The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 28, 2012

LEVINE: A look back at the local stories of 2012

By Scott Levine
Associate Editor

CLINTON — With the end of the year approaching, it’s time for my annual look at the year’s top stories in the Gateway area.

This year’s crop of stories proved to be a bit different than in previous years. Instead of a story dominating the headlines for a day or maybe a week, issues involving the top happenings produced stories during the entire 12 months.

There were plenty of good things that happened, like businesses expanding, residents helping residents and a continued effort to provide for the less fortunate.

As far as good stories go, though, nothing ranks as high as the “Save the Fourth” campaign. Sisters Emily Steenhard and Erin George spearheaded the effort to save festivities on the Fourth of July after Riverboat Days was canceled.

In about a month, the sisters transformed the event, allowing citizens an opportunity to partake in a parade and a day’s worth of family oriented activities.

It wasn’t all good, though. Thefts, business closures and trouble at Miller Ridge Apartments also found their way on the front pages of the Clinton Herald. The most troubling story occurred in November when a Clinton landmark, the Odeon, burned down, leading to plenty of memories to be shared about the longtime building.

In addition to being a year focused on similar issues popping up consistently, 2012 provided a finale for many stories that spanned the past few years.

Voters in Jackson County approved the Easton Valley School District, federal officials purchased the Thomson, Ill., prison, and the Sawmill Museum became a regular destination for families.

But like many of the already-mentioned stories, one issue that included a connection to 2008 stole headlines in July.

I was just starting as Associate Editor at the Clinton Herald in 2008 when Alysia Marburger suspiciously died in the area. Four years later, a press release with little fanfare filtered into my email, announcing a major break in the case. Law enforcement officials arrested Andy Cole and charged him with first-degree murder. There’s no doubt that this trial will be a major story in 2013.

Although these stories took up much of the ink on the pages of the Herald in 2012, they didn’t crack the top 5 biggest stories of the year.

5. RAGBRAI – When the state announced in January that Clinton would be the final spot for the annual bicycle ride, volunteers began prepping for thousands of bicyclists. When the riders converged on Clinton, the town turned into a one-stop welcoming wagon for the steady stream of bicyclists.

4. Election – Because Iowa was a battleground state, Clinton received the opportunity to host Vice President Joe Biden and vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Oh, and who could forget how the year began, when the Iowa Caucuses came down to one precinct in Clinton County that helped determine the winner, and created local celebrities Carolyn Tallett and Edith Pfeffer.

3. Weather – Heat, drought and a major storm found their ways on the front pages of the Herald almost more than anything in 2012.

A lack of snow in the winter created a record-breaking March where the area set or tied seven high temperature marks. Then, area farmers experienced a drought unseen since the late 1980s and the 1930s.

Heat continued in the summer, and when the area did receive rain, a major storm producing hurricane-like winds ripped through Clinton and Fulton, Ill.

2. Ashford University – It was a tumultuous year for the for-profit university. The sports teams joined a new conference early in 2012, and by the middle of the year, the institution was dealing with a failed accreditation attempt and looking at ways to improve its education.

Ashford’s parent company Bridgepoint was sued, Ashford’s board of directors and president position changed, and the university stopped utilizing the city’s bus services for its students. Also, Ashford’s graduation incurred a cancelation in the spring, and by August, one of the biggest events annually in Clinton, moved to Davenport.

There’s no doubt Ashford will once again be in the news in 2013.

1. City of Clinton – Where do I start? Everything started with the city wanting to create a voucher program for the large-item pickup, which eventually failed thanks to opposition. And now, the city is trying to find a new city administrator who can wade through the multitude of issues facing the city in 2013 and beyond.

In between, there were settlements, sewer rate increases (and proposals that failed), lawsuits, solid waste troubles and plenty of lengthy discussions on the lack of funds going into city coffers. And that’s not to mention councilmen wanting the state to audit the city’s books.

It’s been quite a year for news in the community in 2012, and I expect nothing less in 2013. If you want to see more about 2012, don’t miss the Year in Review section in Monday’s Herald.

And make sure to have a healthy and safe New Year’s celebration.