Chicago had a challenging ride this year with the city’s political moves. With school closings, the invention of school safety zones, and the very unpopular speed cameras coming to the city, it almost made one forget about the political criminals in Chicago and Illinois – but not quite.
The Top 10 Chicago Stories of 2013:
- Chicago Public Schools school closings: With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel taking the lead, 50 Chicago Public Schools were closed in 2013. Critics of the closings say the African-American neighborhoods got hit the hardest with the closings and students who need to cross gang-lines to get to their new and more-distant schools are causing severe danger to students.
- Crime rate: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy boasted about a drop in murders and crime in Chicago throughout 2013. Critical common sense dictates that at some point – as murders passed the 500 count in 2012 – the data is going to turn around which doesn’t necessarily mean that the crime rate and murder rate are anywhere near an acceptable mark.
- Chicago Speed Cameras: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought for speed cameras to come to Chicago – and the unpopular move happened in 2013. Near year’s end, speed cameras were erected near some parks and schools in the city – and many more will be erected in 2014. While Emanuel continues to assert that the speed cameras are not about money and only about safety, it is well known that Chicago will make a financial killing off of the speed cameras. The city, practically en masse, views the speed cams as another Emanuel money-grab on the citizenry.
- Jesse Jackson Jr. sentenced: The former United States Representative from Illinois – Jesse Jackson Jr., who is also the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and husband of the former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson – was sentenced to 30 months in jail for grotesque misuse of campaign funds.
- Safe Passage: The Chicago Public Schools launched the Safe Passage program to increase children’s safety as they come and go to school each day. Since its launch in late Aug., every time a student is harmed or threatened en route to or from school – most recently a 15-year-old girl sexually-assaulted one-half block off a safe passage route – the public’s discontent with the school closings of 2013 is reignited.
- Sandi Jackson sentenced: The former Chicago alderman and wife of former United States Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. – Sandi Jackson was sentenced to 12 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of filing false tax returns after neglecting to declare approximately $580,000 in income.
- Ventra rollout: Ventra came to Chicago in 2013. It was supposed to be a convenient new payment system for the CTA and Pace busses that allows customers to pay for train and bus rides with the same payment methods that citizens use for everyday purchases. The idea was to have customers manage their account online and choose from several different methods of payment. In total, the rollout was a mess.
- Same sex marriage bill passes: Same-sex marriage bill passes in Illinois which has had a great impact, naturally, on Chicago. The bill was signed into law on Nov. 20, 2013 and takes effect on June 1, 2014.
- Former Gov. George Ryan freed: George Ryan, 79, who was governor of Illinois from 1999 until 2003, was released on July 3, 2013 from prison. He was incarcerated for six-and-a-half years after being convicted of corruption. He reportedly steered contracts worth millions of dollars to friends and took payments and vacations in return.
- William Beavers sentenced: Former Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, 78, was sentenced to a six-month prison term for a corruption conviction. He reported to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota in December to begin his time. The sentence being served follows his conviction in March for committing tax evasion. He reportedly took $226,000 worth of campaign money to pay for his gambling debts which he accumulated at Horseshoe Casino as well as using the money for other personal expenses.
Happy New Year, and – as always - here’s hoping for a better New Year.