This year saw a number of highs–some ominous–and quite a few dubious lows that the city, the nation even, won’t soon forget. A city with its fingers crossed in anticipation of becoming the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games, Chicago sa

This year saw a number of highs–some ominous–and quite a few dubious lows that the city, the nation even, won’t soon forget. A city with its fingers crossed in anticipation of becoming the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games, Chicago saw a murder rate top the 500 mark, sales taxes top the national average and a scandal in the governor’s office that continues to top the news. The city mourned, as the world did, the loss of a true funny–and family–man in Bernie Mac. And while R&B superstar R. Kelly walked out of the criminal courthouse acquitted of damning child pornography charges, months later, another local entertainment industry standout, Jennifer Hudson, would receive word that her mother, brother and her nephew, were shot to death. Hundreds of Chicago Public Schools students, lead by state politicians and other community leaders, raised their voices against inequitable school funding, boycotting CPS at the start of the school year.

Still news was not all bad this year, as the Chicago Defender went weekly, poised to bring forth more comprehensive and relevant coverage to its readers. And the uber-highlight of the year, the nation elected its first Black president, Chicago’s own Barack Obama.

mayordaley.jpg Eager to improve the local economy, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley thrust the city in the national spotlight this year by bidding on the 2016 Olympics. By doing so, he successfully pushed Chicago past other U.S. cities to become the only American metropolis being considered to host the games. The International Olympics Committee, which will make its decision known in October 2009, is also considering Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Among the biggest obstacles the city still faces is where to house the athletes. It has proposed building a $1.1 billion Olympic Village housing complex in the Bronzeville community, but many residents and community organizations are opposed to that. rkelly.jpg After a six-year languish, Chicago native and R&B superstar R. Kelly finally got his day in court to answer child pornography charges against him. Jurors watched, several times, a 27-minute raunchy sex tape of allegedly Kelly and a minor having sex. The tape was the heart of the prosecution’s case. Kelly said it wasn’t him and never testified. The alleged minor testified before a grand jury that she did not participate in the film. The jury acquitted Kelly in June. They could not positively identify the alleged minor, jurors told reporters after the verdict.

On Feb. 13, 2008, the Chicago Defender newspaper published its first weekly issue in more than 40 years. The Defender was born as a weekly and once touted itself as “America’s Best Weekly.” The move was undertaken to adapt to the changes in advertising economics. Nearly all of the paper’s advertisers bought space in the newspaper only once a week, while the other three papers that were produced had little advertising support. The Defender’s news coverage is now geared toward featuring more in-depth stories. The move has been received well by readers and advertisers.

gangviolence.jpg Caught up in the crosshairs of turf wars and other gang-related disputes, many children were felled by violence in 2008. Gang violence, mainly on the South Side, also claimed the lives of many adults. In April, the city experienced a quintuple homicide and nearly a dozen homicides within a one-week span. Six months later, a triple murder rocked the city. But this time, the nation took notice. The victims were the family of Academy award-winning actress and songstress Jennifer Hudson. The city’s murder woes sparked a half-hour documentary by BET. In 2007, there were 443 homicides. This year, as of Dec. 29, the unofficial total was 503, the highest in the last five years.

toddstroger.jpg On July 1, the sales tax in Cook County increased to 1.75 percent from 0.75 percent, pushing Chicago’s overall sales tax to 10.25 percent and making it the highest of any major U.S. city. Other big cities pay much less in sales tax. In New York City, sales tax is 8.4 percent, and in Los Angeles, it’s 8.25 percent. Cook County’s sales tax hike applies to such things as furniture, appliances and alcohol. Dining will now cost more. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said that without the sales tax increase, services at the county hospitals and other county health facilities, which are mainly used by the poor, would have been cut. 

jenniferhudson.jpg While vacationing in Florida, Chicago native and starlet Jennifer Hudson received a call on Oct. 24 from her sister, Julia, that likely changed the Academy Award-winning actress’ life. Their mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother Jason Hudson, were found fatally shot inside their Englewood home. And Julia’s 7-year-old son, Julian King, and the brother’s SUV were missing. King’s body was found three days later. Police said the boy was shot to death the same day as his grandmother and uncle. Julia Hudson’s estranged husband, William Balfour, was charged with the triple homicide. He maintains his innocence. 

berniemac.jpg Chicago’s very own King of Comedy, Bernard Jeffery McCullough succumbed to complications of pneumonia in August. Bernie Mac, who suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease, was remembered in a public memorial service that attracted more than 6,000 fans, friends and relatives. His daughter and cousins said the 50-year-old was the life of every family gathering and will be sorely missed. Fellow comedians Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Steve Harvey, Mayor Richard M. Daley and actor Samuel L. Jackson, among others, also paid tribute to the sharp-witted comedian/actor.

BarackObama.jpg On November 4, freshman U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., son of a Black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, was elected the 44th U.S. president and the first Black to do so. His landslide victory was the result of Blacks, whites, Hispanics, students, first-time voters and seniors coming out on his behalf. President-elect Obama, 47, told voters nearly 22 months ago that it was time for a change, and voters responded by choosing him to effect that change. The Hyde Park community resident was no stranger to voters nationwide. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he delivered a keynote address as memorable as the acceptance speech he gave at the DNC in August. The married father of two young daughters will be officially sworn into office Jan. 20, 2009 in Washington. D.C. 

boycott.jpg Frustrated over state funding disparities between white and Black students attending public schools, on Sept. 2, state Sen. James Meeks, D-15th, organized a boycott of Chicago Public Schools. Approximately 1,000 students participated in the two-day event, in which Meeks bussed the students to New Trier High School in north suburban Northfield to register for classes. Meeks, who is also pastor Salem Baptist Church, had urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich to make good on a 2006 campaign promise to invest $10 billion in education. The senator called off the boycott Sept. 3 after Blagojevich agreed to meet with him to discuss school funding but only if the boycott ended first. 

blagojevich.jpg Illinois’ two-term governor made headlines earlier this month after being arrested on federal corruption charges. Among the allegations in the U.S. Attorney’s 76-page complaint is Blagojevich recorded on wiretaps scheming to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Blagojevich was on a “political corruption crime spree” that had to end, federal prosecutors said. The governor allegedly wanted campaign donations or other favors before he would appoint a candidate to succeed Obama. The governor remains on the job and intends to “fight” the charges. He has bucked calls for his resignation and, on Tuesday, defied political pleas by appointing former Attorney General Roland Burris to the Senate seat.

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