COVER- The year in review: The best and the worst of '10
Heinous crime, extreme weather, an angry citizenry–- 2010 had a lot going on, along with marking the end of the millennium's first decade. Yet in some ways, it was just like any other year.
The skeletal Landmark still marks the Downtown Mall, which seems a lot like 2008. The Meadowcreek Parkway still isn't (completely) built, which is a lot like 1980. And dwindling revenues mean local government budget shortfalls. But don't they always?
Year 2010 was a lot like other years, only worse. Worse unemployment. Worse airport experiences. A staggeringly worse national debt. And hey, there's a war going on. How many years had that been?
The recession is declared over, but when was the last time you saw a raise? How's the value of your home, assuming it isn't under foreclosure? A lot of us are working more while making less, and the cumulative effect is a national crankiness.
What will we remember about Charlottesville in 2010? Snowpocalypse? Microbursts? The Tea Party? Tom Perriello? VQR? Where's Baldi?
Certainly among the year's most painful memories will be, to quote John Casteen at UVA's 2010 graduation, "the name of Yeardley Love."
Okay, although the grimness didn't seem to end, it wasn't all bad. We can still stroll down the mall or the Lawn or see the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and thank our lucky stars we live here. The Hook had moments of pure joy. And we hope you did, too.
Here's what we remember, the best and the worst of twenty-ten.
First coinage of the year: "Snowpacalypse," followed by "Snowmageddon," soon used by every media outlet on the East Coast to describe the record snowfall of the winter o' 2009-2010.
Most notable change wrought by Snowpacalypse: The city revises its snow ordinance after the December 18, 2009, Snowpocalypse because sidewalks, including the city's, remained unshoveled for weeks. Failure to shovel 12 hours after a snowfall was a Class 1 misdemeanor carrying up to 12 months in jail, but Police Chief Tim Longo said it was unenforceable because the city hadn't cleared its own sidewalks. Sidewalk snow removal is no longer a criminal offense and will be enforced by Neighborhood Development, much like unmowed lawns. Residents have 24 hours after a snow to clear the walks. After a warning, the city will have it shoveled and bill the slacker property owner.
Most weather: The winter of 2009-2010 is the snowiest in 117 years with 56.8 inches. The summer is the hottest ever with 68 days above 90. Drought-wise, the summer was the fifth driest with 6.41 inches of rain. And then there were the damaging summer microbursts.
Worst way to start the new year: Colby Eppard, 18, is gunned down by police January 1 after he steals a Greene County deputy's cruiser and embarks on a three-county chase, during which he taunts police and allegedly fires a shotgun at them.
Most secretive: Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford finds that the seven officers who blasted Eppard acted properly, but refuses to reveal how many bullets struck him. According to his stepfather, it was 22 bullets and his car was hit at least 60 times. Police also refuse to release dashcam videos of the event.
Most notable foreclosures, part 1: Halsey Minor bids $1.39 million to hold onto his Fox Ridge Farm January 4; the estate goes into foreclosure again less than a month later for its $6.52 million first deed of trust, an obligation Minor satisfies before the February 18 auction.
Most notable foreclosures, part 2: Patricia Kluge's Vineyard Estates spec house goes on the block March 1. She and husband Bill Moses hold onto that, but are not so fortunate with Kluge Estates Winery and Vineyard, which is foreclosed for a $35 million credit line, and auctioned off December 8 with zero takers.
Most notable foreclosures, part 3: Two lots on Morgantown Road owned by the father of accused killer George Huguely are foreclosed upon, but withdrawn when the company he's associated with, Maplehurst Associates, files for bankruptcy December 6, the day before the auction.
Most notable foreclosures, part 4: BB&T tries to collect on $17.4 million from developers of Ragged Mountain Farm subdivision in Ivy and Murphy's Creek Farm on Blenheim Road–- Alex and Amy Toomy, Rick Carter of Southland Homes, and Jean Ann Woods–- in May, in what was Albemarle's biggest foreclosure until Kluge Estates Winery.
Biggest auction: Kluge brings in Sotheby's to sell off the furnishings at her mansion, Albemarle House, now listed for sale at $24 million down from $100 million. The two-day sale June 8-9 brings in $15.4 million.
Biggest boondoggle? Park-rich Albemarle gets a 1,200-acre state park January 8 instead of residential development in the growth area when Biscuit Run developers stave off foreclosure by selling the park for $9.8 million to the state and reap undisclosed tax credits from the sale.
Goofiest lawsuit: Rivanna Solid Waste Authority goes after Van der Linde Recycling under federal racketeering statutes, then drops the suit January 20. Van der Linde agrees to settle for $600K. And then the city starts using former defendant Van der Linde for its recycling.
Goofiest zero tolerance case: Fluvanna High senior and homecoming king Justin Sexton is handed a 364-day suspension when a school administrator finds a forgotten airsoft rifle in the back of his pickup truck. The School Board overturns it and allows him back to school two months later.
Newest home for old coach: Al Groh takes a job in January with Georgia Tech along with his $4.33 million severance package from UVA after he's fired at the end of 2009's 3-9 worst season ever.
Most elusive taste of freedom for Jens Soering: Lame duck Governor Tim Kaine signs a transfer on his last day in office January 15 that would have allowed the Echols scholar convicted of the 1985 double murders of his girlfriend's parents to transfer to Germany, where he would have been eligible for parole. Incoming Governor Bob McDonnell nips that in the bud, and Soering will serve out his life sentence in Virginia. Former GF Elizabeth Haysom is serving a 90-year sentence at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.
Saddest Charlottesville-Haiti earthquake connection: UVA grad and Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy student Stephanie Jean-Charles dies at her family's Port-au-Prince home.
Worst end to missing concert-goer: Morgan Harrington, last seen at the October 17, 2009, Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena, is found January 26 in a remote field at Anchorage Farm on U.S. 29 south. Her death is deemed a homicide, and DNA recovered is tied to a vicious rape in Northern Virginia five years ago, and a sketch of that suspect (far right)
Worst confirmation: A brutal murderer remains at large.
Worst Blue Ridge Parkway spring evening: Two friends enjoying a sunset April 5 at Rock Point Overlook randomly are fired upon. WNRN DJ Tim Davis, 27, falls approximately 100 feet and dies four days later in UVA Medical Center. Christina Floyd, 18, fights off and escapes 56-year-old Ralph Leon Jackson, who's charged in the attacks and tells her he did it because he's crazy.
What if they stopped publishing the yearbook–- and no one noticed? UVA's nearly 120-year-old Corks & Curls quietly disappears after the 2008 edition, the Hook discovers in 2010.
Biggest gated community scandal, continued: Glenmore Community Assocation former treasurer Michael D. Comer, who disappeared July 1, 2009, right before an audit that found hundreds of thousands missing, spends 2010 pleading guilty to his financial misdeeds: five embezzling charges in Albemarle Circuit Court, which net him 18 months in jail, and federal charges of mail fraud and evading a tax bill that could have him owing over $900K to the federal treasury. He'll be sentenced on the federal charges in March.
Biggest Albemarle police scandal: Four officers are disciplined for "inappropriate" behavior "while on the clock" in March. Demoted are Scott Cox and Caroline Morris; suspended is former spokesperson Lieutenant Todd Hopwood, and leaving the department is Caleb Marden, one of the seven cops who fatally fired on teen Colby Eppard.
Biggest Glenmore/Albemarle police scandal: Justine Joscelyne is watering her garden August 29 when she's shot. Police determine the shooting is accidental from a group target practicing about a half mile away on Richmond Road, and neither press charges nor release the name of the shooter. In Virginia, it's a class 1 misdemeanor to recklessly discharge firearms to "endanger the life, limb or property of any person."
Biggest turnover in city government: Longtime city manager Gary O'Connell departs April 30 to take a job as head of the Albemarle County Service Authority. He's succeeded by acting city manager Maurice Jones December 3.
Biggest turnover at Albemarle County: Longtime county exec Bob Tucker steps down December 31, and the Board of Supervisors hires assistant Tom Foley to take his place. And police Chief John Miller retires after 21 years September 30. Fairfax County Deputy Chief Steve Sellers is hired as new chief, and starts January 18.
Biggest changing of the guard at UVA: President John Casteen retires after 20 years July 31, ushering in the era of Teresa Sullivan.
Deepest cuts: Albemarle's budget is sliced by $10 million for 2010-2011, which is nearly $40 million less than two years ago.
Worst way to save a few bucks: County lakes don't open until noon during the summer, and close two weeks before Labor Day to save $6,000 in salaries.
Closest to the brink: The Charlottesville Ice Park shuts down June 30 after 14 years, but is saved by buyer Mark Brown, who decides to open the rink to events other than skating for half the year.
Saddest losses: Sparklehorse–- Mark Linkous, 47–- commits suicide March 6. UVA grad student Matthew King is riding his bike on West Main April 19 when he's struck by a city vehicle and dies shortly after from those injuries. The mother of deceased DMB saxophonist LeRoi Moore, Roxie Holloway Moore, 80, dies April 6 from a massive heart attack. Keyboard wizard George Melvin, 63, dies in April from kidney problems stemming from diabetes. Yorktown Place developer Chuck Lewis dies May 3, and developer/Innisfree founder Mark Fried, 78, dies December 12. WTJU's "Leftover Biscuits" DJ Emmett Boaz, 63, dies shortly after going on the air November 6.
Saddest loss of a benevolent billionaire: John Kluge dies September 7 at age 95.
Longest sentence for high-speed chasee: Former Charlottesville High student Tsaye Simpson gets three-and-a-half years for stealing a car in August 2009 that crashed into the roof of a house at the end of Rugby Road and narrowly missed killing its occupants–- or Simpson. He had been convicted of stealing another car two months before the house scalping.
Worst reason to be the center of a national story: Three weeks before graduation, fourth-year lacrosse player Yeardley Love is found dead in her apartment on May 3. Her ex-boyfriend, lacrosse player George Huguely V, who told police "her head repeatedly hit the wall," is charged with first-degree murder, and is in jail awaiting trial. His lawyer calls Love's death "an accident with a tragic outcome."
Next worst: The suicide of Kevin Morrissey July 30, the managing editor at the esteemed Virginia Quarterly Review, brings national scrutiny again, this time on the topic of workplace bullying, and tars award-winning editor Ted Genoways.
Biggest changes in the wake of Love's murder: UVA students are required to report arrests or convictions at registration each year. The year before Love was killed, Huguely had been arrested and Tased during a drunken altercation with a female police officer in Lexington.
Biggest Ken Cuccinelli local target: The attorney general subpoenas UVA for documents pertaining to climategate scientist Michael Mann, whom Cuccinelli asserts used state funds for research that fabricates global warming. UVA resists and prevails in court; Cuccinelli comes back with narrower demands, and both sides appear headed toward court again.
Next biggest Cuccinelli opinion: The AG hits the ground running after being sworn in, and offers that public universities should remove sexual orientation from anti-discrimination policies, an opinion that has Governor Bob McDonnell ordering no discrimination.
Biggest Cuccinelli victory: A federal district judge in eastern Virginia rules December 13 that parts of health care reform are unconstitutional.
Most likely to change the world: Oliver Kuttner wins the $5 million Progressive Automotive X prize September 16 with his very light car, the Edison2, designed to go 100 miles on one gallon of gas.
Most discontent in the 5th District: Seven Republicans vie for a chance to get a piece of freshman Congressman Tom Perriello, the Democrat from Ivy. State Senator Robert Hurt from Chatham wins the primary, and goes on to defeat Perriello in the November midterm elections that shift the balance of power in Congress.
Most startling revelations about 5th District candidates I: Thrice-married social-conservative, family-values extoller Feda Kidd Morton once lost custody of her children because of what the judge described as her "anger and rage." And an editorial Morton purportedly wrote has eight passages similar to an article by syndicated columnist Jeffrey Sobran. Morton maintains she merely was restating the principles of the Constitution.
Most startling revelations about 5th District candidates II: Independent Jeff Clark, who was moved to run because of his opposition to health care reform, filed for bankruptcy back in the '90s when he was unable to pay hospital bills.
Biggest new player in this year's elections: The Tea Party didn't exist two years ago. Now a candidate is a fool to run and not court this loose, angry-at-government-spending constituency.
Best free speech v. private property debate: The Jefferson Area Tea Party cries foul when told they can't use the privately owned parking lot in front of Perriello's Charlottesville office at the Glass Building. The Tea Party claims they're thwarted from petitioning their congressman when they can't stand right outside his office, even though that's a location with low visibility from the street and Perriello invited them into the office to petition away.
Worst censorship case: Albemarle High pulls the last issue of the school newspaper, The Revolution, because of an editorial that suggests student athletes should be allowed to opt out of P.E., which upsets the P.E. teachers.
Best rulings for Halsey Minor: A jury awards the litigious Landmark Hotel owner over $8 million May 22 in his lawsuit against Christie's auction house. And private arbitration in June awards Minor $6.6 million from former Landmark associate Lee Danielson.
Most interesting alleged use of the Landmark: In June, a neighboring business owner claims the homeless are camping out in the hotel high-rise. Police and Minor say there's no evidence the structure has become a downtown crashpad, but a few days later police nab two trespassers.
Most unlikely policy changers: Michael D. Hogberg, who tried to flee police going the wrong way down I-64 June 20, was Tased in a November 2009 incident involving alcohol when he tried to flee while handcuffed, which led Albemarle police to nix such uses of a Taser. And Elisha Strom, the woman who was arrested and spent a month in jail in 2009 for publishing the address of a Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement task force member, a crime the ACLU says is unconstitutional, prompts Delegate Rob Bell to change the code in this year's General Assembly to allow law enforcement to petition the court to have their addresses removed from online public records, such as property records.
Latest Elisha Strom day in court: The blogger is found not guilty of stalking ATF Agent John Stoltz December 1 in Greene County.
Biggest overcharge? Attempted capital murder is slapped on wrong way driver Hogberg, who pleads guilty to felony drunk driving charges stemming from his attempted escape from police, but not guilty to intending to kill a cop while blitzed out of his mind. A judge agrees.
Biggest uproar at a nonprofit radio: WTJU volunteer DJs revolt when new general manager Burr Beard suggests commercial-style play lists and rotations to boost the 7,500 listenership of the eclectic station. Beard resigns in October.
Worst storm: A three-minute microburst June 24 leaves 45,000 Dominion customers without power–- some for days–- and causes more damage than Hurricane Isabel, according to Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles Werner. Approximately 50 houses are hit by trees in the city and county, and traffic gridlock is almost as bad as last December's snowpocalypse.
Worst example set by an ABC agent: Driving with a .14 blood alcohol level, which is what is found after Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Special Agent Eric Jones slams into the back of a stopped truck March 4 in an official car with blue lights flashing. Jones is convicted of drunk driving and is no longer with the ABC.
Worst driving under the influence injuries: Virginia Department of Transportation employee Porfirio Martinez, 50, is seriously injured July when he's the victim of a hit and run just a mile from the memorial to fallen VDOT workers on I-64 on Afton Mountain. Former Miller School student Vitalija Vasciunaite, 22, is charged with felony hit-and-run and felony maiming-while-intoxicated.
Worst drunk driving fatality: Winemaker Dan Neumeister, 31, is killed October 4 when William Thompson, 58, loses control of his Ford Taurus and slams into motorcycle-riding Neumeister on Earlysville Road.
Most local filmmakin': Chris Farina's World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements premieres at South by Southwest in Austin in March, as does the movie he stars in, The Parking Lot Movie, directed by UVA alum Megan Eckman.
Most talked about disappearance: Bel Rio owner Jim Baldi disappears in July leaving behind clients from his bookkeeping business who claim missing funds and unpaid taxes. Baldi is indicted December 6 on embezzlement charges; the Baldi watch is ongoing.
Baldi's legacy: The city drops noise levels after 11pm from 65 to 55 decibels in Belmont, where Bel Rio generated many complaints, and in Fontaine Avenue neighborhoods.
Newest chapter for the Jefferson School: The historic black school is handed over for $100,000 to a group of citizens who can take advantage of tax credits to renovate it into a city center and then lease prime downtown space to the city, PVCC, and nonprofits like JABA.
Toughest sell for Jeff School: Its plans include an African American Cultural Heritage Center that has some skeptics wondering if it can draw visitors and funding.
Worst Downtown Mall attack: Robert Edward Kartheiser, 55, is found brutally beaten in the bushes beside the Omni August 14. No arrests have been made.
Worst dental exam: Dr. George Tisdelle is convicted misdemeanor sexual battery August 18 for allegedly groping the right buttock of a departing female staffer.
Worst invasion: Stinkbugs swarm the region this summer, working their way into houses and damaging fruit in orchards.
Worst reappearance of a convicted killer: Carlton Arnold, 28, who served 13 years for the 1998 shooting of Ivy Road Shell station clerk Osama Hassan, is arrested September 29 shortly after his release from prison for allegedly accosting two female UVA students, fondling one of them and forcing her to withdraw money from an ATM. Arnold is charged with abduction, robbery, sexual battery, and three counts related to wielding a firearm.
Biggest Canada goose massacre: Forest Lakes is the scene in May of a U.S. Department of Agriculture round up of the large, nonmigratory birds blamed for taking down a New York jet in the Hudson River in January 2009. The Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Airport requests their removal.
Biggest merger: In September, Martha Jefferson Hospital joins forces with Sentara, a regional health care company from the Hampton Roads area. That same week, the hospital sells its eight-acre Locust Avenue facility for $6.5 million, in anticipation of moving into its new $275 million digs on Pantops.
Least popular traffic addition: Albemarle installs photo-red cameras at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rio Road November 12. The Rutherford Institute urges the county to reconsider.
Best "exceeds expectations:" Amtrak's Northeast Regional train between Lynchburg and Boston doubles its projected ridership–- to 103,351– and revenue–- $5.2 million–- during its first year of service, which is celebrated October 7.
Worst anniversary: Four years have passed since the battered body of Justine Swartz Abshire, 27, was found November 3, 2006, on a dark, deserted Orange road by her husband, Eric Abshire, in what initially was believed to be a hit and run. However, Justine's parents have filed a civil lawsuit against their son-in-law, as they suspected he might have been involved in their daughter's death. Apparently, so did the police. On December 17 Abshire was arrested by Virginia State Police and charged with first degree murder and perjury.
Highest profile alleged throttling: Attorney and former mayor Frank Buck is charged with assault November 11 by client Milton Leo John.
Highest profile writer: Kathy Erskine takes the National Book Award for young adults fiction for her book, Mockingbird.
Largest wrongful death award: The family of Jessica Lester, who died in 2007 after an Allied Concrete truck crushed her car, is awarded $10.6 million plus interest by a jury December 9.
Biggest split between homeless support groups: The Salvation Army forbids its clients from hanging out at the director Tom Shadyac-funded Haven.