Top 10 stories of 2010
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter
Mayor Daley, with wife Maggie and son Patrick, announces Sept. 7 that he won't seek re-election. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
This might have been the year when we were dreaming of 2016 — or dreading it.
As it turned out, most Chicagoans in 2010 gave barely a second thought to the lost Olympics. Most of us had more pressing concerns — holding onto our jobs in a limping economy, paying the mortgage and, near year’s end, wondering how many more of the city’s finest would be slain by the city’s worst.
To cheer us up, the city hosted and feted the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks, carrying them through the city upon a human wave of red, black and white. If you favored a stranger spectacle, Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial provided that in spades.
And then we wondered what Chicago would be like with a name other than Daley after the word Mayor.
Mayor Daley calling it quits
1. “It’s time.”
That’s how America’s longest-serving big-city mayor explained a decision that stunned Chicago and sparked frenzied speculation about who would — or could — fill Richard M. Daley’s shoes.
Many assumed Daley would, like his father, stay until the end. Others looked at the mayor’s rarely smiling face and reasoned that the city’s economic problems, the failed 2016 Olympics bid, low approval ratings and his wife’s ongoing battle with cancer had finally persuaded him to retire. Nope, it was none of that, our mayor of 21 years insisted.
“In the end, this is a personal decision,” he said Sept. 7, flanked by his family. “No more, no less. The truth is, I’ve been thinking about this for the last several months. . . . It just feels right.”
And now someone other than Daley will lead America’s third-largest city. We learned it wouldn’t be Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who said he was too busy raising his family. And it wouldn’t be Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who said she likes the job she has.
At the end of 2010, many wondered whether anyone could beat former presidential Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And some wondered why anyone, with the city facing a record $655 million budget hole, would want Daley’s job.
‘Too many times’: Officers, firefighters die in line of duty
2. 2010 was a horrific year for the people who are paid to protect us: Six Chicago police officers were killed, including two within the span of less than two weeks, and three firefighters died in the line of duty.
Five officers were shot to death and one died in a car crash while responding to a crime. Firefighter Christopher Wheatley was killed in a fall in August while fighting a grease fire at a Loop restaurant. And just before Christmas, Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer died when the roof of an abandoned South Shore building collapsed on top of them.
Time and time again, Police Supt. Jody Weis appeared at a slain police officer’s funeral and decried the senselessness of it all.
“I’ve been here too many times,” Weis said after the death of the fifth police officer.
With a new mayor coming, many wondered whether Weis would still be in charge in 2011.
Here are the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice: Alan J. Haymaker, CPD; Thomas Wortham IV, CPD; Thor Odin Soderberg, CPD; Michael Bailey, CPD; David A. Blake, CPD; Michael Flisk, CPD; Christopher Wheatley, CFD; Corey Ankum, CFD; Edward Stringer, CFD.
3. The roar of some 2 million people and 10 tons of ticker tape raining down on your parade.
That’s what you get when you bring the Stanley Cup back to the city for the first time in 49 years, as the Blackhawks did in 2010 by beating the Philadelphia Flyers.
Duncan Keith, who lost seven teeth when a puck hit him in the mouth during the playoffs, summed up the fans’ delirious reaction this way: “What a day, what a ride. Best time of my life right now, having this crowd here.”
Everyone in the city, it seemed, wanted to touch the Stanley Cup, and by year’s end, if you were a Hawks fan and hadn’t managed to get your paws on the towering trophy, you were either in the slammer or not trying hard enough.
The Blagojevich trial
4 . Former governor, “Celebrity Apprentice,” Elvis impersonator and now, convicted felon. Despite his new title, Rod Blagojevich was in a defiant, celebratory mood after a jury in August found him guilty of just one of 24 counts in a federal corruption case that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had said would make “Abraham Lincoln roll over in his grave.” The jury, which deliberated for 14 days, deadlocked on the remaining counts. Of all of the many lurid details the case brought to light, one isn’t likely to be forgotten any time soon: a discussion caught on tape in which Blagojevich tries to get something for the U.S. Senate seat he got to dole out after Barack Obama vacated it to run the country: “I’ve got this thing and it’s f------ golden and I’m not giving it up for f------ nothing.”
The cornerstone of the government’s case involved allegations that Blagojevich schemed to enrich himself and his wife, Patti, through selecting a successor for Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
Although Blagojevich faces up to five years in prison for lying to the FBI, he remained a free man at year’s end, as both sides in the case prepared for a retrial.
Tough economic times
5. Officially, the Great Recession was over by June 2009, but it certainly didn’t feel like it for most of us in 2010. The jobless rate in the Chicago metropolitan area was 5.2 percent at the beginning of the recession in December 2007, and it was still 8.9 percent in late 2010. The number of personal bankruptcy filings skyrocketed in the metro area and college students — both here and nationally — were dealing with record amounts of debt and a slim chance of finding a job to start paying it down. And even for those lucky enough to have a job, that gnawing, queasy feeling that something bad was just around the corner never quite went away.
6. The most infamous cop in recent Chicago history was finally brought to trial. And even though many said it was too little too late, there were cheers and hugs after a federal jury in June found former police Cmdr. Jon Burge guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury.
“We’re totally elated at the verdict,” said attorney Flint Taylor, who had been pursuing justice against Burge for years. “It’s 30 years too late. We still have plenty to do to get people out of jail. He should have been convicted of torture, not perjury — but this is a good day.”
At trial, prosecutors said Burge lied on interrogatories for civil cases brought against him and other detectives. He has been accused for years of torturing suspects in police custody, accusations that brought $19 million in settlements from parties and the city.
Burge remained a free man at year’s end, with prosecutors preparing to ask for a lengthy prison term and the probation department recommending a relatively short stay.
Kirk, Quinn elected
7. It wasn’t pretty, but Illinois finally elected a replacement for the seat Barack Obama vacated in 2008. There were things to give voters pause about both Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, the eventual winner, and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. It looked as if it might not be much of a contest for Kirk, until it surfaced that he had exaggerated parts of his background as a naval intelligence officer. But Giannoulias suffered from the collapse of his family’s Broadway Bank and questions about the criminal records of some people Giannoulias loaned money to when he was a loan officer at the bank. After the bitter race, the pair made nice over a beer at the Billy Goat Tavern.
In the tightest race for governor in three decades, Gov. Quinn held on to beat state Sen. Bill Brady, who’d hoped to build on the wave of red that swept Illinois and the country on Election Day. And then there was pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen, who came out of nowhere to win the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, and then was forced to drop out after revelations surfaced about an accusation — never proven — that he held a knife to the throat of his prostitute ex-girlfriend, as well as skipping child support payments. Cohen wasn’t done. He ran for governor as an independent. All told, he used more than $6 million of his own money to finance his campaigns, state campaign finance records show.
Trouble for Jesse Jackson Jr.
8. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. — once considered a contender for Chicago mayor — will probably be happy to see the end of 2010. It was the year the Sun-Times revealed that fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak told federal authorities Jackson had directed him to approach then-Gov. Blagojevich with a campaign cash offer in exchange for President Obama’s former Senate seat. Jackson dismissed Nayak’s allegations as false, but he didn’t deny another embarrassing detail in the Sun-Times’ report — Jackson’s relationship with nightclub hostess Giovana Huidobro.
The Sun-Times reported that Jackson allegedly asked Nayak to buy plane tickets to fly Huidobro from Washington, D.C., to Chicago. Jackson later said he was “deeply sorry” about his relationship with Huidobro. In November, a congressional ethics panel said it would delay its probe into Jackson at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice and the fact that the Rod Blagojevich case must be retried in April. The revelation of Nayak’s accusation — and Huidobro, whom Jackson dubbed his “social acquaintance” — likely factored into Jackson’s decision not to run for mayor.
Riley Fox case
9. More than six years after her body was found floating in a creek in a forest preserve in Will County, 3-year-old Riley Fox finally got justice. In November, convicted sex offender Scott Eby admitted kidnapping Riley from her unlocked Wilmington home and stuffing her in the trunk of his car, before raping and killing the little girl.
Eby’s sentencing was all too much for Riley’s father, Kevin Fox, who walked out of the Joliet courtroom as Eby made a brief apology.
It was Kevin Fox who, in October 2004, was arrested in his daughter’s death, after authorities said he’d confessed to accidentally killing Riley and then sexually assaulting her to make it look like a kidnapping.
He spent more than eight months in jail before being freed. In 2007, a jury awarded Kevin and Melissa Fox $15.5 million in a civil suit charging false arrest and malicious prosecution. The award was later reduced on appeal to $8 million.
“I hope he rots in hell,” said Kevin Fox, after Eby was sentenced to life in prison.
Cicero fire kills 7
10. The fire broke out on a cold February morning, killing seven young people — one only 3 days old — while they slept in a Cicero apartment building.
If that wasn’t horrific enough, it turned out the fire was deliberately set — so that the building’s owner and manager could cash in on a $250,000 insurance policy, Cook County prosecutors alleged.
“The particular type of evil associated with a crime like this is almost unspeakable,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez told reporters after the bond hearing for landlord Lawrence Myers and his manager, Marion “Andre” Comier.
In a conversation recorded by a wire-wearing witness days after the fire, Myers said he told Comier to “do it during the daytime. . . . I told him do it in the afternoon before the kids come home from school,” according to the tape’s transcript. Instead, prosecutors said, Comier doused a couch in a vacant first-floor rear apartment with a mix of oil and gasoline, when it was virtually guaranteed all those in the building would be sleeping, prosecutors said.
Contributing: Chris Fusco and Natasha Korecki