Top Stories of 2009

As 2009 wraps up, many look back at the events that most impacted their lives. For Naperville residents, that list may be hard to choose from.

Daily Herald city editor Bob Smith says he’s been writing about Naperville news for 16 years. 2009 featured many intriguing stories, but he says only some will stick with citizens, including the conclusion of the Jeanine Nicarico murder case.

Bob Smith says, “Our top story would have to be Brian Dugan. The trial and conviction of the 1983 murder has been going on for quarter of a century. It had many layers. It still haunts Naperville.”

In April, a record number of candidates filed to run for City Council, Park District, School District 203 and 204 Boards, all together nearly 50 candidates. Smith admits the rush to public service baffles him. “City Council s paid a little bit. It kind of surprised us, that amount of candidates that came out a lot of pressing issues on them.”

Two other hot seats sparked attention in both School Districts 203 and 204 as the districts swore in new superintendents.

“I found it interesting that when 204 hired a new superintendent it went very easily, but 203’s Mark Mitrovich coming in there was some controversy about him getting a PhD. from an uncredited school.

Another controversial issue that dug up some dirt was based on a land dispute.

“If you were to tell someone what’s the hottest issue in Illinois and the answer is public garden plots. It would make people go, ‘Wow… what’s going on?’” says Smith.

Local gardeners used the land along West Street as a public garden for years, but Naperville Central High School officials demanded they should have the land for athletic use. Park District officials mediated and moved the gardeners out.

Some people may remember 2009 as the year the unemployment rate spiked to almost 10%, the federal deficit ballooned to 11 billion dollars, and here in Naperville, city officials trying to fix an 11 million dollar deficit, cutting more than twenty city jobs.

“I think the city did as well as it could with declining revenues from sales tax. Not sure anyone could have foreseen how much it went down,” says Smith.

But not all stories from 2009 ended in controversy. Members of Healing Fields got national coverage on Veteran’s Day when they covered Rotary Hill with American flags.

“If you went there and saw 2,009 flags flapping in the wind on Rotary Hill on Vet’s Day, you couldn’t help but be moved. Then people putting cards honoring their relatives, if that’s not a feel- good story then I don’t know what is,” said Smith.

Smith says one story to watch in 2010 is the ongoing dispute between homeless protester Scott Huber and the city of Naperville. Council Members voted him off the Chicago Avenue street corner he occupied. Huber says he was convicted wrongly and plans to fight his case in court. The next court date is January 7th.

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