Will Mayor Lightfoot go Light on TIF?

By Darius Vinesar and Chris Katsaros

Grassroots activist Tom Tresser pointed at a map of Chicago and said, “No other major city in America has this kind of…infection.”

“It’s what it is, an infection.”

What Tresser was referring to was tax increment financing.

The practice of tax increment financing, or TIF, originated in California in the early 1950’s. Since then, TIF legislation has found some kind of use in every state except Arizona. TIF is used extensively in the Midwest, especially in Chicago for projects such as the 78 and the developments at Lincoln Yards.

Continue reading “Will Mayor Lightfoot go Light on TIF?”

Top Ten Film Locations in and around Chicago

Although Hollywood gets all the glory when it comes to the American film industry, many famous movies were filmed right here in the city of Chicago. And what many Chicagoans aren’t aware of is the fact that our city once served as the central hub for the movie industry before Hollywood.

In the early 1900’s, Essannay Studios, founded by George K. Spoor, oversaw the birth of genres like the Western and Nickelodeons. Essannay Studios was also the jumping-off point in the illustrious careers of actors like Charlie Chaplin and Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson.

Even though Chicago was out of the game for decades after the fall of Essannay Studios, the city has fortunately been revitalized as a place where aspiring film makers like John Hughes can make movies. Here’s a great quote from Hughes explaining why he set his film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in Chicago:

“Chicago is what I am. A lot of Ferris is sort of my love letter to the city. And the more people who get upset with the fact that I film there, the more I’ll make sure that’s exactly where I film. It’s funny—nobody ever says anything to Woody Allen about always filming in New York. America has this great reverence for New York. I look at it as this decaying horror pit. So let the people in Chicago enjoy Ferris Bueller.”

Below is an interactive map of just some of the most famous and classic movies that featured scenes, or were entirely shot, here in Chicago:

A Look at Google Trends

Foreign conflicts, local ripples

On September 14, 2019, two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were attacked by drones and missile strikes. Although Iran has denied involvement in the attacks, Saudi Arabia has claimed that the weapons used were Iranian, and has vowed to take necessary measures once investigations were completed. France, Germany, the UK, and the US have all agreed with Saudi Arabia as well.

As a result of the damage done to the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities, as much as 5% from the global supply was disabled. According to AAA Gas Prices, the national average rose about 10 cents, from $2.565 last week to the current average of $2.667.

What we see in Google Trends for the US is the interest in gas prices rising right up along with the search for Saudi Arabia.

Because much of the world’s gas supply comes from Saudi Arabia, many people will be interested to know what will happen to the prices they pay for their gas. When news of the attacks began to surface, there was a major increase in both the search terms for “Saudi Arabia” and “gas prices,” showing the concern people have for foreign conflicts and what they mean for us here in the states.

As the dust began to settle and reconstruction commenced on the oil facilities, Google Trends shows a sharp drop in both the search terms. Still, they remain higher in interest than they were before the attacks happened. As tensions grow between Saudi Arabia and Iran, we will probably continue to see an increased interest in the Saudi Arabia search term.

Are video games still causing violence? The debate rages on…

Since the early nineties when the likes of Mortal Kombat and Doom began to show up in arcades and computers across the world, the debate on whether video games is linked to violence has been raging on and on.

Google Trends documents the interest over time in both the search terms of “violence” and “video games,” showing an interesting correlation between the two.

Although the debates have had different levels of intensity throughout the years, as this Google Trends graphic shows, the search terms have largely remained in the public interest. What the trends tells us is that the two search terms often have similar peaks and valleys. In other words, as one search term trends, the other seems to follow in its footsteps.

Because mass shootings are unfortunately on the rise, video games have often been blamed as one of the sources of aggression and violence in the perpetrators. Politicians especially tend to put blame on video games, as many mass shooters have had and played video games. Some have even confessed to draw inspiration from violent games like Doom.

Despite what politicians say, the causal link between the two has been shown, time and time again by researchers, to be inconclusive and even non-existent. Despite the overwhelming evidence discouraging the link between the two, video games remain an easy target, while other factors like mental illness and gun laws remain difficult to negotiate and handle in our government.

Quinn: Illinois Pensions Threatening MAP Grants

Pat Quinn photo
Gov. Pat Quinn talks about MAP grants at DePaul University. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

By Bob Smith

Gov. Pat Quinn visited DePaul University’s Loop campus on Wednesday to discuss how pension reform is harming the Monetary Award Program (MAP) college scholarships and access to higher education in Illinois.

“This is so important to our state, not only in the past, but certainly now and in the future,” Quinn said.

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college that has the ability to go to college.”

MAP grants are need-based college scholarships that allow merit students who are in need across the state and do not need to be repaid by the student. Quinn said that due to cutbacks and having to pay more money in the pension amount, almost 18,000 students lost their MAP grant scholarships this year.

Continue reading “Quinn: Illinois Pensions Threatening MAP Grants”

Fake News and Faker Boasts

In a Forbes article titled “Americans Believe They Can Detect Fake News. Studies Show They Can’t,” a Pew Research Center poll claims that 39 percent of Americans feel “very confidant” they can identify fake news, while 45 percent feel “somewhat confident.” But according to various other polls done, the percentage of Americans who mistake a fake news story for a real one creates a discrepancy between the statistics, ultimately proving that Americans aren’t as adept at filtering the fact from fiction.

In my research I’ve asked the opinions of a student and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Heaven Silva, a sophomore at UIC, believes that with the rise of news coverage in social media like Facebook, more discussion and debate can take place on the accuracy or truth of a story in the “comments” section of public posts. In other words, through the advent of social media and public discussions, the filtering of fake news is as strong as it’s ever been, according to Silva. This type of open discussion couldn’t have taken place with a news story on TV, or in a newspaper, which are both more inclusive to the audience it’s supplying. Simultaneously, legacy news media asks for more trust in its journalists’ abilities to be unbiased and professional with the news they cover from their readers and subscribers. With Facebook and Twitter, users can openly discuss, fact-check, and share not only their opinions, but also links to more accurate news stories. Citizen journalism has become a filter to fake news stories, with a multitude of people who are free to call into question the accuracy of a story and poke holes in the narratives within.

Nonetheless, it appears that Americans still struggle to identify fake news and assess the accuracy of a story. According to an Ipsos poll done for Buzzfeed News, “75% of Americans who recognized a fake news story from the election still viewed the story as accurate.” Although this poll was namely concerned with the previous presidential election, it might speak for the American people’s ability to recognize fake news in general, particularly when it comes to important political events.

One of the underlying issues with getting news from social media could be the idea of “echo chambers,” which is a term that relates to the subtle technology that tailors your news feed according to your views and the posts and people you “like” and follow. In other words, the technology behind what Facebook decides to put on your news feed is the thing responsible for emphasizing your biased views, while increasingly cutting away the people and posts that would oppose your beliefs and opinions, even if they are just as accurate or even more so in their telling of an event.

Where the student and professor opinions differed was when it came to the issue of just how dire of a problem fake news is. Silva seemed to think that the issue is more urgent in today’s day, especially when it comes to the current political climate. On the other end of the spectrum, Professor James Drown of UIC seemed to think that the issue isn’t such an “alarming” one. Professor Drown further said that fake news certainly isn’t a new problem either. However, both interviewees agreed that fake news is still a negative product of today’s news organizations, with the professor arguing that it happens more often, now with the web and social media allowing people to bypass editors and fact checkers altogether.