With another year over and a new one set to begin, we reflect back on 2018 and consider those things of note now relegated to the history books.
In no particular order, these are the stories deemed the top 10 covered by The Courier-News over the past year.
DeCynthia Clements’ shooting death
Elgin resident DeCynthia Clements, 34, was fatally shot by Elgin police Lt. Chris Jensen on March 12 following a standoff with police along Interstate 90. After she set her SUV on fire and exited with a knife, the officer shot her three times, twice in the head and once in the chest, according to police and medical examiner reports.
Elgin police released video of the incident, and public outcry followed. Authorities, however, urged the public to be patient as the Illinois State Police conducted an investigation into why and how the shooting happened. That report is now in the hands of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, which will determine if the shooting was justified or if charges should be filed against Jensen.
Clements’ family filed a federal lawsuit against the city, charging the shooting was unjustified. At least one group in town has called for the city to fire Jensen.
New Elgin police chief
Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, a 26-year police department officer and department head since April 2010, announced in April he would be leaving to become the police chief in Fort Collins, Colo. He agreed to stay on until June to help deal with the fallout from the Cynthia DeClements’ shooting and to give the city time to choose his successor.
The potential heir-apparent, Deputy Chief Bill Wolf, was named interim chief but surprised officials by accepting a deputy chief job with Schaumburg Police Department only days after his appointment. The job came with the promise he would be named Schaumburg chief when the current chief retires.
It didn’t take long for Elgin City Manager Rick Kozal to announce the next chief would be Elgin Cmdr. Ana Lalley. Lalley, who joined the department in 1996 and moved up the ranks from officer to commander in the ensuing years, took over in August.
Elgin Tower Building reopens
One of the city’s most iconic structures — the Elgin Tower Building — underwent a massive restoration and reopened in 2018 as a 44-unit apartment complex. Work on the 15-story, Art Deco-style structure was undertaken by Missouri-based Capstone Development Group, which purchased the city’s tallest building in 2016.
The revitalization of the Elgin Tower Building was a victory for Elgin as the city continues its efforts to bring new life to its downtown district. The project was awarded Landmark Illinois’ best adaptive use award in August.
The building’s history is interesting in and of itself. It was built in 1929 to house the Home National Bank and Home National Savings and Trust, but became a victim of the stock market crash that soon followed. A post-World War II economic boom revived it but the office building fell into disrepair in the 1970s. A 2014 fire badly damaged its lobby and nearly forced its demolition.
Elgin’s first charter school
After years of work, an Elgin group’s efforts to establish the first charter school in the city became reality in August, when the Elgin Math and Science Academy opened for its first school year. The school currently has about 200 students in grades K-3, with close to 60 percent of its students either Hispanic or African-American.
Located at the Neil Building, the former centerpiece building of the defunct Fox River Country Day School off Route 25 is located in a wooded area that figures prominently in classes offered at the new school.
Among the selling points for EMSA, students of which were chosen in a lottery, is it offers about 100 more hours of instruction annually than school districts U46 and 300, officials said.
Elgin shootings, homicides
Although crime has dropped significantly in Elgin, there were several murders and shootings in the city in 2018.
In April, Mark McDaniel, 26, and Raymond Dyson, 29, were killed during a drug-related shooting in an apartment complex parking lot in the first block of Longwood Place. Two people have been charged with murder and are awaiting trial.
In September, there was a fatal shooting outside D Hangout Bar and Grill on McLean Boulevard. Shaprie Smith-Tate, a 25-year-old woman from Chicago, died in Presence St. Joseph Hospital from multiple gunshots wounds. Two other women and one man were also injured during the incident. Authorities issued a murder warrant for Smith-Tate’s brother, Shannon Smith of Chicago, in connection with the incident.
Authorities arrested 22-year-old Elgin resident Luis Mora-Otero in October, charged in connection with the shooting of three people on Cherry Street in September. None of the victims were killed.
Elgin City Council
The Elgin City Council faces some potential upheaval in the coming year thanks to changes that occurred in 2018.
This summer, Councilman Rich Dunne resigned the seat he held for nine years because a job promotion relocated him to the Seattle area. Because two years remain to his term, his successor will be chosen in the April elections. Three people will be on the ballot seeking to fill the job, and another seven — including four incumbents — will be vying for four four-year terms.
In the same election, Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger hopes to unseat Mayor Dave Kaptain. Rauschenberger is in the middle of her second four-year term and plans to stay in her seat should she lose in the spring. Kaptain has been mayor since 2011, winning re-election in 2015.
In September, Councilman Terry Gavin said his battle with leukemia continues and is why he has been unable to attend some city events. He was diagnosed in March 2016 but didn’t publicly reveal his condition until May 2017. Gavin said he shared details on his health in order to be more transparent, and he said he found support from those the well wishes he’s received and people who have shared their own health battles with him.
U46 career pathways plan
School District U46 announced plans this year that it would be moving to a new career academies and pathways approach to high school education, which could be implemented in the 2021-22 school year. Under this proposal, students would choose a career pathway that would determine the career academy they would join. Each high school would have multiple career academies and pathways for students to choose from, and each high school would also have one career magnet academy requiring additional admission requirements.
Community members have had a mixed reaction to the ambitious proposal. A series of public forums raised many questions, including if students would attend their home high schools and whether locking a student into a career path at such a young age was a good idea.
In September, district officials tried to address those concerns by pushing back the timetable for the switch and announcing that each high school would have five identical career academies, although some of the pathways inside them would vary by school. The current slate of U46 academies are also undergoing revisions and changes as they transition into more rigorous magnet academies. School board members have yet to approve or finalize any plans.
Ice cream truck ban over
For 45 years, Elgin banned ice cream truck vendors from selling within city limits. That came to an end this year, and attracted national attention that such a restriction even existed.
In May, the first ice cream truck vendor permits were issued by the city. Ice cream truck owners must undergo background checks, obtain mobile food truck permits and purchase insurance, among other requirements.
Residents quickly embraced the change, with some saying it was the first time they had ever heard ice cream truck jingles in their neighborhoods.
“I didn’t plan on all this celebrity status,” said Jim Cremeens, who pushed for the ban to be lifted and became the first person to acquire a permit from the city.
Larkin HS basketball team
Elgin has a storied boys basketball history, but no public school team had gone to the semifinals since 1955 and no team had won a state tournament since Elgin won back-to-back titles in 1924 and 1925.
That changed in 2018 when the Larkin High School boys basketball team advanced to its first-ever state semifinals in March. While they didn’t win, the team did finish in fourth place.
A former Larkin basketball standout also landed in the spotlight when Christian Negron, a freshman member of the Loyola University Chicago basketball team, was on the court during the final seconds of Loyola’s victory over Kansas State in an NCAA’s Elite Eight game. The Ramblers unexpected championship run ended with a loss in a Final Four game. Also on the 2017-18 Loyola team was former Jacobs High School standout Cameron Krutwig.
Geneva teachers strike
In early December, teachers in the Geneva School District went on strike when negotiations broke down in a fight over the district’s demand that the traditional the step-and-lane salary schedules used to calculate teacher salaries be abandoned for a new structure.
More than 5,500 students in Geneva missed five days of class as a result of the walkout by about 450 teachers.
The issue was resolved with a compromise in which the old pay structure would be used for the first two years of the five-year contract and the news system for the remaining three years.