Chicago news in 2023: SAFE-T Act, migrant crisis, mayoral election, assault weapons ban and more

Rob Elgas Image
Tuesday, December 26, 2023
Chicago news in 2023: New laws, mayoral elections, migrant madness
The 2023 news included the SAFE-T Act, assault weapons ban, Chicago migrant crisis, Brandon Johnson elected mayor, Taylor Swift Eras Tour and more.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- So much happened in the Chicago area in 2023 that it can be hard to believe it all took place in a single year. Here are some highlights of the year's biggest local news stories.

January: SAFE-T Act takes effect, assault weapons ban signed

The new year began with new laws going into effect, including the controversial Illinois SAFE-T Act. A number of lawsuits put the controversial provision eliminating cash bail on hold for months, but it eventually survived the court challenges and went into effect.

Later in January, Governor JB Pritzker signed a statewide assault weapons ban into law. Created in response to the Highland Park July 4th parade shooting, that law also faced legal challenges that continue to this day.

February: Chicago Bears eye suburbs, R. Kelly sentenced, Lightfoot loses reelection bid

In February, the Chicago Bears took a big step toward potentially leaving Soldier Field when the team closed on a deal to purchase the former Arlington International Racecourse property.

The high-profile Chicago federal case against R. Kelly also reached its conclusion, when the disgraced R&B singer was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex crimes.

The end of February also marked the end of Lori Lightfoot's reelection campaign when she failed to advance to the runoff election, after placing third in the first round of voting.

March: Deadly tornadoes, Kennedy Expressway construction begins

March saw a deadly tornado outbreak sweep through the Chicago area, causing the roof of the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere to collapse, uprooting trees and power lines, and flooding roads and yard. One person was killed in the Apollo Theatre roof collapse and 28 were injured.

And many commuters will likely remember that this when the years-long Kennedy Expressway rehab project officially launched, bringing major delays and backups for drivers.

April: Chicago Fire Department's back to back tragedies, city elects new mayor

April saw some major changes and challenges. The Chicago Fire Department coped with back-to-back losses, tragedies that marked the start of a difficult year for CFD with a total of four line-of-duty deaths.

Chicago also elected a new mayor in April. Then-Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson defeated Paul Vallas in the run-off election.

May: Leadership changes, Blackhawks draft Connor Bedard

New mayor Brandon Johnson officially took office on May 15, and former mayor Lightfoot received a sendoff at City Hall. One of her last acts was issuing an emergency declaration over the surging number of migrants being sent to the city from Texas.

May was also the dawn of a new era for the Chicago Blackhawks, who landed the number one pick in the NHL draft lottery. The team selected Connor Bedard, a 17-year-old already being hailed as a generational talent.

June: Wildfires bring bad air, Taylor Swift brings economic boost

Unhealthy air quality due to wildfires in Canada put a damper on the beginning of summer, forcing people to stay indoors until the smoky haze cleared.

June also brought pop superstar Taylor Swift and her Eras Tour to town, to play three sold-out nights in a row at Soldier Field.

July: Beyoncé and NASCAR bring thrills, hazing scandal brings chills

Beyoncé's world tour stopped in Chicago for back-to-back shows in July, and the BeyHive flocked to Soldier Field to take in the spectacle.

NASCAR also delivered thrills to the city with its inaugural Chicago street race, which was nearly upended by record rainfall.

But the area was chilled by a hazing scandal that thrust Northwestern University into the spotlight. Allegations surrounding the football program led to the firing of head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

August: New CPD superintendent, Thunderbirds return to Air and Water Show

In August, Mayor Brandon Johnson appointed Larry Snelling to becoming Chicago's next police superintendent, and paved the way for his eventual confirmation.

Crowds also packed the lakefront to see the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headline the Chicago Air and Water Show for first time in five years.

September: United Auto Workers strike reaches Chicago area

By the end of September, the nationwide United Auto Workers strike reached the Chicago area, with thousands of local workers in Naperville, Belvidere and the city hitting the picket line. The strike lasted for six weeks in total, and ended with new deals with the Big Three automakers: Stellantis, Ford and GM.

October: Israel-Hamas War begins, migrant crisis grows

The October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas killed an estimated 1,200 civilians in southern Israel and at the Nova Music Festival, took over 240 Israelis and foreign nationals living in Israel hostage, and also started the war between Israel and Hamas. A mother and daughter from Evanston became the first of Hamas' hostages to be released following two weeks of captivity in Gaza.

ABC7 also joined a delegation of local leaders who traveled to the southern border to address the growing migrant crisis in Chicago.

November and December: CTA crash, holiday celebrations

Dozens of people were hurt when a CTA Yellow Line train crashed into a piece of snow removal equipment that was on the tracks. As a result, Yellow Line service has been suspended indefinitely.

We also welcomed the start of the holiday season as November turned into January, with the Wintrust Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, the Millennium Park tree lighting and countless others displays throughout the magical month of December.