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Entries in Chicago (17)

Wednesday
May152013

Abercrombie & Fitch Faces Protests, Backlash for Not Selling Larger Sizes

Paul Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Add Kirstie Alley to the list of Abercrombie & Fitch critics who take exception to the company’s refusal to carry clothing in larger sizes.

The Former Cheers actress and Dancing With the Stars competitor slammed the store Tuesday, telling Entertainment Tonight she would “never buy anything from Abercrombie.”

The popular casual-clothing retailer is under fire for filling its shelves with products for the smallest of customers.

Protesters gathered outside the retailer’s Michigan Avenue store in Chicago on Monday, outraged about the store’s not carrying clothes in a size 14, the size worn by the average U.S. woman. Plus-size shoppers now make up 67 percent of U.S. consumers.

“It’s body discrimination, and it’s bullying and it encourages bullying,” Cali Lindstrom, a former Abercrombie & Fitch customer, told ABC News.

The backlash is growing online on Twitter and Facebook, and several petitions on Change.org urge people not to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch until the New Albany, Ohio-based retailer starts carrying larger sizes.

One YouTube user started a “Fitch the Homeless Campaign,” asking customers to rebrand the popular retailer by giving their Abercrombie & Fitch clothes to the homeless.

An ABC News report last week revealed that the trendy retailer carries mostly double-zero and extra-small sizes inside its New York City flagship store. There was no clothing for women in sizes larger than a 10, and salespeople at the store confirmed that Abercrombie doesn’t carry XL or XXL sizes for women.

Andrea Neusner and her three daughters are taking more extreme measures to show their dissatisfaction with the retailer. They’re sending every article of clothing they’ve ever bought from the store back to its outspoken and controversial CEO, Mike Jeffries.

Jeffries has not commented on the recent controversy, but has been forthright in the past about not wanting any customers who don’t fit the cool, young and sexy demographic the company targets.

Jeffries gave a 2006 interview to Salon magazine in which he said the store goes after “the attractive, all-American kid … A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

The retailer declined to comment on the protests.

Nicole Patrick, who was among the protesters in Chicago, said she is hurt by the exclusion.

“As a woman who cannot shop in Abercrombie, it’s extremely hurtful to hear that I’m not cool,” she said. “I think I’m really cool and so does my daughter.”

In addition to sending back her children’s clothes, Neusner also wrote a letter to Jeffries explaining her decision.

“My kids have been wearing [Abercrombie & Fitch] clothes for a long time … now we can make an informed choice not to shop there,” she told ABC News. “I didn’t want my kids being walking billboards for them but I didn’t want to throw [the clothes] away. I wanted the company to know how I felt about them.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan142013

United Airlines, American Airlines Accused of Running 'Sham Offices' to Dodge Taxes

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Chicago's Regional Transportation Authority is accusing United Airlines and American Airlines of operating "sham offices" in a suburban Illinois town and "dodging" millions of dollars in state sales taxes.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which helps fund bus and train systems in six counties, said the airlines are avoiding paying a higher 9.5-percent sales tax from their actual offices in Chicago and instead using "sham offices" in Sycamore, Ill., about 63 miles west of Chicago, thereby paying 8 percent in taxes.

Illinois collects sales tax based on where a company claims a purchase was "accepted."

RTA estimates that it has lost $96 million since 2005.

The RTA filed a lawsuit on Monday against United Airlines, which is based in Chicago, and is deferring formal action against American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, Texas, because it is involved in bankruptcy proceedings.

The RTA said both airlines buy and use millions of gallons of jet fuel in Chicago. But the RTA says United Airlines has claimed to "accept" jet fuel at its small office in a strip mall in Sycamore since 2001. American has done the same practice at its small office inside Sycamore's town hall since 2004.

Jordan Matyas, RTA chief of staff, said the RTA has spoken with other tenants in United's office building and was told part-time workers occasionally come to the office.

"It's one room with two empty desks and a model airplane," Matyas said. "This is not a place where they are buying $1 million of jet fuel per day. They are doing that at Sears Willis Tower where they have hundreds of employees."

United Airlines said in a statement that it is still reviewing the complaint, but believes "that any such suit is without merit."

"In fact, the operation of our fuel subsidiary in Sycamore has been examined by tax authorities in the past and has been determined to comply with all applicable laws. We will vigorously defend ourselves against these claims," United said.

Mary Frances Fagan, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said the company does not comment on pending litigation "but what it is doing in Illinois is permitted under state law."

The RTA said the companies have entered into 25-year agreements with Sycamore, guaranteeing as much as $500,000 each year that they are allowed to claim that they "accept" jet fuel in that city.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec282012

Chicago Parking Meters to Charge $6.50 an Hour

Eric O'Connell/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- It’s about to get a lot more expensive to park your car on the streets of Chicago.

In 2013, metered parking in downtown Chicago will jump 75 cents to $6.50 an hour.  That’s more than double what Chicago residents paid in 2008.  It’s the fourth year in a row that rates have increased.

The new rate earns Chicago the dubious honor of being the city with the most expensive parking meter rates in the country.  San Francisco had been number one.

In comparison, folks in Manhattan, N.Y., pay a parking meter rate of $5 an hour, while Los Angeles residents shell out $4 an hour.

Rates are also increasing for parking meters in other parts of Chicago.

But it’s not the city of Chicago that’s raising the rates.  Back in 2008, under Mayor Richard Daley, the city leased out its parking meters for 75 years to a private company, Chicago Parking Meters LLC.  The contract gave the company the right to increase rates in the first four years of the deal, and also granted future increases based on the rate of inflation, starting in 2014.

Chicago received a one-time payment of more than $1 billion in the deal, but the city’s current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has ordered an independent audit of the 75-year contract.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Sep222012

Chick-fil-A CEO Denies Giving "Concessions" to Open Chicago Restaurant

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chick fil-A has “made no … concessions” regarding its support of groups that oppose gay marriage, company CEO Dan Cathy said in a statement that was posted online by Mike Huckabee, denying a statement by a Chicago alderman that the company said it would reevaluate its policies in the face of a move by city officials to bar Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant there.

“Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been,” Cathy said in the statement. “There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect.”

Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno told ABC News Wednesday that he had received a letter from Chick-fil-A’s senior director of real estate saying the company had decided to re-evaluate the multimillion-dollar donations it gives to anti-gay marriage activists and other groups with “political agendas.”

“The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas,” the letter said.

A representative from Chick-fil-A did not return calls made by ABC News by press time to explain the letter.

While the company memo “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are,” released last week, does use language quoted by Moreno, the document goes on to reaffirm the company’s commitment to funding pro-marriage groups, although the document does not clarify as to which groups.

“Chick-fil-A supports programs and marriage retreats to help strengthen and enrich marriages.  More than 4,000 couples benefit annually from these programs, including military personnel and sports coaches that received scholarships.”  

Previously the company’s WinShape Foundation gave money to groups like the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defense Fund — donations that rekindled a firestorm among pro-gay groups.  The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Family Research Council as a “hate group,” as displayed on the group’s “hate map.”

Moreno raised the stakes last month when he threatened to block the construction of a Chick -fil-A restaurant, a move that prompted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to side with Moreno, declaring that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep112012

Chicago Strike Highlights Teacher's Pay

ABC News/Ma'ayan Rosenzweig(NEW YORK) -- Teacher pay is back in the headlines as Chicago school teachers went on strike Monday.

The average teacher salary is $71,236 in the Chicago Public School district, which includes elementary schools and high schools, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card of Northern Illinois University.  The average in the state is $64,978.

Jackson Potter, staff coordinator of the Chicago Teachers Union cautioned that the average salary figures likely include a large number of veteran teachers who retired this past spring.  More than 1,000 teachers retired, according to the latest figures from the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

While negotiations in the nation's third-largest school district are focusing on a number of issues, including job security and teacher evaluations, the complicated issue of teacher pay will always be a point of discussion across the country, said Chris Swanson, a vice president at Education Week.

"The idea that teachers have much more generous benefits packages than other occupations is complicated to get into," Swanson said.

Education Week's "Quality Counts" report published in January looked at teachers' pay parity, which measured teacher pay against 16 comparable occupations in each state.

The analysis found that public school teachers make 94 cents for every dollar earned by workers in 16 comparable occupations, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data from 2010.

Teachers in Illinois make about 91.2 cents for every dollar earned in comparable occupations, the report stated, which ranks teacher pay in the lower half of the country, as 32nd from the top.

"It's not dramatically different," Swanson said of the teacher pay in the state.

Washington, D.C., ranked last, because, Swanson said, it has a "robust" labor market in general.  In other words, teacher salaries in the nation's capital may appear high, but compared with other salary levels, teacher pay can be relatively low there.

On the other end of the spectrum, 13 states pay teachers at least as much as comparable workers, if not more.  Wyoming teachers had the highest teacher salary relative to other comparable occupations in the index: 131.4.

The report analyzed salary without looking at benefits, but Swanson said there is variability for non-teachers and teachers that may work nine out of 12 months of the year.

"There are teachers who work more than nine months out of the year or who have additional income through coaching," Swanson said as examples of the wide range of teacher pay.

Lori Taylor, a professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, pointed out that the dispute in Chicago appears to be "a struggle over reforming a system that is perceived as broken."

One of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's reforms is extending the school schedule, which "is apparently very important to teachers, because they are fighting tooth and nail not to have that lengthened," Taylor said.

"You have to think the reason why people stay in those teacher jobs when the salary is not competitive is either the benefit package is amazing or their desire to help kids," Taylor said.  "Either there is a personal psychic benefit, which is the case for a lot of teachers, but never the case for everyone."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul252012

Chicago Blocks Chick-fil-A After Anti-Gay Remarks

PR NewsFoto/Chick Fil-A(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago politician said he will block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in his ward, following anti-gay marriage remarks by the fast food chain's president.

Alderman Joe Moreno, who represents Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, plans to use his aldermanic privilege, a Chicago tradition in which City Council members defer to aldermen on local matters, to block the restaurant's permit.

"It's a very diverse ward -- economically, racially, and diverse in sexual orientation," Moreno told ABC News. "We've got thriving businesses and we want more but at the very least don't discriminate against our LGBTQ folks."

Moreno is not alone in standing up to the fast food restaurant, whose president Dan Cathy came under scrutiny after he told the Baptist Press he was "guilty as charged" when it came to supporting "the biblical definition of the family unit."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino sent Cathy a letter informing him: "There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it."

The Jim Henson Company also severed ties with the establishment and have donated their earnings from making toys for the chain's kids' meals to the gay support organization GLAAD.

But the businessman's comments have become a rallying point for conservative politicians who see them differently.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee organized a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" for Aug. 1.

"The goal is simple: Let's affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1," Huckabee wrote on Facebook.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 117,000 people had indicated they'd participate in the event.

Sen. Rick Santorum said on Twitter today that he was eating lunch at Chick-fil-A with five of his children.

"Enjoying chick-in-strips and an awesome peach shake at Chick-fil-A. See you here next Wednesday!" he tweeted.

In Chicago, residents in Moreno's ward have expressed mixed opinions that the fast food restaurant won't be coming to their neighborhood. Moreno does have the support of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

"Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty," Emmanuel said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune.

Moreno said he had been working with Chick-fil-A for nine months to address traffic issues the restaurant could create. During that time, he said he also worked "behind the scenes" to address the company's alleged support of anti-gay organizations and brought in the Civil Rights Agenda, an LGBTQ group, to help create a dialogue.

"We were making, I thought, some progress, until [Dan Cathy] comes out swinging. That basically sunk our discussions," he said.

Chick-fil-A did not respond to an ABC News request for an interview. The chain does have a store in Chicago and numerous outlets in its suburbs.

Moreno said if the fast food chain wants to open a location in his ward, than they're going to have to make amends.

"They should be in the business of selling chicken, not promoting a political philosophy," he said. "If they want to come out with an anti-discrimination policy, put it in their employee handbook, post it in their restaurants…then we can have a discussion."

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A earns about $4 billion in annual sales, according to its website, which states that the purpose of the chain is to "glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun042012

Groupon's Latest Deal: Tuck-In Service, Personal Lullaby

Groupon(CHICAGO) -- Attention Chicagoans! Time is running out to get your hands on some personal bedtime service.

Imagine this: For just $100, someone will come to your home, gently tuck you in to bed, deliver you a drink (of water), and even perform for you an original lullaby.

While it may sound fishy, rest assured. The daily deals site Groupon – which is hosting the ad – says this bedtime butler is no slouch; in fact, he comes with 28 years of experience; and they would know. The man at the other end of Groupon’s latest deal is the company’s very own Ben Kobold, one of the site’s writers, according to his LinkedIn page.

“Upon entering your bedroom, Ben Kobold immediately begins to analyze your linen seams and pillow placement, planning a tucking strategy as you enjoy a glass of water he has poured for you,” the Groupon ad reads. “After you hydrate, Ben’s sinewy, well-groomed fingers delicately raise each sheet and blanket over your body until you’re comfortably bundled.

“Careful not to disturb any children who may be in the adjacent room, Ben leans in and uses his summer-breeze-like voice to gently sing you one of the five lullabies he has authored,” the advertisement continues. “Once your body temperature has fallen and your breathing has slowed, Ben and his legally required entourage of two or three companions will slip soundlessly out the front door and into the night. He’ll return to his sleeping barracks, where he’ll tuck himself in and whisper his lullabies to himself.”

The site is known for its daily deals -- so where, you ask, is the deal in this particular offer?

“This is a unique experience created just for Groupon that does not have an original value for us to discount,” a Groupon rep identified as Patrick S. said in response to one user’s inquiry.

So this is all a joke, right? Perhaps a publicity stunt meant to draw laughs as the company's value continues to trend downward? Judge for yourself: “This is the most serious deal that Groupon has ever seriously run in its serious history,” the same rep said in response to another question.

For now, the "deal" is set to expire Wednesday night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan242012

Starbucks to Serve Beer, Wine at Select Stores Later This Year

Starbucks Corporation(SEATTLE) -- Ordering a "tall one" at Starbucks will eventually take on a whole new meaning at a few select stores.

The Seattle-based coffee giant said that it will be serving beer and wine in up to six stores in Southern California toward the end of 2012, with other locations in Atlanta and Chicago following suit.

The company rolled out serving alcohol in 2010 at its experimental Olive Way cafe in Seattle, with beers costing $5 each and glasses of wines listed between $7 and $9.

Figuring that serving adult beverages and premium food is the wave of the future, Clarice Turner, Starbucks' senior vice president of U.S. operations, said Monday, "As our customers transition from work to home, many are looking for a warm and inviting place to unwind and connect with the people they care about."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Wednesday
Jan112012

Illinois Man Wins Lottery -- Again

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Lightning struck twice for a Chicago man who has won a second $1 million lottery in the past 10 years.

“I won $1 million about nine years ago from the Merry Millionaire game,” Scott Anetsberger said in a statement touting his second windfall.

“He plans on using his winnings to pay bills and send his two younger children to college,” Lottery officials said.

Merry Millionaire is a $20 scratch-off game.

Anetsberger bought the winning ticket at the J&P Food store in Villa Park, Chicago.

“He’s a regular at our store and we’re happy that he won,” the store manager told Illinois Lottery.

J&P gets a $6,000 cut from the winnings, about one percent of what Anetsberger will collect after taxes. He received his ceremonial check Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug052011

Risky Business: Teens Buying Fake IDs From Overseas Via Internet

Doug Menuez/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- They can arrive in jewelry boxes, playing cards and even inside a game of Chinese checkers -- illegal IDs from China, mailed to your waiting teenager.

"They hide [fake IDs] behind things ... and inside boxes," said Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Ill. "This is full service. They want to make sure their customers are happy. They are very accommodating."

One website refers to the fake IDs as "novelty items."

"The Internet so readily makes these [fake IDs] available that anybody looking for them can find them literally with a quick mouse click," Dart said.

Working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies in Chicago, Dart has confiscated more than 1,700 IDs hidden in boxes arriving from China at the airport in the last six months. Most of them were on their way to 17- to 20-year-olds planning some underage bar-hopping.

Lydia Ruiz said a fake ID wasn't worth the danger. In February 2009, her son Alex was killed in Berkeley, Calif., by an underage drunk driver carrying a fake ID.

"More access to false IDs ultimately means more death on the roads," her husband, Michael Ruiz, told ABC News. "There's no two ways about that."

Dart said parents have to be aware. "They've got watermarks, holograms. They've got it all," he said of the phony IDs. "Parents have to wake up. They really have to wake up here."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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