The end of the year is often a time for introspection, of thoughts about accomplishments, milestones and lessons learned over the past 12 months.
If you’re a news site, that introspection comes in the form of the most widely read stories--the ones that captivated audiences, caused heated discussion or, in some cases, shock and disbelief.
Here are our picks for the top stories on Petaluma Patch for 2012:
At first, it was mostly parents and family friends paying attention, but after four straight victories at the regional championship, even non-baseball fans started taking notice. From there things happened quickly for Petaluma National Little League, who within a fortnight of clinching the Western Division championship were on their way to the World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Petaluma was on edge for weeks. Bars overflowed during games, storefronts went yellow and green and cars honked after each victory. Local businesses donated money to help parents pay the airfare and other expenses and suddenly Petaluma’s name was all over ESPN. In the end, the Nationals placed third, but to Petaluma, they were, and always will be, champions.
April 15 was a warm spring Sunday afternoon. People were strolling downtown or shopping at nearby Petaluma Market when shots rang out on Keller Street around 2pm. When police arrived, 43-year-old Petaluma resident Kim Conover was laying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk, killed by her estranged husband, who then shot himself.
Conover was a mother of four and a popular third grade teacher at Meadow Elementary. The murder sent shock waves through the community and prompted discussion about domestic violence. Shock and sadness soon turned into anger when it was learned that Conover had applied for an emergency protective order just weeks before but was denied by a Sonoma County Superior Court judge. The reason? The court said there was insufficient evidence the Petaluma woman was in grave and eminent danger.
Since 1945, California municipalities relied on redevelopment agencies to build affordable housing, revitalize blighted neighborhoods and offer developers sweet incentives to come to town. But at the end of 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that the agency was being shut down and property revenues from special assessment districts routed to K-14 education in light of the state‘s massive budget deficit.
Although discussed since at least 2010, Petaluma city officials say the move caught them by surprise, leaving the decision over who would finance numerous capital improvement projects in limbo. The city has now sued the Department of Finance over some $34 million in disputed charges, although it‘s unclear if it will ever see the cash. It’s an end of an era, for sure, but city officials continue to wage a fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs.
After more than two years of discussion, the developer of the Deer Creek shopping center and two neighborhood groups reached agreement to allow the Friedman’s home improvement store on North McDowell. In exchange, the city got a couple of new cross walks, new trees for the Eastside and a donation to local community groups.
The settlement was the result of two lawsuits, one filed by Petaluma Neighborhood Association, and the other by Janice Cader Thompson and Jerry Thompson and channeled close to $200,000 into improvements.
The battle was over, but it left a bad taste in many people's mouth, between those who thought the groups shouldn't have settled for so little and others who believed the developer was bullied into paying. At least we'll now be able to buy a 2x4 in town.
The arrest of an alleged gang member took an unexpected turn when state and federal agents were shot at by someone inside a home on McNeil Avenue.
The May 3 raid was part of an in-depth investigation into a 2010 gang murder in South San Francisco, but it turned bloody after one of the suspects began shooting at agents. A gun fight ensued, peppering nearby residences with bullets and killing one dog. The feds were criticized for using excessive firepower (more than three dozen armed agents were present), but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defended its actions by saying that they knew the suspect was armed and extremely dangerous.
Twenty-year-old Victor Flores Jr., who lived in the home with his parents and younger brother, has been charged with attempted murder and faces the death penalty if convicted.
You’ve seen them around town: Massage spas that are open late into the night, take cash only and often keep their front doors locked. It’s easy to let them blend into the town’s landscape, but according to police, these fly-by-night “parlors” attract crime and potentially employ women who are trafficked or, at the very least, not real massage therapists.
Now the police department has authored an ordinance aimed at regulating who can operate a massage establishment, and after a brief discussion this month, the issue returns before council in January.
7. Petaluma Pulls Together to Find a Match for Petaluma Boy Suffering From Leukemia
It started with a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop. But it soon turned into a diagnosis that no parent wants to hear: leukemia.
After 11-year-old Petaluma boy CJ Banaszek was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease, the Fabulous Women, a local philanthropic group sprung into action and organized a bone marrow donor drive to find him a match. More than 2,000 people lined up to have their cheek swabbed, although ultimately a donor was found in Germany. CJ received a transplant in June, but continues to face a long road to recovery.
After nearly two years of on-off negotiations, the city’s police, fire and administrative employees reached agreement over pensions. For the two public safety unions, the new contract means that retirement benefits for all new hires will now be calculated using the 3 percent at 55 years of age formula compared to 3 percent at 50.
For non-public safety workers, such as administrative employees, unions agreed to 2 percent at 60 for all new hires. Many applauded the move, but the savings won't be felt for another 15-20 years.
According to a prediction in the Mayan calendar, the world was supposed to cease to exist on December 21, 2012. Outdoor survival gear sales went into overdrive, people stopped paying their bills, while others held “End of the World“ parties. Plenty of ink was spent writing about the doomsday prediction and its supposed fall out. But in the end it was a whole lotta of nothing, kind of like Y2K. Looks like we’ll have to pay those bills after all.
10. $250 for a Pizza? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!
Many families love Little Caesar’s for their $5 pizzas. But many local customers were more than a little angry after a technical glitch in the company’s point-of-sale system earlier this year charged them for all the pizzas at once, some to the tune of hundreds of dollars.
Customers complained that the charges caused other checks to bounce and accrued bank fees, wondering why the store didn’t notify them right away. The store said they didn’t know until months later, although they did issue an apology and offered a free pizza to anyone effected. But not before the story went viral and caused some pretty bad PR for Little Caesar's.
Are there other big stories of 2012 that you think we missed? Let us know by telling us in the comments below.