Looking back at the top stories of 2012
Filed by Ben Allen in Feature.
December 26, 2012
Politics played a big role, as usual, in Oklahoma. Sure, it was a presidential election year, but there were also major decisions that did, and didn’t come. Some, like Governor Mary Fallin’s choice of a federal health care exchange, despite comments to the contrary in 2011, were praised by Republicans and derided by Democrats. Meanwhile, the failure to pass an income tax (despite what appeared to be a last minute agreement) cut saw the reversal of roles: Democrats liked the results, Republicans were largely disappointed.
But politics was just a small part of our state. We also saw devastating fires that destroyed hundreds of homes and forced many to rebuild their lives. The blazes, stretching over a couple days, also put a focus on funding for firefighting equipment, especially in rural Oklahoma.
It was also an active year for Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt, as a number of anti-abortion laws faced challenges in the courts. And most were struck down, including:
Tragedy also struck the Stillwater community, when 13 year old Cade Poulos committed suicide in the halls of Stillwater Junior High School just as classes were beginning on a Wednesday morning. There were conflicting reports of the cause of the suicide, with some initially pointing the blame to bullying, though Cade’s family asserted that was not the case.
Stillwater also had a brief moment in the national spotlight when Revered Jesse Jackson visited to draw attention to the sentencing of former OSU basketball player Darrell Williams. He was convicted of groping two women at an off campus party, but Williams insisted he was innocent and put to trial on flimsy evidence.
The national media certainly did descend on Oklahoma, if only for less than 24 hours, as President Obama spoke in Cushing in March. While repeating that he would delay on decision on the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, he said he would speed up permitting for the southern part (Bloomberg later reported that promise made no difference in reality).
And it wasn’t just the national media that were interested in Oklahoma come June; the state entered the international stage in a big way when the Oklahoma City Thunder made the NBA Finals. Although they lost 4-1 to the Heat in the best of seven series, the Thunder was universally praised for their entertaining style of play. And as a side benefit, the city of Oklahoma City got to show off the progress that has been made over the past 10-15 years.
Perhaps one of the biggest stories of the final quarter of the year were the release of grades for each public school in Oklahoma. More than a hundred superintendents from school districts all over the state rallied against the grades, but the State Board of Education eventually passed the formula. Oklahoma City and Tulsa didn’t fare well under the system, but both superintendents for the districts insisted they were protested the process, not the final results. School districts as a whole also received grades, although those were far less controversial.
Other noteworthy events: