Reaching for Support

The following podcast was created for Roosevelt University in March 2016

Chicago Protests Mayor, Police Violence

The following video was for Roosevelt University, and originally appeared in December, 2015

Chicago residents took to the streets in protest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department just hours after the Mayor addressed alderman in a special session in City Hall where he called for wide-ranging institutional reforms across Chicago.

Hot Doug’s lives on at Wrigley

The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on July 9, 2015.

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Hungry fans will be able to get their hands on some of Hot Doug’s staples like the “Rick Reuschel,” an atomic pork sausage with chipotle mustard and pepper jack cheese, or the “Dave Kingman,” a bacon cheeseburger sausage with cola BBQ sauce and sharp cheddar cheese.

“It’s just so overwhelming, I’m sure the reality will hit me later, but walking up here today and seeing this? Unbelievably cool,” beamed an elated Sohn upon seeing the new stand that bears his name behind Wrigley’s iconic scoreboard. “I just keep telling myself, “It’s the Cubs!” It’s so great to be a part of this.”

Sohn’s original restaurant closed back in October to long lines of die-hard fans waiting hours to get one last taste of the Hot Doug’s famous food.

“Now I get to do the fun part,” said Sohn. “I get to chit-chat with people, and I get to come up with new menu items, and I don’t have the pitfalls of running a restaurant!”

“When the Cubs and the Ricketts family committed to restoring Wrigley Field through their 1060 project, we promised improved and expanded concessions for our fans, added Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations. “We’re thrilled to introduce offerings from an iconic Chicago brand like Hot Doug’s.”

“Right now, it’s sort of the greatest hits,” said Sohn. “We’ll rotate the menu. The plan is every home stand we’ll have one or two new ones each time. I know there’s so many regulars out here that I had to mix it up for them.”P1050733.JPG

This post is also available in: Spanish

Sheriff Announces Sentencing Reforms in Cook County

The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on Mar 19, 2015.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart announced a new initiative aimed at reducing Chicago’s over-crowded jails last week.

“I can’t tell you the number of cases we’ve come across where a person is staying in our custody beyond the length of time that the legal statute allows them to be,” noted Dart in response to the number of individuals held in the Cook County facilities awaiting trial.

Dart announced a commission of county officials last Tuesday who will identify five to 10 cases per week where an individual can be moved quickly through the court system, and called for “rocket docket” legislation in Springfield to expedite court proceedings along strict sentencing guidelines for specific crimes like petty theft or trespassing. The initiative would use alternative methods of sentencing, such as electronic monitoring and support for the mentally ill to reduce the overall expense to taxpayers and address the over-crowding in county jails.

The Cook County Jail sits on 96 acres and is one of the largest single-site county pre-detention facilities in the U.S., according to the Cook County Sheriff’s website. It covers more than eight city blocks near the Little Village neighborhood and has ten divisions, a health services facility, two education departments, a privatized food service and commissary agency, and four additional onsite Sheriff’s departments.

The jail has an average daily population of 9,000. An average of 1,400 people are enrolled in the Electronic Monitoring Program that allows “non-violent, pre-trial and short-time sentenced inmates” to remain incarcerated in their homes. Dart noted that the current number of people being held at Cook County facilities is closer to 11,000.

“How do you feel about spending $20,000 for a guy who steals a Snickers bar?” Dart commented on a case of an one individual who spent 114 days in jail for stealing candy bars, costing taxpayers more than $16,000.

“We’re saying move the case ahead. Find the person guilty and get them convicted. Don’t let them sit here,” insisted Dart. “We have a system that is just not, in any way, taking in the human element. These are real people and they deserve to be treated in a certain way. There are people who should not be here.”

Dart’s initiative follows a similar pledge by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals across the state. In his 2016 budget proposal, Rauner intends to cut state expenditures on Illinois’ 48,000 prisoners through sentencing reforms that would see an increase in individuals with GPS monitors, an increase in mental health support services and probationary cases. Rauner’s initial budget proposal would see the Department of Corrections funding increase to $1.4 billion.

Rauner’s cuts have already been met with controversy, however, discretionary spending freezes to community groups who actively work to halt violence, like CeaseFire Illinois, are forced to refocus resources that are already stretched thin.

This post is also available in: Spanish

Bit Bash brings indie game developers to Chicago

The following story originally appeared in The Torch, the student newspaper of Roosevelt University, on Sept. 13, 2014.

Bit Bash brings indie game developers to Chicago

By Dominic Gwinn

On Sept. 6, over 30 independent video game developers gathered at the headquarters of the Threadless T-shirt company for Chicago’s first indie games conference.

While D.J.s churned out electronic music, and “Blade Runner” was projected against the wall, a crowd of several hundred were able to get their hands on a selection of independent video games from all over the world.
Bit Bash, Chicago’s first large-scale independent games showcase and interactive arts festival, was the brainchild of Chicago’s own artists and developers, Indie City Games.
“It started with a little over 10 initial people invited on an email,” recalls Jamie Sanchez, Bit Bash’s Creative Director and Indie City Games member.

“We just started to ask what kind of ideas merge, and what we can possibly pull off by the end of summer…It took a while for us to determine, as a group, who we wanted in the show–like what games were ‘festival quality.’ We wanted games that maybe had interesting control schemes or were maybe a little subversive for the genre. Things that people wouldn’t necessarily pick up and play at home. We wanted a specific, unique environment.”

As an interactive exhibition, many of the games on display defied the definition of a video game, while others embraced the term.

“Choosatron,” by Jamie Belich, resembled the interactive book series, “Choose Your Own Adventure” by reprogramming receipt tape printer.

As players progress through their tale, they press one of four different buttons, which allows them to create a story that is gradually spat out.

“I did the ‘super hero’ story,” attendee Daniel Beleck said.

“I chose ‘run and help the lady in distress,’ so now she’s impressed with how strong I am, but then a knife falls out of [her attacker’s] pocket. I bend down to pick up the knife, but I’m too slow so he wrestled me to the ground, and…then he kills me. I want to try it again.”
Other games on display, such as Chicago resident Andy Saia’s farcical “Last Tango in Paradise Simulator,” utilized an old “Dance Dance Revolution” pad, bad motion capture animation and a personal passion for dance to amuse and delight.

“You actually don’t control the character, what you control is the tango, and in turn, the tango takes control of you,” Saia said. “It’s a passionate romance simulator…I felt this made a much more immersive experience for a show like this.

While volunteer coordinator Kyle Bailey helped check in the hundreds of attendees, he marveled at the crowd through a sigh of exhaustion.

“I’d say there’s probably over 500 people that showed up today, but I honestly lost track. There’s a lot of kids, a lot of parents, just a lot of first timers and a lot of support.”

“I want them to tell their friends because many of these games are scalable and available on Steam,” said Sanchez. “I want them to go out of their way to indoctrinate their friends, and get their friends excited about these things. A lot of individuals who look at video games think that it’s all “Call of Duty,” “Halo”, or the other AAA titles–like “Skylanders.” We’re definitely showing the creativity of these independent developers. We’re sharing the love.”