Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News
With less than 15 minutes before the early voting polls closed at the Citizen’s Center in Lincolnton on the last Saturday before Election Day, a crowd remained waiting to vote.
Each year at this time we look back on the top local stories of the previous 12 months and rank the top news-making items in Lincoln County over that period. We aren’t necessarily looking at the top single-day headlines, but at the news issues that repeatedly mattered throughout the year, some of which will continue to affect how we live in coming months. Our news team reviewed editions from the past year and kept track of which items appeared the most frequently, then evaluated these further for trends and significance. The following is our top stories list for 2012:
1. Lincoln County politics
2012 was a huge political year throughout the United States, with control of the White House and Congress at stake. Those contests played out in Lincoln County, but how the solidly Republican electorate hear would go was never really in doubt.
Much more important were the many state and local races in which voters played a part. In the spring and summer, Lincoln voters picked primary winners for contests from governor to N.C. Senate and N.C. House. A heated campaign for three county commissioner seats in the Republican primary ended right there, with no Democrats running. But Republicans proved equally oblivious in local judicial contests, which they failed to even contest.
Aside from one judicial race involving two Democrats, and a contested race for N.C. Senate, the big story in the fall was the fight for four of seven seats on the Lincoln County Board of Education. Accusations of inappropriate campaign activity led to a censure threat against one incumbent prior to the vote, in which he lost his seat. Despite the officially nonpartisan offices, three out of four members of a slate back by the Lincoln County Republican Party were voted in, promising changes in how the schools are run.
In 2013 we can expect plenty of drama from Washington and Raleigh, but the lack of elections could make for less political noise on those fronts. City elections are slated for this fall with two council seats and the mayorship up for votes. How much news that generates will undoubtedly depend on who runs.
2. Violent crime
From armed robberies to aggravated assaults to shootings, stabbings and other attacks, violent crime made big headlines repeatedly in 2012.
This doesn’t mean that Lincoln County is awash in violent crime — statistics show it’s not in comparison to other communities. But when these crimes did occur, they were shocking and dominated the news. Undoubtedly the most horrific was a double homicide that claimed the lives of a Lincolnton couple in July. Investigators have been reluctant to release full details, but autopsy reports show that both victims suffered blunt force traumas to the head. With a suspect in custody, this case and many of the others are likely to be in the headlines again for 2013.
We can only hope that new crimes of this sort will be more rare in the new year.
3. East Lincoln football
The Mustangs were no stranger to the state playoffs. They’d been there in recent years, even making a run to the title game a few years back. But in recent seasons, it was their archrivals, the Lincolnton Wolves, who had dominated and gained most of the glory. But in 2012, the Mustangs’ time had come. They won every game, most often by wide margins. They marched through the playoffs unscathed and knocked down the reigning champs to claim victory.
East Lincoln put together a remarkable string of victories in 2012 and the Lincoln Times-News was happy to be the only newspaper in this county or any other that was there in person to report on every one of them.
We don’t know who will dominate sports in Lincoln County in 2013, but whether it’s the Mustangs, Wolves, Rebels, Knights or Eagles, the Times-News sports team plans to be a part of it.
4. Break-ins and thefts
One of the top stories from other recent years had a different flavor in 2012. Far more reports focused on arrests and prosecution, with far less on unsolved crimes. Yes, there were still a lot of petty criminals out there doing stupid things.
But they seemed to be getting pettier, stupider and more desperate as the law closed in. We look forward to more news stories of this type in 2013.
5. Drug trafficking arrests
Two major types of drug busts dominated the news in 2012. Big drug roundups based on months of undercover work were nothing new, but were bigger and more frequent than in many previous years. The more interesting development may have come with the Sheriff’s Office’s emphasis on disrupting the flow of traffic along highways through Lincoln County. The cocaine, heroin, bath salts, and meth may not have been meant for the Lincoln County market, but stopping them here meant less misery somewhere else. Combined, both of these strategies for getting traffickers off the streets also resulted in record seizures of cash by narcotics officers, windfalls that will go back into law enforcement in Lincoln County.
6. Job creation
A welcome apparent change in the economic winds after several years of little hope, headlines repeatedly described efforts toward creating new jobs in Lincoln County. Some of these were industries with promises of dozens or hundreds of additional jobs. Others were existing industries finding ways to expand locally. Smaller businesses, from retail to restaurants also contributed to this trend. We don’t know that all of this news actually works out to a permanent increase in local jobs. Some of those who opened their doors may have already closed. But these headlines at least meant that more people were trying to create jobs, and that was a welcome bit of news.
7. Nonprofit organizations
This is a tricky category because the Lincoln Times-News is a community newspaper and community newspapers have a tradition of working closely with local charitable organizations. As a result, there are always a lot of headlines, though there may not necessarily be any real news. We looked closely at the stories that made up this category in 2012 and found that this was not just an ordinary year of routine efforts by the usual suspects. 2012 saw extraordinary efforts by numerous organizations, but most especially by Christian Ministry, without which many citizens of our community would lack for basic human needs, from shelter to clothing to food. Our hope is to see job growth that can eliminate some of this need in 2013. But our community must not let that be an excuse to neglect the efforts of Christian Ministry and other organizations as times change.
In several previous years, weather-related events have made major headlines. That wasn’t the case in 2012. But unfortunately, fires seemed to serve up more than a normal share of misery, taking the place of other disasters in the news.
9. Sex offenders
After a surge of stories about sexual offenders, rapists and child pornographers in 2011, 2012 was much quieter, and many of the headlines in this category related to prosecution of those cases. Even so, from a peeping tom to child molesters, these disturbing headlines were sad reminders that the depraved walk among us undetected.
10. Classroom instruction
In 2012, the schools put a new curriculum in place at all levels. Various initiatives also looked for creative ways to engage students’ attention. Test scores, including subpar SAT results, brought a sobering reminder that our teachers need all the tools we can give them to empower the young minds and future leaders of our community.
The next 5:
11. Public employees retiring
12. Missing people
13. Corruption in Cherryville government
14. Business closings
15. Policy disagreement over developers’ plans.