Jan. 3 The Chicago Police Department reports that fewer people were murdered in 1999. Chicago’s homicide count hits a 32-year low of 641 murders, down 9 percent from 704 in 1998, which led the nation. Shootings of civilians by police also declined to 48 in 1999, one-third fewer than the previous year. But 13 of those people died, compared with 15 in 1998.

Jan. 10 The Highland Park City Council hires an independent investigator to check out allegations of racial profiling by the northern suburb’s police department. In November 1999, five current or former Highland Park police officers sued the city in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit, which includes affidavits from 17 current or former members of the force, alleges that the department engaged in racial profiling, falsified crime data and practiced union busting. In May, the investigator, former U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Sullivan, announced he found no department policy encouraging racial profiling.

Jan. 19 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit throws out the conviction of former Chicago City Treasurer Miriam Santos. Chief Judge Richard A. Posner writes that the trial judge committed a “veritable avalanche of errors” and orders a new trial. Santos, 44, the first Latina elected to citywide office, startes serving a 40-month prison sentence on Oct. 1, 1999, on five counts of mail fraud and one count of attempted extortion. After her release, Santos explains her harsh tone during a recorded phone conversation played for jurors by saying: “I am probably the first woman to go to jail for PMS-ing,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

Jan. 29 The city of Chicago announces its plan to verify that 2,500 Chicago companies are indeed owned by minorities or women. Mayor Richard M. Daley had pledged to address concerns about city contracting, including allegations that companies are hiring women and minorities as “fronts” to get city business. The city requires that 25 percent of all contracts go to minority-owned companies and 5 percent to women-owned firms.

Jan. 31 Gov. George H. Ryan announces a moratorium on executions in Illinois and says he will name a commission to review the state’s administration of the death penalty. Thirteen death penalty convictions statewide have been overturned since capital punishment was reinstated in Illinois in 1977–”11 since 1994.

Feb. 5 The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the Chicago Housing Authority’s sweeping $1.5 billion transformation plan for public housing. The 10-year plan calls for demolishing 51 of CHA’s high-rises and replacing them with mixed-income communities.

Feb. 16 African Americans claim nearly one-fourth of the top 80 scores on the Chicago Fire Department’s battalion chief exam, an important factor in promotions. The agency has long been criticized for advancing few minorities to command positions.

Feb. 16 The Chicago City Council passes a new anti-gang loitering ordinance by a 44-5 vote. Opposition comes from four black, female aldermen and 46th Ward Alderman Helen Shiller, who is white. Third Ward Alderman Dorothy J. Tillman calls the law “anti-black” and “inhumane,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The original loitering law, passed in 1992, was suspended in December 1995 and deemed unconstitutional in 1999 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the new ordinance, which takes effect in March, police can only arrest loiterers in specific “hot spots.”

March 13 The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service tells its regional directors to restrict workplace “enforcement operations” during the 2000 census. The move is designed to encourage illegal immigrants to participate in the count without fear they will be targeted by the INS.

March 17 The nine-member Chicago Police Board fires three police officers, and suspends a fourth, for their involvement in the shooting death of unarmed motorist LaTanya Haggerty. Officer Serena Daniels, who fired the shot that killed Haggerty, is terminated along with Michael Williams and Stafford Wilson, who both shot their guns during the incident. Carl Carter, who was present but did not shoot, is suspended without pay for one year. Haggerty was killed June 4, 1999, after a car chase with police. Daniels said she saw a silver object in Haggerty’s hand and shot her as Haggerty sat in the car’s passenger seat. The object turned out to be a padlock.

March 21 U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, a South Side Democrat, staves off a tough primary challenge from state Sens. Barack Obama and Donne E. Trotter. Rush’s victory in the 1st Congressional District race all but assures him a fifth term in Congress. Rush beats Obama, considered to be a rising star in the Democratic Party and Rush’s closest challenger, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. In other primary battles, two Latino Democratic incumbents, state Reps. Edgar Lopez and Sonia Silva, lose re-election bids. Cynthia Soto, a supervisor in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and ally of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, defeats Lopez, who was backed by Mayor Daley. But Daley-supported Susana Mendoza, a project coordinator for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, beats Silva, who was backed by Gutierrez. Chicago Transit Authority General Auditor Dorothy Brown, an African American, wins the nomination for clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, handily defeating 45th Ward Alderman Patrick J. Levar.

April 17 Santos returns to work as city treasurer, replacing Barbara Lumpkin, who was appointed by Daley in May 1999 to serve out Santos’ term. Though three of Santos’ staff testified against her during her trial, she had declared, “Vengeance is not mine,” the Tribune reported.

April 17 The U.S. Census Bureau announces that less than 52 percent of Chicago households have returned 2000 census forms–”worse than the 54.3 percent in 1990, when minority neighborhoods were undercounted. On May 17, Daley–”whose brother, U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley, oversees the national census–”announces the city will spend an additional $400,000 to bolster local response. Nine days later, according to news reports, the bureau dispatches a census “SWAT team” to Chicago to improve data collection.

May 4 CHA Chief Executive Officer Phillip Jackson announces he will resign and return to his “passion”–” education. “I have been accused of caring too much about the children who live in public housing. I am guilty as charged,” Jackson later wrote. Jackson called his tenure “a year of hope, progress and opportunity,” and said he had no disagreements with the mayor. “I am 100 percent in line with the vision of Mayor Richard M. Daley,” Jackson writes in a letter to the Tribune. The mayor “wants the best public housing in America. If that makes me a puppet, then I’m a puppet. I love being a puppet.” Daley recommends 17th Ward Alderman Terry Peterson to replace Jackson.

May 4 U.S. marshals and FBI agents kick Rep. Gutierrez and other protesters off the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. The group is protesting that the U.S. Navy uses the island for military exercises with live ammunition.

May 17 The Chicago City Council votes 46-1 to urge the U.S. Congress and Illinois General Assembly to consider reparations for the descendants of slaves. Daley endorses the idea.

May 24 Gov. Ryan meets with former South African President Nelson Mandela at the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s home and opens an Illinois trade office in Johannesburg. Ryan’s delegation of 88 politicians, business people and friends is on an eight-day trade mission to South Africa. The group later visits Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

May 26 Alderman Percy Giles (37th) is sentenced to 39 months in federal prison for corruption uncovered by the federal Operation Silver Shovel corruption probe. Six aldermen were convicted in the investigation, and Giles is the last to be sentenced. A jury found him guilty in November 1999 of accepting more than $90,000 in bribes.

June 21 Every Chicago household has been counted in the census, bureau officials announce. Just six days earlier, workers still needed to collect data from 18,411 households, many in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. Critics raise questions about the quality of information gathered during the final push. But Census Bureau Chicago Regional Director Stanley D. Moore brushes aside concerns. “There was never a cause for alarm during this operation,” he said.

July 2 Raul Ross Pineda loses his bid for the Mexican Congress. Ross, former Mexican agenda program director for the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago, was one of three U.S. residents to run for a congressional seat in Mexico’s national elections. He had pledged to focus on immigration and other issues that affect Mexicans living in the United States.

July 12 Highland Park officials reach an agreement with a family that claimed it was racially profiled. The agreement calls for Highland Park to document the race and gender of all people stopped by police and file quarterly reports with the American Civil Liberties Union.

July 17 Over objections from the family that owns the Chicago Defender, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Bernetta D. Bush orders that the historic African American newspaper’s holding company should negotiate a sale to PublicMediaWorks Inc., a black-owned Chicago firm. John H. Sengstacke died in 1997 and left instructions that his Sengstacke Enterprises, which includes the Defender and three other newspapers, could be sold. But his heirs have fought to retain control, and by December the Defender remains in limbo. Its coverage helped convince tens of thousands of southern blacks to move north during the Great Migration. Once the nation’s largest African American daily, its circulation fell from more than 250,000 a week in 1929 to less than 14,000 each weekday in 1999, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

July 24 Sandra Otaka becomes the first Asian American full judge of the Cook County Circuit Court. She joins Cook County Associate Judge Lynne Kawamoto and DuPage County Judge Kenneth Moy as the only Asian American judges in the Chicago area. Otaka, 48, a Japanese American, will preside in Cook County Traffic Court. “The fact that there are few Asian Americans on the bench in Cook County is not an obstacle,” Otaka said. “It’s an opportunity.”

July 28 In a federal civil rights lawsuit, a group of Muslims alleges that the mayor and City Council of south suburban Palos Heights violated their constitutional right to freely practice their religion and conspired to prevent them from converting a local church into a mosque. The Al Salam Mosque Foundation contracted to buy the church building in March, but aldermen and residents raised questions and made remarks the group considered prejudiced. In June, the City Council voted to buy the building’s contract from the group for $200,000, but Mayor Dean Koldenhoven vetoed the proposal. The $6.2 million suit is pending.

Aug. 1 Less than a year after the city of Elgin agreed to new fair housing rules, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accuses the northwest suburb of using different standards for inspecting homes owned by Latinos, as opposed to other groups. The city denies bias, and claims its policies are “aggressive” but not discriminatory. In November, HUD requests a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. In September 1999 Elgin agreed to pay a total of $10,000 to seven Hispanic families who claimed housing inspectors discriminated against them. The city admitted no guilt.

Aug. 3 Police in the Philippines arrest and deport Chicago resident Mark Anthony Lewis, a suspect in a series of sexual assaults in Chicago and the northwest suburbs. Police allege Lewis targeted women who were Asian or appeared to be Asian. Lewis was in the Philippines visiting his wife, who lives there. On Aug. 30, he is indicted by a Chicago grand jury and charged with 212 criminal counts, including aggravated criminal sexual assault and hate crimes. He pleads not guilty, and awaits trial.

Aug. 8 Harvey Mayor Nickolas E. Graves asks the CHA for a moratorium on relocating its tenants to the south suburb. The authority is practicing “economic discrimination,” Graves tells the Tribune, by forcing Harvey to support an influx of residents with federal Section 8 rent subsidies. “We’re talking thousands of people putting a tremendous burden on our schools, police, health, fire and other services.” He estimates 6,000 former CHA tenants have moved to the south suburbs in the last several years, with 1,500 settling in Harvey. CHA officials respond that the subsidized families are making their own housing choices, and that only 31 families have moved to Harvey in the past year.

Aug. 10 The Illinois Supreme Court rules that Death Row inmates Aaron Patterson and Derrick King can introduce new evidence that they were tortured by police before admitting to murders. Patterson, convicted of slaying an elderly couple in 1986, and King, convicted in 1981of killing a store cashier, said former Chicago Police Department Lt. Jon Burge used beatings and death threats to gain their confessions.

Aug. 15 Residents of the Cabrini-Green public housing development reach an accord with the city and the CHA that will bring a wrecking ball to six high-rise buildings and build 2,100 mixed-income units, one-third reserved for public housing residents. The consent decree concludes a dispute that began in 1996 when the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council sued the city and the CHA, charging its redevelopment plan did not include enough replacement units. A 1998 settlement was blocked by The Habitat Co., the court-appointed overseer of new public housing construction in Chicago, partly because the company opposed granting residents partial control over the redevelopment. The new agreement provides a resident ownership interest of “up to 50 percent.”

Aug. 16 A federal grand jury charges former CHA Chairman Vincent Lane with bank fraud for lying in order to land a $1.9 million loan he needed to rescue his South Side shopping center. Lane says the money was part of a legal but “complex” deal involving the Nation of Islam and a grocery store. In September, Lane appears in court without an attorney; the court appoints one and Lane’s trial is set for February. He will be represented by former U.S. Attorney Anton R. Valukas.

Aug. 31 The Chicago Police Department consigns seven veteran officers to desk duty for allegedly shaking down Polish immigrants on the Northwest Side. Four of the officers, arrested in November 1999 and recorded on tape by undercover FBI agents, are accused of forcing immigrants leaving taverns along West Belmont Avenue to “empty their pockets,” sometimes threatening to have them deported. Additional charges may be filed, police officials say.

Sept. 15 “We should not be afraid of the gun industry,” Daley declares after a Cook County Circuit Court judge dismisses the city’s 1998 lawsuit against gun manufacturers. The city charged the firearm industry with knowingly marketing a dangerous product and creating a public nuisance. The court ruled police and lawmakers, not the courts, are responsible for addressing such concerns. The mayor vows to appeal.

Sept. 18 Pledging $1.9 million to the effort, CHA chief Terry Peterson orders a war on rats residing in boarded-up public housing buildings. “As in every other community in Chicago, CHA families and children need protection from rats,” he says in the Sun-Times of this strategy to prevent rodents from relocating to occupied buildings. Weeks later, two ComEd employees sue the CHA over an April 13 explosion at 4429 S. Federal St., in the Robert Taylor Homes development, that left them badly burned. They blame the explosion on “rodent contact” and charged that the CHA failed “to fill rat holes, provide guards or otherwise take measures to prevent rodents from entering” ComEd equipment.

Sept. 20 In a joint meeting of the City Council’s Health and Transportation committees, all seven Latino aldermen endorse Daley’s proposed crackdown on the pushcart vendors who sell corn on the cob and other foods. But the aldermen also press Daley to ease some restrictions. The Latino vendors and their supporters say “bigotry” spurred the measure. Thirty-fifth Ward Alderman Vilma Colom responds to one activist: “I don’t appreciate you being the great white hope for the Latino community,” according to the Tribune.

Oct. 12 As violence rages across Israel, an unidentified drive-by gunman shoots at Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Avrohom Brownstein near his home in Rogers Park on Chicago’s North Side. Brownstein is not hit. In separate incidents several blocks away, three Jewish pedestrians are hit with marbles fired from slingshots. On Nov. 9, the Cook County State’s Attorney charges two 17-year-old Palestinian Americans, Amjad Asaad and Said Zatar, with hate crimes for the slingshot incidents.

Oct. 16 Niles West High School in north suburban Skokie will no longer enter into athletic battle as “the Indians.” The board of Niles Township High School District 219 voted 6-1 to begin a search for a new mascot. The move means a totem pole near the school’s football field must come down. Some current and former students blast the decision, and the next day some students come to school wearing T-shirts that read “Niles West Indians Today and Always.” In 1989 the board banned certain uses of the Indian mascot and associated images, including naming star athletes “Savage of the Week.”

Oct. 27 City Treasurer Miriam Santos pleads guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of mail fraud. Under an agreement with prosecutors, Santos will not have to serve additional prison time, but must resign her position as treasurer. Daley taps Judith Rice, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, as Santos’ successor. Rice is the daughter of former Chicago Police Superintendent Fred Rice. Daley also announces that Barbara Lumpkin is leaving City Hall for the private sector.

Nov. 2 U.S. District Court Judge John F. Grady suspends Cook County’s minority set-aside program. The county, Grady rules, has failed to prove that systemic discrimination pervades the area’s construction industry and cannot justify its set-aside law, which reserves 30 percent of county contracts for minority-owned companies. The ruling came in a 1996 lawsuit against the county by the Builders Association of Greater Chicago, a contractors’ trade association, which called the set-asides unconstitutional. The association also has a similar suit against the city of Chicago. On Dec. 7 the county announced it would appeal Grady’s decision.

Nov. 3 Accusing the Sun-Times of ignoring its African American readership, 25 black ministers and their supporters march at the newspaper’s office, 401 N. Wabash Ave., to protest its endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The Rev. James Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, says the clergy will encourage their 150,000 church members to boycott the newspaper–”and, in a final push before the Nov. 7 election, to drum up support for Democratic presidential nominee and Vice President Al Gore. The group also criticizes the Sun-Times for hiring few blacks for top management and editorial positions.

Nov. 7 The presidential election ends up a statistical tie and legal labyrinth nationwide–”but not in Illinois, where African American voters help propel Gore to a solid victory. He wins 55 percent of the state’s vote, thanks largely to 80 percent support in Chicago. In the city’s predominantly black wards, about 67 percent of registered voters go to the polls. Across the nation Gore gets about nine of every 10 black votes.

Nov. 8 Jerry Manuel is named American League Manager of the Year for leading the Chicago White Sox to a 95-67 record, the league’s best. Dusty Baker of the San Francisco Giants wins National League honors the next day, marking the first time both awards go to black skippers. In October, the White Sox announce that Ken Williams will replace Ron Schueler as the club’s general manager, becoming baseball’s only franchise with African Americans holding the top front office and on-field posts.

Nov. 18 The Rev. Christopher A. Bullock is elected president of the Southside Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Bullock, pastor at Progressive Baptist Church, 3658 S. Wentworth Ave., pledges to boost membership. “I’m not going to tolerate any of the shenanigans and foolishness that have plagued the [chapter’s] recent history,” he declares in the Sun-Times, referring to financial and leadership battles that have scarred the group since 1994. The chapter once claimed more than 50,000 members but now numbers less than 2,000.

Dec. 16 A “Grand Dragon” of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and 20 supporters rally outside the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie. About 400 angry counter-demonstrators scuffle with police and pelt Klan members with snowballs. Several skinheads fight with a black couple, who were not seriously injured. Police also confiscate a handgun from a Klan supporter. A Peace and Harmony Rally the next day draws nearly 1,800 people, including Sherialyn Byrdsong, whose husband Ricky, a former Northwestern University basketball coach, was killed in 1999, allegedly by a racist gunman.


Jan. 29 Ben Burns, a former editor of the Chicago Defender and Ebony magazine, dies at age 86. Burns, who was white, was the Defender’s national editor from 1942 through 1946, and again in 1962.

Sept. 28 DuSable Museum Chief Curator Ramon Bertell Price dies of a heart attack. Price, 70, the half-brother of late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, worked at the museum for more than 30 years. The native South Sider and award-winning artist and historian tried to expose his family “to culture, African American history and the arts,” said his sister, Gwendolynn Price.

Oct. 10 Sidney R. Yates, 91, a 24-term U.S. Congressman dubbed “the last of the New Deal Democrats,” dies from kidney failure and complications from pneumonia. Representing Illinois’ 9th District for all but two years from 1949 to 1999, Yates supported public funding for the arts, environmental issues and civil rights, and he took an early stand against McCarthyism in the 1950s. Yates became Illinois’ first Jewish senate candidate in an unsuccessful 1962 campaign.

Dec. 3 “What shall I give my children? who are poor / Who are adjudged the leastwise of the land…?” Gwendolyn Brooks wrote. Like most of her poetry, “the children of the poor” documents the struggles and joys of black characters encountered on South Side streets. The first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, Brooks, 83, dies of cancer. “Mama Gwen” was known as a down-to-earth teacher, mentor and social justice advocate, as well as the popular poet laureate of Illinois.

Dec. 19 Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the civil rights activist and singer who urged listeners to “Respect Yourself,” dies of a heart attack. Staples, 86, fronted Chicago’s acclaimed gospel and soul group the Staples Singers, which also included his three daughters and one son. Recording from the 1960s through the 1990s, the Staples Singers confronted social inequities in songs like “I’ll Take You There,” a number one hit in 1972.