2019: A mayoral race in Chicago, a look at Muslim athletes in Milwaukee, the Lincoln Yards controversy, and an investigation into a beloved Chicago music institution

Categories: News

We are only three months into 2019 and it’s already been a busy year!

For the Washington Post, I made a few trips to Milwaukee to spend time with the young women of Salam School. They’re breaking cultural barriers as athletes not just because they are playing basketball in traditional hijabs but because they’re superior athletes. Their achievements have not come without a price, however. In small town Wisconsin they are often seen, not as individual athletes, but as representatives of their faith, which in some cases creates unnecessary tension on the road. I found the women inspiring, and happy the Post put this story on the front page of their sports section this winter. Read it here.

There’s also a mayoral race in Chicago. For the Washington Post, I wrote this story in late December about how the race is unprecedented in Chicago because of the high number of women in color running to replace Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

But what a difference a few months make. Frontrunners Susana Mendoza and Bill Daley were given the KO by voters and the current run-off is between Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot. Here’s my coverage from election night that produced that result. Looking forward to an intense final election April 2.

The other story that made Chicago the center of the universe is the scandal involving actor Jussie Smollett. He’s charged with faking his own hate crime in downtown Chicago. Here’s my reporting in the Washington Post on the day he was charged and bonded out of court. 

The Chicago area was also hit with another mass shooting. This one took place in a factory in suburban Aurora. For the Washington Post I spent a long Sunday tracking down people who knew the killer as well as co-workers of the victims. 

January was spent looking into how a controversial development project along the Chicago River — a “city within a city” as some have described it — will forever change the nature of the near North Side as well as set a precedent for spending $80 million in public money on what is essentially a private project. Lincoln Yards is the legacy project for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel before he leaves office. Advocates against the project want it slowed down and the debate has brought up many time-honored themes in Chicago: namely, old-fashioned cronyism, aldermanic overreach, and public money poured into the North Side at the expense of the South Side.

For the Chicago Reader I wrote an in-depth piece at how Lincoln Yards will affect the Chicago music economy due to plans for several Live Nation venues within the project’s blueprint. I look at how other cities like Toronto, London, and Austin have done more to bake in policies that protect music culture, not just because culture is a good thing, but because it’s perceived as a valid economic engine. Read it here.

Then there is the Old Town School of Folk Music, a 61-year-old beloved music institution that helped shape the preservation of what we now call “Americana” music in the U.S.

For New City I wrote a 10,000-word story that looked at how the institution essentially bankrupted itself over the last 10-plus years by terrible decision-making, lack of board oversight, failures in transparency, and a clear lack of understanding, or appreciation, of what the mission of the school is all about. I spent nearly three months talking with past and present administrators and teachers, looking at internal documents, and talking with experts in the non-profit world.

The Old Town School is dear to my heart, so reporting this story was tough. The school is currently at the precipice and this year will determine if the current board will learn the lessons from its recent past and move the school towards a feature that offers full transparency to its faculty and students, or will retreat to behaviors that are antithetical for an institution relying on public money. I hope for the former. Read the full story here.

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