Analysis: Chicago’s Polar Vortex Shines a Light on Good Samaritan Candice Payne, Trudeau Surpasses Trump in Wake of Scandal

By Victoria Gonzalez

Chicago’s Polar Vortex Shines a Light on Good Samaritan Candice Payne

If you are from the Chicago land area then you may remember the winter storm that took over our city earlier this year. At the tail end of January 2019 Chicago began to brace itself for a polar vortex. The public anticipated and faced degrees down to 20 below, which resulted in schools, workplaces, and businesses all shutting down for the day(s).



The extreme temperatures posed dangerous conditions for the general public, but a more especially vulnerable group was being forgotten. While most citizens had the option to bear the cold in their homes, Chicago’s homeless population had no such luxury. Reports began coming in on people dying in the frozen streets, and by the Sunday after the initial hit more than a dozen lives had been claimed by the frigid temperatures. Cue Chicago native Candice Payne.



Payne, just like many others heard the news of homeless people dying on the streets of Chicago. But instead of taking a passive sigh and moving on with her life, she decided to do something. Candice charged 20 hotel rooms to her personal credit card for the Amber Inn on the Southside (the only hotel that would take them), and then went to social media to seek help in transporting the homeless to the motel. People began reaching out to help and donate, eventually making her story go viral and getting her an appearance on the Ellen show.

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An analysis of Google search data shows an increase in searches for Polar Vortex around January 27th and February 2nd of this year. Around February 3rd to the 9th you begin to see searches for local hero Candice Payne, which coincides with her good deed and appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show. Payne garnered a lot of local buzz shortly after the snow storm which is supported by the Google Trends analysis. 


Trudeau Surpasses Trump in Wake of Scandal

Ever since the 2016 United States election cycle president Donald Trump has been dominating google searches, even in Canada. His notorious tweets and off the cuff remarks kept the populations attention and need to keep up to date with his latest scandal. That concept supports the following google trends analysis of google searches for Trump vs Trudeau in Canada in 2016 and so on. But all of that changed earlier this week.

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Flash forward to

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Funding Disparities Between the South and North Side Continue for Chicago Public Schools

By Victoria Gonzalez and Alexia Herrera

With many people comparing Trump Administration Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to Harry Potter’s villainous Professor Umbridge for her suggested cuts to the educational budget, Chicago finds itself as part of a  large-scale conversation regarding public education and funding in the United States.

Chicago Public Schools has a long history of disaffection when it comes to adhering to the needs and demands of teachers, students, and its general public, with big community names like Chance The Rapper (who recently donated $2 million to CPS) speaking up about issues he has with CPS and its budget cuts and closings.

In recent years, it was poor relations between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), when in 2015 CPS announced it would not support a one-year extension to the deal they had settled on after the CTU’s seven-day strike back in 2012, which resulted in another possible strike looming, but never actualized that year once both parties came to an agreement.

Although the CTU and CPS are currently working with an agreed upon contract, teacher sentiments and concerns are still relevant and consistent.

“I currently have a 32 students to 1 teacher ratio in my classroom,” said Marta Ramirez, who teaches 7th grade english at Hamline Elementary school in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the South Side. It’s one of the schools affected by the city’s public school budget crisis.

“Some of these students are not receiving the attention that they need and as hard as I try, I cannot give 32 students at a time the individual help that they need to succeed.”

Ramirez values her students’ time and education, but like many other teachers, she said she feels the district does not value herself or the students as much as they should. Budget cuts are affecting Ramirez and her classroom through a limited access to resources — not having the right textbooks, large classroom sizes, or enough teachers to support the large student body in general.

The cutbacks are apparent (see infographic) in the annual budget. South Side school Pilsen Academy dropped from $4 million in 2017 to $3.4 million in 2018.

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“It’s just not fair to the students, that their peers on the North Side are getting the education and resources they need but somehow my students are deemed undeserving,” said Ramirez, adding that she believes that equally sharing the CPS budget between the North Side and South Side could help provide under supported students with the materials and attention that they need.

The stark differences in funding between the North and South side public schools is blatant, especially when you compare funding for the equipment expenses. As you can see in the infographic, the budget for equipment expenses at Northside College Prep is $109 thousand while Pilsen Community School receives only $50 thousand.

There are also various nonprofits attempting to fight the systematic inequalities of CPS funding. Kenwood Oakland Community Organization [KOCO] is one of many nonprofits that fight for justice.

“An Englewood school was going to close until KOCO pushed and fought until the city budget found $34 million,” said Jawanza Malone, the executive director for KOCO.

Malone finds that students in South Side neighborhoods like Englewood and South Shore are not receiving the same funding that schools on the north side are unless organizations like KOCO call them out and hold them accountable for their actions.

When asked about the effect of funding on students resources, Malone said,

Students can’t take books home, how can they get educated if they can’t bring their education back home?”

KOCO is a testament to the fact that equal educational funding is not always a given on the south side. The sentiment is shared by Chance the Rapper in the same interview, where he believes that if the city wants to see real change, then neighborhoods need to unite, “It starts on the my neighborhood, my ward, my block…It starts with block club presidents. It starts with starting a block club. But all those levels are accessible, you know?” It is clear to see by the google my maps graphic that these demands are necessary because the south side has plenty of Chicago Public Schools, that deserve better funding and an overall improved budget plan.


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By analyzing CPS’s budget data, it is evident that there is a serious funding disparity taking place among Chicago Public Schools. The numbers are further supported by the viewpoints and experiences of south side CPS teachers and students. Maricel Ortega from Theodore Roosevelt High School, who’s art program was affected by the lack of funding recalls,

“There was a music program that I was supposed to be a part of and learn how to play the drums and they were about to start but they didn’t have enough funding to go through with it. A lot of books also needed updating.”

20 Top Ranked Cities To Go Cycling

By Victoria Gonzalez

photo by

According to data collected in regards to the top 20 best bike cities, Hamburg, Germany is giving Portland, Oregon and all of it’s Hipsters a run for their money. Hamburg was ranked number one for its views of historic architecture and their high rate of cycling, especially in local neighborhoods. For those seeking a longer distance to enjoy the view, there is an approximately 160 mile bike path from Hamburg to Berlin, which ranked 11th for the cities investment in getting citizens to bike through infrastructure advancements.

Paris, France was ranked number two, the list accrediting the city’s bike share system which remains a success for “an impressive number of stretches featuring bicycle infrastructures.” Japan has also seen success in biking with the city of Nagoya ranking number six for its implementation of biking infrastructure to foster its’ populations continued desire to bike. The ranking pointing out that “Fifteen percent of the population ride bicycles for transport and the national government has a goal of 25%.”

The United States was left out of the top 20 ranking, leading most to question if our cities are doing their job in investing in biking infrastructure and more importantly a greener future. If the US wants to compete with the leading global players, it will really need to make an investment like Budapest, Hungary. The list ranked Budapest top three stating that it was “One of the leaders among Emerging Bicycle Cities, Budapest is getting it’s brain wrapped around infrastructure and development of a sensible network for bicycle users.”


Pilsen and Gentrification Over Time

By Victoria Gonzalez

photo provided by:

Pilsen, a primarily Latino neighborhood located on the Southwest side of Chicago, is known for being filled with fun cultural activities and restaurants; you have Café Jumping Bean, the National Museum of Mexican art, and Honky Tonk BBQ just to name a few. But things have not always been this way, commonly referred to as the “heart of Chicago’s Mexican community,” Pilsen did not rise in popularity until recently. Chicago has been a destination for Mexican immigrants since the 1910s, but strict immigration laws of the 20’s and 30’s halted Mexican immigration. At first being unwelcome, Mexican immigration eventually picked up again in the 60’s and 70’s. But expansions to the University of Illinois at Chicago campus forced Mexican immigrants’ south, eventually calling the Pilsen neighborhood home.

With colorful murals and taquerias on the street corners, Pilsen almost feels like a part of Mexico. Photo: IBL
Photo provided by:

Pilsen today is still rich with Mexican art, food, and overall culture, but gentrification is again taking a toll on the prevalence of Mexican residents. According to a 2016 study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago that researched the changing racial demographics of Pilsen, over 10,000 Latinx people have had to leave Pilsen since the year 2000 due to the repercussions of gentrification. Meanwhile Pilsen’s White population grew by 22%. Many community organizers see nothing wrong with making Pilsen a beautiful and well funded place for people to live, the problem comes with the fact that residents who have lived there for decades and dealt with under-funding, are now being displaced to make room for the “global elite.”


As you can see from the Google Timelapse of the Pilsen neighborhood, it has been rapidly gentrifying for years. Pop ups of the latest bars, restaurants, and living units have drastically upped the cost of housing and living in that area. The rapid development that you can see in the Timelapse is indicative of the thousands of Mexican residents that have been forced out of their community. The image of the Timelapse hones in on Thalia Hall, one of the oldest historical landmarks in the neighborhood. That area too is being quickly developed all around and displacing lots of families. Improvements are always welcomed and needed, but in the case of the Pilsen neighborhood and any other gentrified community, it is important that development does not displace the people.

Craft Breweries Helping the Economy

By Victoria Gonzalez

It’s no secret that the US economy can always use some help, which is why the success of American craft breweries has been so important. Small and large independent American craft brewers contributed $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017. They also added more than 500,000 total jobs, 135,000 jobs at breweries and brewpubs.

You can see the impact of these breweries on a state level as well. California had an $8.2 billion economic output, Pennsylvania had a $6.3 billion economic output, and Texas had a $5.3 billion economic output. Other states also saw economic growth thanks to craft breweries in 2017.

New York and Florida were close competitors when it came to economic output, with outputs of $4.1 billion and $3.6 billion. Its evident through the infographic that craft breweries have really helped boost the US economy and improved economic health state wide.

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Analysis: Kendall Jenner pepsi ad sparks interest in activism?, Did “13 Reasons Why” intention of sparking conversations on suicide prevention work?

By Victoria Gonzalez

Kendall Jenner pepsi ad sparks interest in activism?

The morning of April 2nd 2017, many people woke up to social media outrage concerning Pepsi’s latest commercial. The ad featured model Kendall Jenner at some sort of ambiguous protest. Many critics were quick to point out that the ad was tone deaf and trivialized the serious issue of police brutality against Black people and people of color. Further more the ad seemed to take advantage and played off of a picture during a Black Lives Matter protest that had gone viral earlier that year.

In the main scene Jenner makes it to the front lines of the rally, approaches a straight faced policeman, extends a can of Pepsi as a sort of peace offering, to which the officer responds with a smile and the crowd cheers. This ad came at a time when Black Lives Matter were actively protesting the shooting of Alton Sterling and many drew parallels between Kendall’s role and the iconic picture of Iesha Evans facing the police before being arrested.

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Pepsi apologized in a statement and pulled the ad due to the controversy. But did the ad encourage others to take part in activism? An analysis of Google search data shows that there was little increase in searches for activism the day of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial release. Although, about a month later there was a significant increase in searches for the term activism, could this be a product of the ads influence? (That also happens to be the same day Mike Pence delivered the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame.)

Did “13 Reasons Why” intent to spark conversations on suicide prevention work?

If you had a Netflix account in 2017 or happened to frequent the internet that year, then you probably were bombarded with all things “13 Reasons Why.” The Netflix series chronicled the fictional suicide of high school student Hannah Baker and her friend Clay Jensen’s journey to discover the truth surrounding her death. The show was a big hit with young people, which also seemed to be the target audience.

The show’s intensions were to start a dialogue about the consequences of bullying and teen suicide. But the show was heavily criticized for its handling and depiction of teen suicide and especially for the decision to show the act on camera. This sentiment seemed to have been shared when the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement warning parents and viewers about some of the issues they found with the series.

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But the creators of the show held tight to their belief that they were starting a much-needed conversation in order to spread awareness on suicide prevention. But did their intentions ever actualize? An analysis of Google search data shows that there was little to no increase in searches for suicide prevention the day of the highest search volume for “13 Reasons Why,” suggesting that the show did little to prompt people to start a conversation or inquire about suicide prevention.


Chicago Cubs Top 25 Salaries (2019)

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By Victoria Gonzalez

This graphic details the top 25 salaries of the Chicago Cubs for the 2019 season. According to Forbes, the Chicago Cubs franchise is currently worth $2.2 billion. That price tag happens to be a little over twice as much as what the Ricketts family paid to own the team back in 2009. The teams popularity soured around 2016 when they won the World Series.

With a team value like that, the Cubs can clearly afford to pay their players the big bucks. Their top earner, left handed pitcher Jon Lester, will bring in $27,500,000 in 2019. Lester is a power house on the mound and played a quintessential role in the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Other faces of the franchise like Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo also broke the top 10 for earnings.

But even other popular players who were surprisingly listed on the lower end such as Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell, were still cruising around the $3,500,000 mark. Schwarber’s comparably low salary could have to do in part with the fact that he was injured with a torn ACL in 2016 during the regular season. Where as Russell has been dealing with allegations of domestic abuse and was put on administrative leave by the MLB.