5 stories that could shape Illinois in 2023
Welcome to 2023, a year already full of issues that could define our city and state for decades.
- Five we're eyeing closely:
Will cash bail really disappear?
The fight over this provision of the SAFE-T Act looked pretty much settled after state lawmakers approved fixes to its rules last month.
- But on Dec. 28 — four days before cash bail was set to be replaced by judges' decisions on pre-trial jailing — a Kankakee court agreed with plaintiffs in 65 counties that the provision was passed unconstitutionally.
- The Illinois Supreme Court then ordered all counties to halt implementation until it hears an appeal from Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
What we're watching: When and how Raoul appeals the decision and whether all counties will comply with the final ruling.
Will we finally get the lead out?
More than two years ago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged to use federal funds to remove about 600 toxic lead water lines a year from low-income communities.
- But citing logistical issues, the city has removed only 280 of nearly 400,000 as of last month.
What we're watching: Whether the city will ever help non-low-income homeowners pay for what can be a $28,500 process.
- When the EPA will start factoring in Illinois' huge inventory of lead lines when calculating the annual disbursement of a total $15 billion in federal lead removal funds.
- And the city's compliance with a new state law requiring lead line removal adjacent to water mains under repair, expected to affect 4,000 homes this year.
Will a new City Council reshape politics?
We're not only voting on a new mayor this February, but we're also guaranteed new faces on City Council, as several current alderpeople are not seeking re-election.
- The unprecedented exodus is expected to make way for new points of view on local issues.
What we're watching: The tug of war between the various unions on candidate spending.
- And will the CDSA caucus grow, pressuring the mayor to prioritize more progressive issues?
Will we fully recover from COVID-19?
Nearly three years into the pandemic, we're still seeing an average of 19 COVID hospitalizations and 4 deaths a week.
- These lingering threats — along with RSV and flu — have strained hospitals, kept some wary of indoor gatherings and left local office occupancy at around 50%.
What we're watching: The trajectory of COVID data tracking and how citizens, government and businesses adapt to what might be our new normal.
Will a Sun-Times union make peace with owners?
When Chicago Public Media (CPM) merged the WBEZ and Sun-Times newsrooms in 2022, it created a local media powerhouse and possible national model for newspaper survival.
- But fissures emerged after the Sun-Times Guild complained that CPM wants the newspaper journalists to surrender their right to sympathy-strike if WBEZ journalists strike.
What we're watching: If the still-unfinalized CST union contract treats WBEZ and Sun-Times journalists as two separate newsrooms or as co-workers.
- And how their traditionally progressive donors react.
Full disclosure: Both Monica and Justin once worked at WBEZ. Monica was a union leader, and Justin was in management when the union formed.
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