Race, poverty and politics: City passes new gun law, OKs $7M in police torture settlements; CTU, CPS agree on longer day with more teachers; Chick-fil-A not on Logan Square's menu

Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson and 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke are in a feud that went public Thursday over Burke's refusal to release information on the city's workers compensation program. Ferguson wants to look into reports of a number of police officers and firefighters abusing the city's disability pay programs. Burke, as chair of the finance committee, is denying access to the program's databases.

Federal investigators subpoenaed records related to state grants doled out through a committee chaired by former 34th District state Rep. Constance Howard, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.  Earlier this month, Howard resigned for "personal reasons."

Adding further controversy to the now-abolished state-legislative scholarship program, this week federal authorities also demanded the records of scholarships handed out by 23rd District state Rep. Dan Burke--Ald. Ed Burke brother. The subpoena also requests the records of any gifts received "in connection with the award of ... scholarship[s]."

Two hundred and fifty paralegals and clerical employees who work for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan could strike if they don't get a "modest" one-time stipend instead of a salary increase. The union representing the employees authorized the strike. A Madigan spokesperson called the strike threat "unrealistic and outrageous," and said the AG's office doesn't have the money to fund the stipend.

African-Americans and Latinos who seek conventional mortgages are steered toward government loans at a much higher rate than whites, Progress Illinois reported Wednesday, citing a Woodstock Institute study. The study focused on minorities seeking mortgages in seven U.S. cities. It determined that banks and lenders should give more options to borrowers whose credit is just shy of the minimal loan requirements, but is significantly above the eligibility requirements for FHA or VA financing.

City Council passed a revised gun ordinance on Wednesday. It makes it illegal for anyone who committed a violent felony, or someone convicted of a violent misdemeanor in the last five years, to receive a gun permit.

The council also OK'd a new ethics law. Some of the provisions: it expands Inspector General Ferguson's power; prohibits city employees from handling matters involving a former employee; and imposes stricter limits on "gifts" to city officials.

Earlier this week, 1st Ward Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno said he is determined to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening an outlet in Logan Square, part of his ward. He said he will block the chain from obtaining a zoning permit because of anti gay-marriage remarks made by restaurant President Dan Cathy. Moreno has Mayor Rahm Emanuel's support--at least publicly--but now Cathy wants a chat with Emanuel.

The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have come to a tentative agreement, breaking an ongoing impasse. The deal includes rehiring 500 teachers, which could cost about $50 million, to staff a lengthened school day. Catalyst Chicago notes that the rehiring comes with some caveats: only displaced teachers with satisfactory or better ratings would be taken back; and the job would only be guaranteed for a year. The big question remains whether this deal is enough to avert a strike. CTU President Karen Lewis called the agreement "a step in the right direction."

City Council on Wednesday recommended a $7 million settlement for two men tortured under the rule of infamous former police commander Jon Burge, who tortured African American men into confessing to crimes they did not commit. The investigation, and subsequent exonerations, has been ongoing for more than 25 years. The decision means former Mayor Richard Daley won't be called to testify in the case, a move that advocates say will keep him from discussing his role in matter.

The Chicago Department of Public health have data showing violence rates in poor neighborhoods are 13 times higher than those in more affluent areas. The Chicago Reader notes that decades of segregationist policies have contributed to this result. Meanwhile, a growing body of research shows that urban farms may be one way to help. Growing Home, an urban farming project in Englewood, employs local residents whose police records may make it difficult for them to find work elsewhere. Some cities that have successfully started urban gardening projects have let communities use vacant plots to plant. In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also looked at greening, as urban farming is called, as a way to prevent violence.

--Yana Kunichoff contributed to this post

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