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10 Irresistible Stories to Read Right Now

Southern Illinois’s fight for coal, Chicago’s forgotten house venues, a disgraced chef’s shot at redemption, and more brain fodder.

Sal Messina of Addison, Illinois, operates a bulldozer atop pile of coal used as a fuel for the Will County Generating Station in Romeoville.   Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

1. At Chicago’s City Council, Committees Are Used to Reward Political Favors and Fund Patronage

The Chicago City Council has 16 legislative committees that tackle everything from traffic to zoning. Each committee chairmanship also comes with staff and a budget that in some cases tops $2.2 million. So how are those resources being used? Hint: It’s not in the interest of taxpayers. ProPublica Illinois checks in on city council.

2. Why Downstate Fights for Coal

Among the issues on which Chicago and Downstate disagree, coal is one of the more significant. In Chicago, it’s seen as a relic of 20th Century industrialism, destined to be replaced by cleaner sources of energy like natural gas or wind power. In Southern Illinois, coal remains the rock on which the local economy is built. Chicago examines the enduring appeal of the fossil fuel in southern Illinois.

3. Former 42 Grams Chef Seeks Redemption With Stone Flower — but Will Bucktown Diners Support Someone Who Attacked His Ex-Wife?

The once-celebrated chef Jacob Bickelhaupt says he’s ready to come back after a high-profile downfall of his own making. But not everyone is convinced he’s earned one. Block Club Chicago goes in search of answers.

4. Black Women in Chicago, Getting Things Done

From winning reparations for police torture victims to electing the first black woman as mayor, there’s a consistent, effective force driving change in Chicago and around the country. A Long Walk Home co-founder Salamishah Tillet pens a powerful essay in the New York Times.

5. ‘I Think It’s Underappreciated’

Color analyst Jordan Cornette wants to be a Chicago Sky evangelist. The Athletic makes the case for Chicago’s WNBA team.

6. Apartment Empire Pangea Has Taken Thousands to Eviction Court

As the real estate company tells it, it’s responsible for reviving communities on the South and West Sides. But Cook County eviction court records tell a different story. The Reader follows the paper trail.

7. How’d Illinois Prisons Lose $3.4 Million of Stuff?

The Illinois Department of Corrections has millions of dollars in property, from walkie-talkies to computers. Turns out, a lot of it is missing. NPR Illinois investigates.

8. Plugging Into Chicago’s Forgotten House Venues

For decades, house music has shaped pop worldwide — but many of the spaces that birthed it here disappeared so quickly they barely left a trace. The Reader has the history lesson.

9. Small Town Government, Chicago-Style Politics

Chicago’s influence is spread far and wide throughout the surrounding area. Unfortunately for the west suburban village of Lyons, that includes some of the unsavory political tricks that have long been associated with the city. The Better Government Association visits our neighbors to the west.

10. The Worst Heist in Art Institute History

From the archives: The police had a suspect for what at the time was the biggest art heist in U.S. history. But they couldn’t nail him — until he made a brash move. Chicago revisists the 40-year-old caper.

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