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City Hall Year in Review: 5 Stories That Mattered to Locals in 2013

By Ted Cox | December 30, 2013 8:52am
 School closings and the Ventra rollout overshadowed more routine matters at City Hall — if you call rampant protests routine.
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CITY HALL — Closed schools and resistant turnstiles dominated the news at City Hall this year.

1. School closings: After years of threats, brought to a head with the appointment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett as CPS chief executive officer in late 2012, and months of escalating protests, the Board of Education voted in May to close 50 schools.

2. Ventra: Chicago commuters discovered a new dirty word when the Ventra open-fare system debuted in August. The system was plagued by card-distribution problems, false charges and just straight system breakdowns. Ventran woes led to general outrage and even playfully outrageous raps. In November, Claypool lifted all deadlines to complete the transition from the old Chicago Cards and magnetic-strip cards to Ventra and promised to make the system work. He got a vote of confidence from the mayor. Yet, as of the end of the year, although the CTA claimed gains, it had yet to set a date to move completely to Ventra.

3. Aldermanic shifts: Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) resigned in January, shortly before she and her husband, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd), pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. Emanuel appointed Natashia Holmes to replace her after accepting applications online. He held the same sort of search for a replacement for Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) when Mell resigned in July. Yet, in that case, Emanuel soon appointed the person Mell wanted all along: his daughter Deb.

4. Resurgent insurgency: A rising number of protests, on issues from school closings to keeping renters in foreclosed properties, put Chicago on the cover of The Nation. Protests turned festive and theatrical at Halloween and Christmas. Oddly enough, those protests concerned a previously obscure council body known as ...

5. The Rules Committee: For years, going back long before Emanuel, the mayoral administration found ways to send new aldermanic proposals it didn't like to the Rules Committee, where they were unlikely to receive a hearing under Ald. Dick Mell. But this year an increasing number of people pulled back the curtain on the place "where good legislation goes to die," especially after Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) replaced Mell as chairman.