Taking a look back at a year Chicagoans may well want to forget – 2012 – here is a look at the city’s top ten stories - as of Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, the last day of the year - and the year's politically-related issues throughout Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first full calendar year as the mayor of Chicago. (The stories’ details are enhanced by past news articles appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Now, Examiner in Chicago and Examiner in National.) Also read: Illinois New Laws for 2013
The Top Ten Chicago Stories of 2012
- 500+ Murders: The top story in Chicago throughout 2012 was the non-stoppable climb in the number of murders being committed on the streets of Chicago. When the Chicago murder rate started making headlines early in the year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Chief of Police spent countless hours before the media trying to improve Chicago’s image by stating data which, they claimed, showed that Chicago’s crime rate was improving in 2012 under themselves. But there was no political or governmental defense for the way the year ended, as Chicago had had in excess of 500 murders during the year 2012. The 500th murder occurred on Dec. 28, 2012.
- Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.: In the kind of political downfalls that movies are made of, United States Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. had an incredibly bad year in politics which ultimately concluded with him resigning his congressional seat on Nov. 21, 2012. Jackson, the son of the famous civil rights figure Jesse Jackson, represented Chicago and areas to the south of the city in the United States Congress until he finally resigned. Prior to his resignation, he had not been seen in the halls of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. since June 10 when he literally disappeared from his job without notice or explanation. After prodding, it was learned that Jackson had health issues. Prior to - as well as after - learning of Jackson’s health issues, he had mounting legal problems as he was first being investigated for trying to buy President Barack Obama’s senate seat from disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and then for allegedly using campaign funds illegally for such things as redecorating his home and for buying a $40,000 piece of jewelry for a female friend.
- Obama reelected: President Barack Obama, who owns a house in Chicago and formerly resided on Chicago’s south side, was reelected president on Nov. 6 of this past year and gave his victory speech at the city’s McCormack Place just miles from his home.
- CPS strike: For the first time in 25 years, the Chicago Teachers Union, headed by CTU President Karen Lewis, went on strike in Sept. of this year. The discontent between the city and the teachers started long before the strike was announced. The problems began when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel extended the work day for Chicago’s school children without working out one detail regarding compensation or other forms of staffing the extended hours. And that was only the beginning of the problems for the city in regard to the school teachers’ discontent under Emanuel.
- Gaming: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought all year long - literally, all year long - to get a casino in Chicago despite the fact that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has made it clear that he does not want to expand gaming in Illinois. A recent report states the crime involved with gambling addictions is data-proven to be that many bank robberies and other financial-related crimes are committed by persons who need to support their gambling addictions. Yet, Emanuel continues to tell his constituents that having more gaming in Chicago is the answer to Chicago’s financial woes. By year’s end, there are signs that Quinn is beginning to bend on Emanuel’s gaming desires for Chicago, but Quinn hasn’t totally caved yet.
- Speed cameras: Using political force at the state and city level, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ignored all public concerns regarding the addition of speed cameras to Chicago’s streets – more than 50% of the city’s streets are now legally eligible for the speed cams. Emanuel's idea hit the headlines a year ago and was a reality by late summer. Concerns about the cameras were repeatedly put forth by citizens and options to the speed cams were totally ignored. Like red light cameras to generate money for the city, Emanuel has now added speed cams.
- NATO Summit: Chicago hosted the global NATO Summit on May 20 and 21 of 2012. The city was allowed to showcase itself as a world-class city while making the current Chief of Police Garry McCarthy look very good after doing a job extremely well-done. However, Occupy protesters protested against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the global event.
- Former Governor Blagojevich goes to prison: Disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich began his 14-year prison term on March 15 of this year at Englewood Correctional Institution in Littleton, Colorado. Blagojevich was found guilty of many charges including an incredible attempt of profiting from the sale of President Barack Obama’s senate seat of which Blagojevich had the legal right of assigning after Obama was elected president in 2008 – as Obama was a U.S. senator representing Illinois when he was elected president.
- Parking meters: Though former Mayor Richard M. Daley is responsible for the initiation of the Chicago parking meters, the angered-controversy continued through 2012 regarding the parking meters and the city's parking garage fees that are now the most costly in the entire country. Parking rates at the meters on the street are up to $6.50 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2013, in Chicago’s loop which is reportedly keeping people out of the city’s downtown area and thereby beginning to show negative financial impact to the businesses in the city. Contractually, the cost will rise even more in the future.
- Chicago cop guilty of beating female bar tender and CPD "code of silence" challenged: On Nov. 13 of this year, bartender Karina Obrycka was awarded $850,000 by a federal jury for having been beaten by a Chicago Police Department police officer. The court believed the Chicago Police Department’s “code of silence” designed to cover-up for and protect fellow-officers was alive and enacted during the investigation of the 2007 crime in which former police officer Anthony Abbate was caught on a security camera thrashing Obrycka at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn on the city’s north side.
There were obviously other stories of note, such as former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew - Richard Vanecko - finally being indicted for the 2004 murder of a Palatine, Illinois man as well as the on-going Jon Burge cases which accuse the Chicago Police of previously torturing people for confessions to crimes they may have not committed. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was relieved of his position after the disruptive teachers' strike. Additionally, Sen. Mark Kirk was hospitalized for a stroke in Jan. of 2012 and did his rehabilitation in Chicago while U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald resigned. Illinois Rep.Derrick Smith was expelled from Congress while Chicago politicians endorsed him for reelection. In the summer, Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno started a fuss over the opening of a Chic-Fil-A restaurant in his Logan Square neighborhood which turned into a national story and protests. New Chicago and Cook County taxes and fees on parking, entertainment, and cigarettes just kept coming in 2012. When gas prices were high throughout the nation, Chicago's gas prices were the highest anywhere in the USA. Then there were the passages of laws that have an affect on everything from decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana to strip clubs to gangs to taxi cab drivers dealing with their customers who regurgitate in their taxis.
Here’s to a Happy New Year - and hoping that 2013 turns out better for Chicago and its residents than 2012 was.