Top 10 local stories for 2012
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Monday, December 31, 2012
12/31/12 at 9:13 AM
1. Good Friday shootings
Three people died and two others were injured in a shooting spree that threatened to spark racial tensions.
2. American Airlines
One of Tulsa's largest employers will end the year the way it began - in bankruptcy and facing a possible merger.
American Airlines originally planned to cut 2,700 jobs in Tulsa after a bankruptcy that was filed Nov. 29, 2011. But early retirements and union negotiations reduced the number dramatically.
When there were "only" 73 layoffs this month, city officials had to feel relieved.
3. Mannford fires
In early August, wildfires destroyed 376 houses near Mannford, west of Tulsa, and left hundreds of people homeless, including more than 100 schoolchildren.
Nearly 60,000 acres burned across a 56-mile perimeter, stopping just short of Mannford itself.
In September, 36-year-old Billy Cloud was charged with third-degree arson for allegedly starting the fire, possibly with a discarded cigarette.
At last report, however, authorities hadn't been able to find Cloud to make an arrest.
4. School grades
In September and October, superintendents from across the state criticized a new evaluation system that would give each school a grade, A through F, much like students face.
The Oklahoma Board of Education delayed the release of the grades to reconsider, but ultimately went ahead. And in Tulsa, 45 out of 76 public schools received a D or F.
5. Trash system
Prices went up this year, but for most people trash service came less often, as Tulsa adopted a controversial once-a-week "cart-based" system.
Despite some glitches as the system kicked off in October, polls showed that most people were satisfied with it.
Voters shot down a $748.8 million sales-tax package despite heavy campaigning by city leaders and the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
Vision2 would've raised $386.88 million for improvements at Tulsa International Airport, with another $361.9 million for "quality of life" projects, including low-water dams on the Arkansas River.
Opponents complained that the proposal was put together hastily. And some critics suggested that the city's priorities might change long before the sales tax expired in 2029.
7. Bridenstine wins
In June, political newcomer Jim Bridenstine upset five-term incumbent John Sullivan in the 1st Congressional District's Republican primary.
A 37-year-old lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve, Bridenstine went on to win the seat in November. And he was recently named to the Armed Services Committee.
8. Victory Christian
In September, five Victory Christian Center employees faced criminal charges for waiting more than two weeks to report an alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl at the church.
A janitor, 20-year-old Chris Denman, was sentenced to 55 years in prison after he admitted to attacking the girl in a church stairwell.
And another employee was charged with making lewd or indecent proposals to a child.
But the scandal focused on Victory leaders, including a son and daughter-in-law of Pastor Sharon Daugherty, who waited to report the alleged crimes.
Court proceedings will resume in January, and will surely be one of the big stories of 2013.
9. Brady development
Downtown's newest park, the Guthrie Green, opened in September as the crown jewel of the Brady District's ongoing revitalization.
Planning and construction of the park took six years, but Tulsa has been waiting for decades for Brady to live up to its potential.
With 2012 bringing a new hotel, new restaurants, new art centers and new lofts, the district finally became Tulsa's answer to Oklahoma City's Bricktown.
10. 'August: Osage County'
Filming wrapped up just before Thanksgiving, after eight weeks of celebrity sightings across Bartlesville, Pawhuska and Tulsa.
An adaptation of Tulsa-native Tracy Lett's prize-winning play, "August: Osage County" will include some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, with George Clooney as producer.
How we decided
To pick the top local stories of the year, Tulsa World editors submitted individual ballots that ranked their choices from one to 10.
From each ballot, the first story received 10 points, the second story nine points, and so on, until the overall totals produced the final ranking.
Naturally, the process sparked a few conversations about what makes one story "bigger" than another.
Its long-term significance in Tulsa history? That can't always be gauged without years of hindsight.
The interest it generated among readers? That can be hard to measure.
Should a Hollywood movie push serious crimes and political issues off the list?
Well, why not?
Ultimately, the voters had to decide for themselves.
And it led to widely different opinions - except at the top, where the Good Friday shootings were nearly unanimous.
Here are a few stories that ranked high on some ballots, but fell short of the Top 10.
Best Buy shooting
Graydon "Wes" Brown was shopping at a midtown Best Buy with his 10-year-old daughter when he was hit by gunfire from outside the store July 14.
Brown died along with Scott Dewayne Norman, who was apparently the intended target.
Two suspects are facing murder charges.
In January, the state Department of Human Services settled a federal class-action lawsuit that accused Oklahoma of having an incompetent and dangerous foster-care system.
The settlement forced the department to reform the system, in part by hiring more child-welfare workers and increasing their pay.
Fallin vs. Obamacare
Just before Thanksgiving, Gov. Mary Fallin decided not to go along with the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
The issue was forced on her after the president's re-election and June's Supreme Court decision, which ruled Obamacare constitutional except for the law's mandated state expansion of Medicaid.
Each state has a right to decide on that part of the program, the court said.
Local or national?
The presidential election itself divided World voters, with some putting it near the top of their ballots and others deciding that it was a national story, not really a "local" one.
Michael Overall 918-581-8383
A house is engulfed in flames near the Oklahoma 48 and Oklahoma 33 junction east of Drumright on Aug. 4. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World
The American Airlines Maintenance and Engineering Center that might have benefited from Vision2 is seen in September. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World