The next big thing: Issues and events we’ll be watching in 2013
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com December 29, 2012 10:32PM
Elise Nelson, right, stretches out her raised hand to get called on during an all day kindergarten at May Watts Elementary school in Naperville on Thursday, February 16, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 31, 2013 6:29AM
Of course, none of us can predict the news with any great degree of certainty. That’s what makes it news: it takes us all by surprise.
That said, The Sun expects certain local issues will catch our attention in 2013, the groundwork having been laid in the year now coming to an end. Here are a few things we’ll be watching.
Naperville School District 203 officials are poised to implement a full day of learning for some of its youngest students, adding the rest in the upcoming few years. Backed by administrators as a way to help kids prepare for implementation of Common Core academic standards in 2014, the plan for all-day kindergarten faces some opposition from board members and parents.
Recommended for 2013-14 are Ellsworth, Elmwood, Beebe, Naper, Mill, River Woods and Scott elementary schools, chosen because an above-average number of their students receive free and discounted lunch.
The Board of Education is expected to finalize the plan Jan. 7.
Some key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be phased in during the new year. Among the features scheduled to take effect are new funding for state Medicaid programs that cover preventive services and a federally funded requirement that states pay primary care physicians the equivalent of full Medicare payment rates in 2013 and 2014 for primary care services. Also due next year is establishment of a national pilot program to encourage hospitals, doctors, and other providers to work together to improve the coordination and quality of patient care through payment “bundling,” an approach that will replace the current fragmented system of separate billing with a flat rate paid to hospitals, doctors and providers for an episode of care.
Representatives of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce have been critical of the health care reform measures, predicting they will hit small business owners disproportionately hard. The Naperville-based Illinois Hospital Association, however, supports the new legislation.
A group opposed to dividing the city into five representative districts filed a petition bearing 2,550 signatures in late November, seeking to place on the April ballot a binding referendum that will gauge whether Naperville voters have changed their minds about the matter.
“We want people to start talking about it,” said attorney Rebecca Obarski, founder of the citizens group.
Voters in 2010 approved by a 2-to-1 margin the move to a system of electing five City Council members from districts and choosing the remaining three members at-large. When it became clear that the new system could not be put in place immediately, a DuPage County judge ordered the city to have the electoral districts in place in time for the municipal elections of 2015.
City staff spent a year drawing up the five districts, which were approved by City Council in September.
Revised plans for the controversial proposal to put a hotel, parking facility and commercial development on Water Street just east of the Municipal Center will go back before the City Council on Jan. 15. Critics call the plan too dense and too tall for the downtown site. Also in the works is the razing and redevelopment into a public park at the site of a long-maligned vacant building on the east side of Washington Street between Burger King and the West Branch of the DuPage River.
Traffic will likely slow a bit on the city’s northwest edge once construction goes full speed ahead on Route 59.
Officials say the section of roadway targeted for widening, from Aurora Avenue to Ferry Road, sees several hundred traffic accidents every year. In all, an estimated 50,000 vehicles traverse the stretch every day.
Planned to begin in the spring, the $118 million project will widen the road to three lanes in each direction, adding sidewalks as well as turn and through lanes at key intersections. Access to some side streets also will be limited or eliminated.
At Interstate 88, an unusual “divergent diamond” configuration will be constructed to help improve traffic flow.
Voters will fill available seats on the Naperville City Council, local school boards, township boards and park, library and fire district commissions.
The consolidated elections will take place April 9.
Two shocking crimes that left three people dead in Naperville this year will be making their way toward trial in the new year. Naperville resident Daniel Olaska, 28, is accused in the Feb. 4 stabbing death of Shaun Wild, 24, a Spring Brook Elementary School teacher and North Central College graduate, during a scuffle at Frankies Blue Room.
The Oct. 30 stabbing murders of two young Naperville children in a northwest Naperville townhome also are up for prosecution. Elzbieta Plackowska, 40, faces a dozen charges related to the slayings of her son, Justin Plackowska, 7, and Olivia Dworakowski, 5, and two family dogs. Plackowska has entered a not-guilty plea on all of the allegations.
Commuters will pay more to go to Chicago, and visitors will face a higher cost for parking there.
Metra train fares are slated for an increase Feb. 1, the second in as many years, that will affect the 10-ride ticket. Currently riders pay for nine rides and receive the tenth one at no additional cost. No more free ride.
Those who drive downtown also will be hit in the wallet when the city of Chicago implements a hike in the rates for metered parking spots.
In the Loop, those who pay $5.75 hourly now will have to shell out $6.50 for 60 minutes. Areas of the city that are predominantly residential will see the hourly rates go up by a quarter.
The Metra rate hikes come precisely a year after the commuter rail agency enacted the largest increases in its history.