looking back and looking ahead





BANKS ACCOUNTED FOR: Three men indicted in the horrific, fatal May 22 bank robbery on Chicago’s South Side all made federal court appearances last week as orange jump-suited prisoners. A top FBI official lent some context to the crime.


Special agent-in-charge Robert Grant said 110 banks have been hit in the Chicago region so far this year, which suggests there may be a slowdown in the pace of heists. By comparison, there were 284 bank robberies in 2006 and 240 in 2005, an agency spokesman said.


The bad news: The crimes are becoming more violent, going beyond a robber passing a note to a teller. Twenty-three-year-old bank employee Tramaine Gibson, who was shot, died shortly after last month’s robbery; two others were wounded.


“There’s a propensity for violence there,” Grant told reporters. “Once (bank robbers) cross that counter, any type of violence can occur because they’ve taken a very aggressive step.”




TAXI DRIVERS PLEAD POVERTY: Cabbies say Chicago gasoline prices – recently rated the highest in the nation – are driving them to financial ruin, but city officials were cool to the idea of a temporary surcharge. Currently, it costs $2.25 for a flag-drop, meaning when the meter begins, and 20 cents for each additional ninth-of-a-mile.




BATMAN RETURNS: Production resumes for the next 12 weeks in Chicago on the sequel to “Batman Begins,” the film’s director, star and producers announced Friday. The new movie, “The Dark Knight,” is expected to use even more Windy City locations than its 2005 predecessor – a good thing according to lead actor Christian Bale. He said his wife was born here.


“I’m looking forward to getting to know (Chicago) even more for that reason,” the returning Batman said at a City Hall news conference.


Bale said he is less enthusiastic about wearing a black rubber suit in the humid summertime: “If you see a long trail of sweat through the city, follow it and you will find me.”


The film – with Chicago standing in for Gotham City – is slated for release in July 2008.




WHAT’S NEW: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley helped cut the ribbon on the Center on Halsted, a $20 million community hub for the city’s prominent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents. Noting the level of cooperation involved in the public-private project, the mayor took a swipe at vapor-locked legislators who blew a May 31 deadline to approve a state budget.


“It is embarrassing, but like anything else, if you get it done, everybody will forget about the embarrassment,” Daley said.




WHAT’S NEXT: On Friday, the Field Museum opens its big summer exhibit, “Darwin,” which examines the human side of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and the circumstances of how he developed his theory of evolution. The attraction runs through December; go to www.fieldmuseum.org for more information.