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Until last week, the staff at the Mercer Island Reporter thought it might be tough to determine what might be the top news story of the year — be it a local controversy or a national trend.
We considered the outcry over the Island Crest Way ‘road diet,’ the proposal to reduce the lanes of the Island’s main artery from four to three, as a top contender. Next, the proposal and defeat of the $196 million bond for new Island schools would be a no-brainer for our short list. But there were other choices. What about the sale of the Stevenson Farm? Or the coming of two major new mixed-use developments in the Town Center — one underway, The Mercer II, and one on the horizon? What about the tolls on SR-520 that pushed traffic onto our stretch of interstate and had hundreds of new bus riders crowding the 550? What about the real possibility that I-90 will be tolled in the future?
Nine times this past year, except May and August, we asked Islanders what they believed was the top story of the month. In five of those months, the top story involved weapons and violence. In two of those months, they concerned conflicts in the Middle East. In two other months, our respondents said mass shootings; one in Afghanistan reportedly by a U.S. soldier, the other at a Colorado movie theater. In April, it was the killing of an unarmed teen in Florida by a self-appointed night watchman. For June, a story reflecting another kind of violence was chosen; the trial of a serial sex-offender — a former football coach and a mentor of youth at a respected eastern college.
In January, the debates between the Republican candidates for president were the top story. Regardless of your political view, they made for riveting television.
We all know that crime and conflict make headlines. They are the stories that stay in our minds because they involve the unexpected and the unthinkable. But there were nicer, noteworthy events this past year. They include the touchdown play and the ref’s call that gave the Seahawks an unexpected win, and the news that a lost Island man with Alzheimer’s was found safe in Issaquah. Also great news for Islanders is the sale of the Stevenson Farm property to a buyer who said the farm will still be a place for horses.
This month, we decided to skip asking Islanders what they thought was the biggest news story. We already know.