1. How Michael Madigan Builds His Patronage Army

An investigation finds that the immensely powerful House leader has political foot soldiers at all levels of state and local government, a big deal when he's elected by less than 30,000 people every year. Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

2. Illinois Now Has the Second-Highest Property Taxes in the Nation

Over the past few years the state has been climbing the ranks in property tax rates, and they've been growing at a faster clip than in the one state that's still ahead of us—New Jersey. Chicago magazine examines the situation.

3. Stop Hating on Chicago, Conservatives

Why the conservative media is obsessed with painting the city as "a festering live-action Bruegel painting of poverty, entitlement and crime," even as crime fell in 2013. Read the opinion piece at Gawker.

4. Big Ideas for 2014

Local entrepreneurs and business leaders pick the next big thing(s), including desktop CNC milling (you'll have to read it to find out) and parking-space locators. Tribune's Blue Sky Innovation project rounds them up.

5. The Bears Play It Safe With Jay Cutler's Big Contract

A lot of people are mad about the seven-year contract handed out to the flaky star quarterback. But it's not actually a seven-year contract, and it's about what the market demands. Get the analysis at Chicago magazine.

6. The 'Chiraq' War Mentality in Chicago Prevents Solutions

The use of military rhetoric and war imagery when discussing violence in the city dehumanizes the people who need help the most, writes a longtime Chicago reporter. Read it at The Root.

7. In the Future, Will Speed Limits Be Variable?

As America moves towards self-driving cars, highway signs are already taking a more active approach to controlling and calming traffic. Chicago Tribune explains the theory.

8. 2013 Was a Yo-Yo of a Year for Emanuel

You probably know about the bad (credit ratings, controversy over school closures). But the train-track rebuilding on the South Side ran on time. Read more the Sun-Times.

9. South Side Teen's Life, Death Emblematic of Many Struck Down Last Year

Eight years after immigrating from Mexico, 16-year-old Angel Cano was shot six times in a Back of the Yards gangway. Here's what happened. The Chicago Tribune tells the story.

10. School's Beloved Orchestra Survives Closing, but Future Budget Cuts Loom

Lafayette's 13-year-old program made the move to "welcoming school" Chopin, but will there be money for it next year? Read more at WBEZ.