Not Top 10

Stories big and small made news in 2012

2012-12-31T16:33:00Z 2013-01-01T22:11:31Z Stories big and small made news in 2012KEVIN COURTNEY Napa Valley Register
December 31, 2012 4:33 pm  • 

From the hundreds of stories that landed on the front page of the Napa Valley Register in 2012, we have highlighted our choice of the Top 10 in recent days, culminating with today’s pick for No. 1.

Beyond the Top 10 were stories of all types. Some may have lasting significance, most will not. Some captured moments of joy, others of heartbreak. Page 1 reflected the pulse of an ever-changing community.

Normally a city balancing its budget wouldn’t be exceptional news, nor would a woman chalking a 9/11-themed message on a city sidewalk, but both made news last year.

Why the city budget? It was the first time in a decade that revenues from outside sources had matched city expenditures. This event was the result of rising revenue, employee concessions and other cutbacks. This bodes well for future budgets, city officials said.

As for the chalk lady, her arrest by Napa police for vandalism briefly made her a cause celebre. Many accused police of over-reacting, saying chalking was a free speech issue. In the end, the district attorney declined to prosecute.

Sidewalks and streets were newsmakers last year. The city announced a program to rebuild sidewalks, matching its 10-miles-a-year effort to repave streets.

The City Council voted to restore downtown’s one-way streets to two-way as they were a half century ago. Advocates said this change, which should occur in 2013, will slow down motorists, make getting around easier and better showcase businesses.

Speaking of getting around, the VINE underwent a radical route overhaul in December, creating initial confusion for regular bus riders. At the same time, the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency debuted a $12 million transit center on Burnell Street to serve as a hub for an expanding bus system. The impact of the new schedules and routes on ridership numbers won’t be known for months to come.

Locals took over operation of Bothe and the Bale Grist Mill state parks in 2012 after the state said it didn’t have the money to operate them anymore. Under enthusiastic local sponsorship, both facilities can be improved, organizers said.

The state’s budget woes resulted in a trimmed school year for the Napa Valley Unified School District, followed by a late-year restoration of three school days when voters passed Proposition 30 in November. Napa Valley College cut course offerings and imposed higher fees as a way to deal with reduced funding.

The Napa Valley Symphony folded in 2012 because of deteriorating finances. This happened on the heels of the closure of the Lincoln Theater at the Veterans Home of California.

As the year ended, there was the announcement that the theater will reopen under new local sponsorship, while lovers of classical music try to bring new offerings to the Napa Valley Opera House.

The family of 60-year-old Richard Poccia sued the city of Napa in federal court early in 2012, saying police violated his civil rights when they shot and killed him while responding to a disturbance call in late 2010. The family of Luis Alejandre, 25, also sued the city in federal court after he was shot in the face by a police officer following a foot chase in east Napa last May.

Citing the Poccia case, the Napa County grand jury recommended last summer that law enforcement establish a civilian police review board. This recommendation was later rejected by both the Napa City Council and the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

Napa County spent 2012 fighting a Wappo lawsuit in federal court seeking restoration of tribal rights. Local officials fear that tribal recognition could result in the Wappo someday wanting to build a casino in Napa County. A legal decision could occur in 2013, likely setting the stage for yet more legal action.

In another court matter, the Napa County Superior Court reduced hours and staff after having its budget cut by the state.

After years of talk, Napa County made significant headway in late 2012 in extending a pipeline for recycled water to the greater Coombsville area. Landowners voted to assess themselves for the cost of the line, whose size may be upgraded if the county can get additional funding.

A 63-year-old gas station on Third Street was torn down in June, prompting regret from preservationists who had considered it one of the county’s endangered landmarks. The station was removed as prelude to possible future development.

The Alexander Crossing apartment project on Silverado Trail got City Council approval for the second time in 2012. The project had been approved a year earlier, then sent back for further environmental review after neighbors challenged city procedures.

Justin-Siena High School and Lowe’s home improvement store announced in late 2012 that a proposed store on high school land, facing Solano Avenue, had been withdrawn. The project had generated neighborhood opposition, with the city requiring review of its environmental impacts.

Fagiani’s bar on Main Street reopened last summer after being closed for more than a third of a century following a homicide that had achieved local folkloric status. The bar was incorporated into an upscale restaurant, The Thomas.

The most spectacular business opening occurred at year’s end — the Century Napa Valley cineplex, a 12-screen, stadium seating movie emporium in south Napa.

Earlier in the year, a cluster of businesses began opening at Napa Crossing, a new commercial development on Trancas Street opposite Bel Aire Plaza, offering new eateries, beauty products and more.

Napa County’s jobless rate dropped at year’s end to its lowest level in four years. It had already been one of the lowest rates in California.

The Napa Valley Unified School District hired an investigator in 2012 to make sure that high school students were attending the school in their attendance area. The investigation occurred amid public suspicion that athletes were abandoning Vintage High for Napa High’s more successful football program.

The upshot: 17 freshmen were disenrolled from Napa High. No students from the Napa High attendance area were caught trying to sneak into Vintage.

A bit of Napa River color faded in 2012 with the demolition of the cottages at Moore’s Landing. The owner decided to raze the low-rent units after the county said they needed major repairs to meet current codes.

Napa lost a many notables in the course of the year including retired Superior Court Judge William Blanckenburg, 97, and Joe Vallerga, the founder of Vallerga’s Market, who died at 90.

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