With the year coming to a close, we asked our Twitter followers and Facebook fans to send us their picks for the top Chicago stories of 2011. Here's a list of the most memorable, plus some additions from our staff.


Roughly 20 inches of snow fell on Chicago during February's blizzard, making it the third largest blizzard in the city's history. The event nearly shut down the city and left many stranded:

Hundreds of motorists and CTA passengers ended up trapped on the drive for six hours or more Tuesday night. Many were not rescued until early this morning, as rescue workers battled white-out conditions, 70 mph wind gusts and waist-high drifts to provide help.

On the lighter side of things, #SNOMG called extra attention to Dibs. Chicago's Jeff Ruby on the tradition:

I don’t like Dibs. Saving your parking spot with a folding chair or a cone or a box of diapers may be part and parcel of winter here, but the whole practice strikes me as a very un-Chicago thing to do. It is basically saying to your neighbors, the people with whom you are presumably on pleasant terms the rest of the year: “I don’t trust you, so I’m going to screw you before you screw me. And if you screw me anyway and park in ‘my’ spot, I’m ritually entitled to turn your car into a Toyota-sicle.” Call me idealistic, but that’s not how neighbors ought to act. And it’s not how most Chicagoans act during the other three seasons of the year.

Memorable Moments:

* Cars stranded on Lake Shore Drive:

Cars stuck on Lake Shore Drive Blizzard 2011

* A Chicagoan calls Dibs with a keyboard on the North Side:

Musical Dibs


Photographs: E. Jason Wambsgans and Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune



The Election
via @monicareida

When Mayor Richard M. Daley announced that he wouldn't be running for reelection in 2011, Chicago politicians were champing at the bit to become the city’s next mayor. Up against Gery Chico, City Clerk Miguel del Valle, Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, William "Dock" Walls III, and Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, Rahm Emanuel won the race with 55 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff.

Memorable Moments:

* Rahm faced an uphill battle when his residency status was challenged. The elections board ruled that he met the residency requirements, but an appellate court overturned the decision, and Rahm’s name was taken off the ballot. Rahm’s camp appealed and the Illinois Supreme Court eventually ruled that he could stay on the ballot.

* Back in January, Sen. Carol Moseley Braun came under attack for comments she made about fellow candidate Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins at a mayoral candidate forum. Braun was quoted saying, "Patricia, the reason you didn't know where I was the last 20 years is because you were strung out on crack."




What started off as a gag by former Columbia College professor Dan Sinker turned into the "first real work of digital literature." Sinker's fake Twitter account, @MayorEmanuel, chronicled the adventures—both real and imaginary—of the then-mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, a notorious foul-mouth. But Sinker's identity as the author of @MayorEmanuel remained a mystery until the "real Rahm Emanuel offered to donate $5,000 to the charity of the anonymous Tweeter's choice if the creator of the account would out himself." From The Atlantic, where Sinker revealed his identity:

The profane, brilliant stream of tweets not only may be the most entertaining feed ever created, but it pushed the boundaries of the medium, making Twitter feel less like a humble platform for updating your status and more like a place where literature could happen. Never deviating too far from the reality of the race itself, @MayorEmanuel wove deep, hilarious stories. It was next-level digital political satire and caricature, but over the months the account ran, it became much more. By the end, the stream resembled an epic, allusive ode to the city of Chicago itself, yearning and lyrical.

The @MayorEmanuel Twitter stream has since been published in The F***ing Epic Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

Memorable Moments:

* Dan Sinker on the Colbert Report:

* Wilco's Jeff Tweedy performed The Black Eyed Peas at the book release party for The F***ing Epic Quest of @MayorEmanuel:



Blagojevich Trial and Sentencing

After a jury deadlocked last summer over 23 of the 24 counts brought against Rod Blagojevich, a retrial was scheduled for 2011. The second time around, a jury found the former Illinois governor guilty of 17 felonies. Despite an emotional apology from Blagojevich, Judge James Zagel handed down a 14-year sentence, which the ex-gov will begin serving in March.

Memorable Moments:

* Blagojevich quoted Rudyard Kipling after his sentencing trial:

* During his retrial, Blagojevich tried to explain the infamous phone conversation where "he described his opportunity to name a U.S. Senator to replace President Barack Obama as 'f—ing golden.'" From Chicago News Cooperative:

“I’m afraid to answer this. I’d like to answer this but I’m not quite sure how to answer it,” Blagojevich said during his fourth day on the stand in his federal corruption retrial. “In my mind, I didn’t know. I had no idea other than all these different ideas that we were throwing around and that I was trying to figure out what if anything could possibly be part of a deal for the senate seat. I didn’t know.”

The vague response was part of a tough day for Blagojevich, who was sternly reprimanded by Judge James Zagel for implying the government deliberately edited transcripts of taped phone calls to eliminate comments favorable to him.

The audio:



Maggie Daley Passes

Chicago's former first lady, Maggie Daley, passed away on Thanksgiving after a long battle with breast cancer. Often remembered for her work with Chicago's youth and having a deep love for the arts, Mrs. Daley was "the yin to Rich Daley's yang."

Where the former mayor could be gruff and impatient, she was kind and accepting. She softened and humanized the mayor, leaving him — and many of us — near tears when he struggled to answer reporters’ questions about her long struggle with cancer.

Memorable Moments:

* The Daley family outside Old St. Patrick's church:

Daley family at Maggie Daley funeral

* The Chicago flag flies at half staff at City Hall in honor of the former first lady:

Chicago Flag at Half Staff


Photographs: Chuck Berman and Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune



More From 2011

* Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty.

* David Bernstein and Noah Isackson investigated Chicago lawmakers and the quiet deals they make with local street gangs for political favors. (via @kurtfujio)

* Grant Achatz's highly anticipated restaurant, Next, opened.

* Groupon went public.

* NBA named Chicago Bull Derrick Rose the MVP.

* Sears/CME tax breaks were signed into law, preventing both comapnies from leaving Illinois.

* EPA told Chicago to clean up the river.

* Charges were filed in the 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio murder case. Her story from Chicago magazine's Bryan Smith.

* Two Chicago Tribune reporters traveled to Mexico and located eight Chicago fugitives, revealing flaws in the justice system.