, Fraga said.

Our Elvia Malagón has more on Juarez and the community it serves here.

More news you need

  1. Loved ones and fellow performers are mourning the loss of Michael Lehrer, a former Second City standout who remained active in comedy after developing ALS. Teacher, 44, died Tuesday in Portland, Ore.
  2. Chicago is set to receive $20 million from the state to care for migrants arriving in the city. State lawmakers passed an appropriations bill with money for costs associated with “shelter, transportation, basic health and first aid, food” and other needs for asylum seekers. The bill now awaits Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature.
  3. Students at the University of Illinois Chicago who just started their winter semester are facing a third day of canceled classes today as many instructors continue to strike. The work stoppage has many students scrambling to learn course material on their own, but they also say there must be “sacrifices made for progress to be made.”
  4. Cook County homeowners who overpaid their property tax bill last year can expect to receive automatic refunds over the next three months. Over $47 million in overpaid property will be refunded to more taxes than 53,000 county homeowners starting this week, the Cook County Treasurer’s Office announced yesterday.
  5. A top Chicago health official tested yesterday that the city considered many issues, including air quality and health in the surrounding community, in nixing a scrap business along the Calumet River. Reserve Management Group, the business that owns the shredding operation, wants an administrative law judge to determine whether the city exceeded its authority in denying the permit.
  6. President Joe Biden yesterday nominated two judges serving in Chicago-based federal courtrooms to be elevated to fill district court vacancies in the Northern District of Illinois. Biden picked Judge Jeffrey Cummings, who has been a US magistrate judge for the Northern District since 2019, and Judge LaShonda Hunt, a US bankruptcy judge for the district since 2017.
  7. To fill trains this year, Metra is aiming for non-office workers, reluctant drivers and students commuting to college and high school, agency executives said yesterday. The goal is to climb back to pre-pandemic ridership numbers and reduce reliance on federal relief funding, Metra said.
  8. A New York-based developer that has invested heavily in Chicago is seeking zoning approval for two new projects west of downtown, including a three-tower complex that could add more than 1,500 residences to Fulton Market. If commenced, the development would be a large new entrant in the development push through Fulton Market — once an old meat- and produce-packing district that has been transformed into a trendy hub for offices, residences and restaurants.

A bright one

Lord Herald, the least adoptable dog ever? Nawww.

Lord Herald, a grumpy, middle-aged Chicagoan, who also happens to be a Chihuahua, was tagged with the label by the New York Post last month after a social media post by the Chicago dog rescue that saved him from the city’s pound went a bit viral. The post used two asterisks and loads of cheek to describe “*THE* most adoptable pup on the planet.”

“Meet Lord Herald. He is about 10 years old. He has a severe heart murmur. He has a persistent cough that we’ve been treated with medication. Oh and he’s a biter. loves to bite Don’t worry though the guy has zero teeth so instead it’s just like a sad gummy kiss. Also…the excitement from latching on brings on a coughing fit.”

Kelly Dietrich, who lives in Humboldt Park and is a co-founder of One More Dog Rescue Inc., said the post was the result of a worn-out staff deliriously smiling in the face of adversity.

Lord Herald went viral after a sarcastic social post by One More Dog Rescue

Anthony Vazquez/Sun Times

A rescue coordinator at the city’s pound — also known as Chicago Animal Care and Control — reached out to Dietrich about taking in the dog, which otherwise would have been euthanized.

Dozens of inquiries have since rolled into the nonprofit rescue organization about adopting Lord Herald.

“We’ll 1 million percent find him a home. And we’re not first come, first served, we’re super picky and the right person will come along,” Dietrich said.

Mitch Dudek has more on Lord Herald here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What do you think of the city’s proposed plan to use cameras to nail motorists who block bus lanes, bike lanes and loading zones?

Send us an email at [email protected] and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Who makes the best tavern-style pizza in Chicago?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Pete’s at Western and Irving. There’s Pete’s — and there’s everybody else.” — Ken Churilla

“Obbie’s on Archer. Very thin, a little char around the edges and their sausage is the best I’ve ever had.” — Jimmy Davey

“Home Run Inn on 31st street. No other pizza likes it.” — Cindy Rose Todd

“Fox’s Beverly Pub on 100th and Western Ave. Great thin crust with corn meal on the bottom, the sausage is great seasoned and the cheese is on top of the veggies. I now live out of state but every time we visit we get a family size!” — Rich Werner

“Vito & Nick’s original in the Ashburn neighborhood. I like the large sausage mushroom pizza!” — Richard Byrne

“Vito & Nick’s on Pulaski. They have been doing it for over 50 years and the combination of their thin crust and sausage can’t be beat.” — Dave Krasula

“Phil’s on 89th and Ridgeland baked perfectly with lots of toppings.” — Brian Alan

“Pizza Nova in Pilsen and the Southwest Side — ample ingredients, nice and cheesy.” — Robert Valadez

“Pudgy’s in Hegewisch! Handmade crust, sauce. Old ovens with cornmeal bottoms that you have to move around. Creamy cheese, try it. The old-fashioned way!” — Kathleen Harper Purvis

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

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