HOLY CRAP. What a busy and important year 2011 has been. In most cases—Osama? Occupy? Arab Spring? Iraq? European economic implosion?—you won't need anyone to remind you what happened.But that's what every other media outlet on the planet is going to spend the next couple of days doing anyway.
Instead, we'll be continuing a little New Year's tradition of our own: a short, scattershot list of all the reasonably important (or just hilarious) local stories you've already forgotten about. Which, in some cases, might have been for the best. Sorry!
Gay Marriage: Forget that full civil rights were ever going to be a possibility for Oregon's 14,979 same-sex couples in 2012. Just erase it from your brain, because it's not going to happen. After looking at their poll numbers and fundraising stats, Basic Rights Oregon decided in November to put off a gay marriage ballot measure campaign until at least 2014. While New York celebrated its first legal same-sex unions this year, Oregon's LGBT folks are (once again) waiting for marriage.
Bill Sizemore Loves Danishes: In August, terrible-initiative tycoon Bill Sizemore finally went to jail for tax evasion. Upon his release, Sizemore complained that the regular jail food constituted cruel and unusual punishment because it tasted bad and was too carb heavy. But Marion County jail staffers reported that in the clink, Sizemore developed a hankering for packaged cheese danishes. He bought so many blueberry cheese danishes from the facility's vending machine that the jail actually ran out. No justice, no peace!
Pricey Police Contracts: Despite promises of transparency, contract talks with the Portland Police Association (PPA) mostly happened behind closed doors in private meetings. And it's no wonder why. In exchange for one important, if incomplete, concession from the PPA—random drug testing for cops (but not for cops who use force)—the city wound up forking over millions of dollars in ongoing pay increases and forgoing any serious attempts at pursuing stronger civilian oversight.
Peeing in the Reservoir: A drunken man peed in the Mount Tabor water reservoir in June, leading Portland Water Bureau to drain the entire thing—a $35,000 endeavor. That swift action let loose a waterfall of complaints from across the nation, most of them defending the relative purity of piss, especially after Commissioner Randy Leonard (regretfully) fretted that urine could spread AIDS.
Reese for Mayor? In a lot of ways, the story of next year's mayoral race became dominated more by those who might have run than the three major candidates who actually, y'know, are campaigning. Back when everyone thought Sam Adams might still run for reelection, bike-pins-and-bowties US Representative Earl Blumenauer was the subject of feverish speculation. He issued a brief statement in June that shot the rumors down. Then, for a brief period this fall, there was serious talk about Police Chief Mike Reese making a run. That one, at least, almost happened—until Occupy Portland ate into whatever window Reese had to raise money and make a splash. Interestingly, Reese wouldn't have flirted with a run at all, sources say, if Blumenauer had wanted in.
Giant Creationist Museum: In February, the annual Northwest Creation Conference convened in Portland. Among their plans: Raising $25 million to build the nation's largest creationist museum, right here in the Pacific Northwest! The design calls for a biblically-driven natural history museum that's built in Idaho in the shape of a life-size Noah's Ark.
Prison Spending: The legislature failed to stave off implementation of mandatory minimums Measure 57, which means the state will be spending $35 million to put 900 more Oregonians in prison over the next decade. One law the legislature did change was a Measure 11 loophole that automatically sent minors to adult prisons while awaiting trial—which meant nearly 100 Oregon teens annually festered for months in solitary confinement before even being convicted or found not guilty. Ugh.
Booze Ban Limbo: Good news, drunkies! Despite last fall's hubbub about an "alcohol impact area," you can still stagger around downtown and Old Town and buy malt liquor, fortified wine, or beer in any size container you want. For now.
Police Not Shooting People: Has anyone noticed how few people the police have shot and killed this year? The first and only person fatally shot by Portland cops in 2011 was Tom Higginbotham, way back on January 2.
Sustainability Monolith: Portland's biggest new landmark has so far flown a bit under the radar. The city and Oregon university system whacked $10 million from the $75 million pricetag for the planned seven-story "living building" known as the Oregon Sustainability Center. But design experts split on whether pouring that much public money into a recession-era project is actually sustainable. Plus! If no one moves in, the city could be on the hook for millions in rent payments.
Drug-Free Zones 2.0: Technically, they're called "illegal drug impact areas," but for a lot of people, Mayor Sam Adams' newfangled exclusionary zones in Old Town, downtown, and Holladay Park look a lot like the unconstitutional (and racist) drug-free zones Portland abandoned years ago. Turns out that wasn't quite the case. This time, the exclusions are based on actual convictions meted out by an actual judge—not by something subjective like a mere arrest. And in a district attorney's report this September, the ethnic breakdown of prosecutions inside the zones roughly matched the breakdown of cases outside the zones.
Deporting the Future: Fun fact! The Obama administration has been responsible for deporting far more people than Bush—393,000 last year. That hits home for foreign-born but Oregon-raised kids who would be eligible for citizenship if the Dream Act had passed last winter, but currently face the constant threat of deportation. You may not have heard about it, but a group of young Oregonians went public this year about their undocumented status, forming the Northwest Immigrant Youth Alliance to protest immigration booting their friends and families.
(Allegedly) Drunk-Driving (and Road-Raging) Cops: It was a summer of damage control for the Portland Police Bureau. In the span of just a few weeks, three officers were accused of drunk driving while off duty—prompting officials to furrow their brow over how to ease police stress. And then, in the midst of that run, the bureau's former traffic division boss, Captain Todd Wyatt, was accused of waving his pistol in an Idaho road-rage incident—eventually leading to a misdemeanor weapons charge.
Inside the Box: Walmart, the biggest, baddest box store of 'em all, threatened this summer to plop down in Portland, despite Mayor Sam Adam's famous disapproval. Walmart looked into 17 potential sites around town to build their new stores, pulling out all the stops to market their "local" beasts with chipper radio ads and a perky web campaign. Nice try—have you even been to a Portland neighborhood meeting, Walmart execs? That's what we thought.
Takeout Food: In a first for Portland, some enterprising crook made off with an entire food cart last January. Azul Tequila, parked near SE 50th and Division, vanished in the wee hours one night after someone broke a lock, hitched it up, and hauled it away. It was found the next morning all the way on NW 23rd—looted.
Stank! In February, old ladies and skeezy chachis alike faced a crackdown by the city council after it banned potent perfumes and body sprays worn by city employees. Citing a "health threat" to asthmatic and allergic coworkers, the ban triggered the return of naturally stinky city employees. Phew.
Mayor's Prius Collision: Remember in June when the mayor was driving a city-owned Prius to an anti-bullying event and a local woman who is well known for having a lot of tattoos of Faulkner quotes crashed into him on her bike? How could you possibly forget that?!