Chicago Pride Parade Attendance, Same-Sex Marriage Rights

Since 2013, attendance to the yearly Chicago Pride Parade has steadily remained above a million attendees. This is an increase of 2,700% more than attendance in the 1980s.

This graphic depicts the steady increase in attendance over time, then meteoric rise following 2010.

In the years leading to the million-attendee records, Illinois was undergoing legislative changes, which ultimately led to the legalization of same-sex marriages in the state.

There was a steady increase in attendance at the pride parade until 2005. Then, it stagnated for about 5 years, remaining around roughly 450,000 attendees. Then, on June 1, 2011, same-sex civil unions were made legal in the state. That same year, attendance increased to around 750,000.

In 2012, Illinois Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office filed a motion to declare the ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. The same year, attendance increased by another 100,000.

The following year was the decisive year for same-sex marriage in Illinois. In Nov. 2013, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Illinois gay marriage bill, legalizing marriage between same-sex couples. The bill officially went into effect on June 1, 2014.

On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court declared the ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Same-sex marriage was officially legal across the nation.

Since then, the Chicago Pride Parade has seen high attendance every single year. Even last year, despite heavy rains, spirits were high.

For a more in-depth look into the history of same-sex civil rights in Illinois, the Chicagoist has a nice summary. For more on the national struggle for same-sex marriage rights, visit the Georgetown Law Library.

Chicago is Still Struggling with Lead in the Water

By Joe Crump and Carlos Tenorio

Back in December of 2018, the Chicago Department of Water Management announced a plan to explore lead service line replacements with the engineering firm CDM Smith.

Despite five years of Rahm Emanuel denying the lead service line issue, the problem has arisen once again.

With water meter installment comes the risk of elevated lead levels in the water, due to the possible disturbance of the lead service lines. Though the city does know that it can cause problems with lead, officials state that it can be resolved by flushing water systems by running the water for 3-5 minutes after six hours of non-use.

However, this tactic is not always consistently effective. In some tests, homes were found to have varying levels of lead despite performing this water system flush at varying intervals.

Currently there is a requirement state-wide in Michigan to remove all lead service lines. Similar to what Michigan has done, Madison, Wisconsin has done the same even though it is not required.

Illinois is following a similar path.

“We had expected that Illinois would adopt a mandatory lead service line replacement program statewide or state law, and the legislation has broad support,” Miguel Del Toral, EPA’s Region 5 Regulations Manager of Ground and Drinking Water, said.

The entrance to the federal building in downtown Chicago which houses the EPA offices. Photo by: Carlos Tenorio

However, the state government has not been able to follow through and set the action into motion yet.

“It did not come up or it was not brought up for a vote in this latest budget cycle because they did not have a funding mechanism,” Del Toral said.

The cost for replacing the pipes in Chicago alone is roughly estimated to be at least over $1 billion, according to Del Toral.

“The Illinois Municipal League and the Illinois Environmental Council are currently actively working on trying to come up with a funding mechanism, and so we hope that if they are able to work that out, that bill would be introduced in sometime next year, probably spring or so,” Del Toral said. “If they can come up with a funding mechanism, then it would be a requirement statewide.”

Until then, the cost of replacing these lead service lines, which is estimated to be at least $10,000, is up to individual homeowners. This leaves communities who cannot afford it more at risk.

The city is not the only player involved in lead service line replacement, however. Non-profit organizations, such as Elevate Energy, are working with individuals and childcare providers to assist with mitigating elevated lead levels.

“We’ve actually been working with childcare providers over the past two years to help them address lead and drinking water issues,” Caroline Pakenham, a Water Program Manager at Elevate Energy, said.

The Elevate Energy office, located at 322 S Green St. Photo By: Carlos Tenorio

Two years ago, the state of Illinois passed legislation requiring communities to inventory their lead service lines to see what material they’re made out of. This also requires schools and childcare facilities to test their drinking water for lead.

“When those new rules came out, there weren’t really a lot of resources to help childcare providers understand how to test and mitigate sources of lead,” Pakenham said. “What we did is we stepped in, we were able to secure some private funding to help reimburse home based childcare providers in the Chicago area for their testing costs, and also provide them with access to short term mitigation strategies to tackle lead and drinking water.”

The lead level requirement for these facilities is lower than the standard 15 parts per billion in standard households.

“If they find that they have lead in their drinking water at 2.01 parts per billion or higher then they do need to get the lead in their water below that level,” Pakenham said.

Timeline: a brief overview of the history of lead piping and the lead issue in Chicago and the country as a whole.

Lead and Health

The presence of lead in drinking water poses a threat to public health.

“The most important effects of lead poisoning are the effects on the brain,” Dr. Mark Mycyk, a specialist in lead toxicology at Cook County Health, said. “These are neurocognitive effects. So we know from decades and decades of research and lead poisoning, that exposure to lead does result in some damage to the brain.”

Long term, low-level exposure to lead can also cause damage to the brain, particularly in children.

“Some of those findings are very subtle, and that does not get picked up for years and years and years,” Mycyk said. “That’s why children whose brains are still developing are often the most vulnerable when it comes to exposure.”

There is no “safe” level of lead in the human body- any amount can cause harm.

“The lead has no function no benefit to the body. So one can argue that any measurement of lead in the body is bad,” Mycyk said.

When lead comes into the body it is absorbed as if it were calcium, which puts those with poor nutrition even further at risk.

“If you have a good nutritional diet, which includes enough dairy and calcium, the amount of lead that is absorbed into the body is actually less,” Del Toral said. “So nutrition matters.”

When it comes to treating lead poisoning or elevated lead levels, the primary treatment is to remove patients’ contact with the lead source, according to Mycyk.

History of the Lead Pipe in Chicago

Ever since water pipes were placed throughout the city of Chicago, and across the nation, lead pipes were considered the best choice. Lead seemed to be the most obvious mechanical choice, and as it was much sturdier and “safe”, but the health issues were ignored.

At first, wood and iron were being used for the pipelines, but these materials could not hold up. It was discovered that these materials leaked and corroded much faster, causing the switch over to lead, which was initially considered “safe.”

“They looked at microbial safety, the primary thing they were concerned about, and it made sense because there were people dying all over the place from Typhoid, Cholera and so forth. So, a lot of times when they talked about safe water, it was primarily microbial,” Del Toral said.

Since the technology was not there at the time they saw lead piping as the solution. It was also considered a win because no one was dying from Cholera or Typhoid.

For many years water main lines were from lead. Many states stopped using lead pipes as soon as the early 1900s, as negative health effects were discovered in the late 1800s.

However, Chicago did not stop installing lead pipes until 1986 when Congress amended the Safe Water Drinking Act, officially banning the practice.

As decades have passed, city officials have known that the lead piping was a public health hazard. As a short-term fix, they decided to add anti-corroding chemicals to the municipal water supply.

Changes to lead piping should not be made without testing to make sure the water is safe. An example of this is what happened in University Park.

University Park was using well water, and residents complained because it was high alkalinity water and because the water was hard. With so many complaints, Aqua Illinois bought University Park and decided to switch their water supply to the Kankakee water system.

With this switch came multiple problems, such as lead falling off of the pipes and getting into the water. Therefore the levels of lead skyrocketed in University Park. It is absolutely vital for the public’s safety to always test the water.

“In other words, you don’t experiment on the public. You go and you do that bench testing, pilot studies, offsite in a lab somewhere,” Del Toral said.

For future reference, if you or someone you know has any issues with water in terms of its safety, you can always call the city of Chicago to have it tested. By calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visiting you can have your water tested by a state certified laboratory.

Unusual and Interesting Places to Visit in Chicago

By Joe Crump

Everyone knows about the big-name attractions in Chicago, IL. and places to go, such as “The Golden Mile” or The Field Museum or the Adler Planetarium. However, there are many more, interesting, educational, or exciting locations to visit in Chicago.

The map below lists ten sites of such a variety located in or around Chicago. Some of these attractions are due to public effort to maintain local historical sites, some are dedications to authors or religions, and others are just simply points of interest which would not be suggested as a major visiting point of Chicago.

Trump Still Dominating our Search Queries

By Joe Crump

Among Candidates, Trump still Commands Attention

Since even before the 2016 election, President Donald Trump has dominated the search bar for millions of Americans (and even abroad). As the upcoming election draws nearer, which is still over a year away, democratic candidates are beginning to draw more attention.

Trump has had a continuous hold on the search bar within the past 90 days, according to the Google Trends graphic pictures above. With only select spikes in interest for the front-runner democratic candidates, which are mostly tied to debate news about Senator Bernie Sanders and announcements about Elizabeth Warren (and other candidates), it’s evident who sill holds Americans’ attention.

From the graph, it can be concluded that Trump is still the most popular candidate in the search bar across the United States- aside from Vermont, of which Sanders is the Senator. For as long as Trump remains a controversial figure in American politics, it can be assumed that he will continue to dominate the search bar.

As the Election Approaches, Climate Change is Gaining More Attention

As the presidential debates continue and we move into the year 2020, election chatter grows ever stronger. Talk of climate change is also seeing a rise in popularity, as protests were waged in Washington D.C. to coincide with 16-year-old Greta Thunberg speaking before the UN Climate Summit. Even following the 45th G7 Summit in August, interest was not this high.

Interest in the election peaked on 9/11, as the terror attack which changed life forever for Americans and others across the world remains an important issue in the minds of Americans as the election approaches. However, the search interest in climate and climate change peaked only 9 days later, when protests were being held in D.C. during Thunberg’s speech.

As the graph shows, the talk of climate change and significant events involving climate change discussion is fairly prevalent throughout the country. However, it also shows that the election is also heavily on the mind of roughly half of Americans across the country. Whether climate change will play a greater factor in the 2020 elections is anyone’s guess as of now, but it might become a greater factor following the events of September. In Alabama, a special election was called to fill two vacant state senate seats, which explains the heightened interest in elections in the state.

Quinn: Illinois Pensions Threatening MAP Grants

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.

“We do not want anyone denied that opportunity because of finances,” Quinn said. “We can’t afford to lose all the talent that exists, all the ability that exists for higher education to help our economy and to help all of us, because there are financial challenges that deny someone the opportunity to go to community college or a four-year university — public and private — in our state.”

Quinn was joined by several Illinois college students, including DePaul Student Government Association Vice President Casey Clemmons.

“Every year over 5,000 DePaul students receive MAP grants, and just like the students who have already spoken here today, all of these DePaul students rely on this funding in order to continue their college careers,” Clemmons said.

“Because the number of Illinois students eligible to receive MAP is currently increasing, existing funding does not allow the state to assist all the eligible students. As a result, without action by the Illinois state leadership, more DePaul students than ever will see their MAP funding disappear this year and more

DePaul students than ever will be forced to give up their education due to finances.”

More than 150,000 students nationally receive MAP grants each year.

Clemmons told the audience that on Tuesday, DePaul’s SGA unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Illinois general assembly and the governor to ensure the longevity of the MAP program.  He read the resolution aloud and presented a copy to Quinn. 

Ken Thomas, a University of Illinois Board of Trustees student member, MAP recipient and University of Illinois Chicago student, told how he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for the MAP grant.

“My mom, when I was in high school, had to work two jobs just to keep food on the table,” Thomas said, “and if we didn’t have [the] MAP program like we do today, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today; graduating with a degree, hoping to be a productive member of society.” 

Having a productive and functioning society and economy is what Quinn says it’s all about.

“Jobs follow brainpower,” he said. “We want to make sure we have smart people in Illinois. Well skilled, well-educated students coming out of college with graduate degrees and diplomas so they can create jobs, create new businesses,” he said. “Our goal in Illinois is to have at least 60 percent of the adults in our state with a college degree or college associate degree or career certificate by the year 2025. In order to achieve we have to make sure we have a good scholarship program.”

Clemmons said that in order for that to happen, state legislatures need to reflect upon the question, “What must be done?” and do what’s required.