By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Dec 30, 2009 at 9:09 AM

A new year is here and a look back at the last 12 months reveals a year of ups and downs for Milwaukee, from the big success of Danny Gokey straight on down to the ruthless attack on Mayor Tom Barrett.

Here's a look at the top 10 stories that affected us in 2009.

1. Mayor Barrett attacked outside Wisconsin State Fair

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was brutally attacked after leaving the Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 15 with his sister, niece and two of his daughters. Responding to cries for help from a grandmother near 87th and Orchard Streets in West Allis, Barrett approached the woman, who was in an argument with her daughter's ex-boyfriend, 20-year-old Anthony Peters. Peters was desperate to see his 14-month-old daughter.

When the mayor attempted to calm him down, Peters beat him with a metal baton, leaving him with gashes to the face and head, a shattered tooth and two missing teeth. When the mayor fought back with a punch, he fractured his right hand. Mayor Barrett made a quick recovery and President Obama called him to offer his support.

2. We'll miss you Brent ... or will we?

Just when Packers fans throughout Wisconsin and around the globe were on the way to recovering from the bitter Brett Favre divorce saga, along came the Vikings to rip off the scab. The storm clouds began to gather when Favre retired from the Jets (Feb. 11), then asked for and was granted his release from the reserve/retired list (May).

Favre underwent surgery to repair a tear in his biceps tendon, began working out with high school kids in Mississippi and then told the Vikings on July 27 that he would remain retired.

That lasted about three weeks.On Aug. 18, Favre signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Vikings.

On Oct. 5, he guided his new team to a 30-23 victory over the Packers in the most-viewed program in the history of cable TV. On Nov. 1, Favre returned to Lambeau Field and was greeted with a chorus of boos. He went on to lead his team to a 38-26 victory.

As the year ended, he was poised to get the Vikings into the playoffs and was being mentioned as an MVP candidate along with Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

3. Wisconsin stubs out smoking in bars and restaurants

On Monday, May 18, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a smoking ban that requires bars, restaurants and workplaces to be smoke-free by July 5, 2010. Wisconsin was the 27th state to enact a smoke-free law. The law exempts cigar bars, retail tobacco stores, private homes, designated hotel / motel smoking rooms, nursing home rooms and casinos run by Native American tribes. Although some smoking ban backers are concerned about possible loop holes, overall, most supporters are pleased with the statewide ban that will take effect this summer.

4. Cudahy meat plant smoked by stupidity

What started as brothers Kurtis and Joshua Popp firing a slap flare at a backyard BBQ ended in nearly $50 million in fire, smoke and water damage. On Sunday, July 4, thanks to that flare, the Patrick Cudahy plant in Cudahy went up in flames; a fire that would ultimately last three days and require assistance from more than 25 Milwaukee-area fire departments. Homes within a one-mile radius of the plant were evacuated as flames threatened a tank of anhydrous ammonia, destroyed one quarter of the 1 million-sq. ft. plant and left 1,500 employees out of work.

5. Top Milwaukee pols face off in governor's race

For the first time in memory, the top two executives from the area -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Scott Walker -- will square off in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Walker was the first to announce his candidacy while Barrett, who got beat up in an altercation outside of State Fair Park last fall, took some time and seemed to begrudgingly declare his intent to run.

Major Democratic Party movers-and-shakers, including those connected to President Barack Obama, seemed to put the rub on Barrett, who ran for the job in 2002, losing to Jim Doyle. A Barrett-Walker showdown isn't guaranteed just yet. Former congressman Mark Neumann also is running on the Republican ticket.

6. Airlines duke it out at Mitchell International

The king isn't dead, there are challengers to the throne. Midwest Airlines, once the dominant player at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, was bought by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways for $31 million in 2009 and has slowly started to resume service to destinations dropped while Midwest struggled to fight off bankruptcy in a troublesome economic climate.

But as Milwaukee's hometown airline tries to rebuild, it faces stiff competition form AirTran Airways, which has greatly increased its service and community presence, and newcomer Southwest Airlines. With three major airlines fighting for business, Milwaukee travelers are reaping the benefits with lower fares and air traffic at Mitchell is on the rise.

7. The battle for control at Milwaukee Public Schools

When Mayor Tom Barrett and Gov. Jim Doyle suggested that the Milwaukee Public Schools' buck oughta stop at the door to the mayor's office, some Milwaukeeans cheered and others jeered. Many wondered why details of the plan remained so unclear for so long.

By mid-December, the state legislature was avoiding the discussion and state legislators proposed different ideas, including giving Wisconsin's state superintendent of public instruction a tighter grip on MPS.

At the same time, MPS continued its search for a new superintendent, to replace the outgoing William Andrekopoulos and there was controversy over a proposal -- approved by the school board in December -- to make condoms available in public high schools.

8. Trouble brews in local sport

A legendary Milwaukee sporting event and venue have passed into the night. The U.S. Bank Championship ended Milwaukee's three-decade run as a regular PGA Tour stop after the event was unable to find a title sponsor. The tournament had been plagued in recent years by a lackluster lineup as the USBC was played at the same time as the British Open.

Over in West Allis, NASCAR and open-wheel speedsters crossed the finish line for possibly the final time at the nation's oldest, continuously-operating racetrack after the State Fair Park Board failed to work out a deal with several potential racing promoters. The Indy Racing League already dropped Milwaukee from its schedule for 2010 and NASCAR, which has two races slotted for Milwaukee next summer, is expected to follow soon.

9. Danny Gokey goes from "Idol" to Nashville

Danny Gokey overcame the August 2008 death of his wife, Sophia, to rise to the silver medal spot in the eighth season of Fox's "American Idol." He ended his year with the release of his first country single, "My Best Days are Ahead of Me," on iTunes. Gokey's debut album is due out in 2010. Country music is something of a surprise for the 29-year-old Milwaukeean, who honed his singing at Faith Builders International Ministries.

His fate on "Idol" was probably assured when he went beyond his comfort zone when he screeched through the end of Aerosmith's "Dream On." He was voted off the following week. While he seemed more secure with R&B -- he performed "Hello" on the season finale with Lionel Richie -- Gokey was signed by 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville.

In addition to his new recording career, Gokey's working on his Sophia's Heart Foundation -- named after his late wife -- to help disadvantaged children.

10. Police chief caught with holster down; McBride groom seeks divorce

Though more or less everyone agrees that the sex life of Police Chief Edward Flynn has nothing to do with his job performance, his dalliance with conservative pundit, freelance reporter and UW-Milwaukee journalism instructor Jessica McBride made headlines when the story broke in June. After e-mails sent and received on city accounts surfaced, the married chief, 61, has apologized, while McBride, 39, hasn't said much -- though the on-again-off-again divorce filings from her husband, former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher, have continued to push the story back into the limelight.

It looks like Flynn will ride this one out (Mayor Tom Barrett says he's standing by him), but the future is murky for McBride, who apparently became infatuated with the chief while composing a gushing, 54,000-word profile for Milwaukee Magazine. Incredibly, McBride has taught ethics in her UWM journalism class. Still, the school's department of journalism and mass communications voted to give her "indefinite status," which is the academic staff equivalent of tenure.