Good morning and Happy New Year, Evanston.

As we ring in 2023, we at the RoundTable are reflecting on the stories that meant the most to our readers by highlighting some of our most popular articles from 2022.

Emm and Gerry Hubbarth watch as the big screen comes to life in Evanston for the first time in two years. Credit: Richard Cahan

Over the last year, Evanston has seen Mayor Daniel Biss appoint two new members to the city council, while the city finally hired a permanent city manager and police chief after extensive searches.

Meanwhile, community conversations surrounding a new Fifth Ward school approved by the District 65 board and a special use permit for the Margarita Inn shelter have dominated public debate.

Here are the 10 most-read stories that the RoundTable brought to you last year.

1. 2022 Illinois and Cook County primary election results. In late June, Evanston voters took to the polls to cast their votes in the 2022 primaries, which featured an incumbent sweep for Democrats in federal and statewide races, as well as state Sen. Darren Bailey crushing Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin in the Republican gubernatorial primary (June 29). A few months later, Gov. J.B. Pritzker beat Bailey in the November general election and ranked-choice voting was easily victorious in a referendum vote (Nov. 8).

2. Woman’s death near ETHS ruled a suicide. 63-year-old Kathy L. Judge was found dead near the tennis courts on the north side of the ETHS campus on an early Tuesday morning in September. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Judge’s death a suicide (Sept. 20).

From left: Amelia Walsh, Betsy McMahon and Thea Ryan read a message they found in a bottle floating on Lake Michigan on July 7. Credit: Patrick McMahon

3. Girls find mysterious message in a bottle in Lake Michigan. In July, three girls – Betsy McMahon, Thea Ryan and Amelia Walsh – were all swimming in Evanston when they discovered a mysterious message in a bottle floating in Lake Michigan. The girls’ parents were all friends at ETHS several decades earlier, and they were finally meeting each other before going to a YMCA camp together. “They say time heals all wounds but this wound never healed ever since the day I had to say goodbye. If I would’ve known I had so little time I would’ve made every second count. Until we meet again,” the message read. (Sept. 12).

4. Ellen Fay Butkus, 1953-2022. Butkus, 69, a nurse whose work on helping seniors age in place led to Senior Connections, died Nov. 28, three years, three months and 26 days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was an active and involved Evanston resident for 43 years (Dec. 5).

AMC Theatres has signed a lease to reopen the Century movie theater in Church Street plaza, it developer says. (RoundTable file photo) Credit: RoundTable file photo

5. AMC signs lease to bring movies back to Evanston’s downtown, developer says. After being closed for two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, Evanston’s Century Theatres at Church Street and Maple Avenue was sold to developer GW Properties, and AMC signed a long-term lease to take over the theater (Feb. 11), which finally reopened for business on Nov. 9. Evanstonians care about their movie theaters.

6. City condemns and evacuates Howard Street apartments, condition termed ‘deplorable’. A roof leak that went unaddressed for months led to the city evacuating the tenants living at 819-821 Howard St. in August. City inspectors gave them a 24-hour evacuation order because of “structural concerns” caused by the leak. “I’ve never seen a place that was inhabited by people in such an uninhabitable condition,” Eighth Ward Council Member Devon Reid said (Sept. 1).

7. ‘Concerns have been ignored, dismissed, minimized’: Inside the year at Haven. After multiple fights broke out at Haven Middle School last winter and spring that sent staff members to the hospital, the RoundTable investigated the safety situation in the building. Teachers described a lack of control over student behavior and a response from the administration that they felt was insufficient (April 15).

8. Will movie theater’s reopening revive downtown Evanston? After GW Properties took over management of the old Century Theatres in the Church Street Plaza, the developer announced plans to bring several other new businesses to the area, including an indoor trampoline park, a taco joint and an online gaming studio. “A lot of our projects are very, just, unemotional, you know, vanilla, in and out. But this is something that will truly have a greater impact on the community than what itself is bringing,” said Mitch Goltz, co-founder and co-owner of GW Properties (March 16).

Elise Malary (Photo via Facebook)

9. Body of missing activist found. Back in March, Elise Malary, a 31-year-old transgender rights advocate who worked closely with social service groups in Rogers Park, was found dead in Lake Michigan. Malary had been reported missing from her home on Hinman Avenue in Evanston. Activist groups in Chicago hosted small flyer-distribution events and used social media to organize for Malary’s return with the hashtag, #BringEliseHome (March 19).

10. ‘They’re not newspapers’: The not-so-mysterious publications in your mailbox. Ahead of the November general election that pitted conservative Republican Darren Bailey against incumbent Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois GOP megadonor and radio host Dan Proft used one of his companies to distribute newspapers peddling propaganda about progressive policies. “We’re beginning to see this epidemic of these fake newspapers moving in to fill the void from the loss of legitimate legacy, local news organizations,” said Tim Franklin, a journalism professor and the John M. Mutz Chair in Local News at Northwestern. 

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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